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Warmly Embraced By Flock, Murphy Needs No Translation Urging A Long Island Of Justice For All

Bishop, In A Spanish Homily, Celebrates Latino Columbus Day


18 October 2004
Copyright © 2005 Newsday. All rights reserved. 

The Hispanic community at St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station has been holding a Dia de La Raza (Day of the Race) Mass for 30 years, but yesterday was the first time they got a bishop to celebrate it.

Bishop William Murphy got what was probably one of the warmest receptions he's received since taking over the reins of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 2001, prompting two standing ovations and shouts of "Viva!" when another priest called out his name.

Murphy delivered a prepared homily in Spanish as well as ad-lib remarks at the end of the Mass that left many in the standing-room-only crowd of nearly 1,000 people impressed.

"You are changing the face of Long Island," Murphy told the exuberant crowd. "This is an incredibly important moment for the future of Long Island. You can construct a new Long Island - a Long Island with justice for all."

Many parishioners said they were thrilled Murphy celebrated the Mass, which also marked Hispanic Heritage Month, and pleasantly surprised by his mastery of Spanish.

"He can communicate well with the community," said Gerry Carrasco, 48, a native of Peru who lives in Greenlawn. "I thought he wasn't going to be that fluent, but he did well."

The reaction was a far cry from the much cooler reception Murphy has received from other Catholics on Long Island after the sex abuse scandal. Murphy contends he's taken all the steps possible to address wrongdoing in the past and prevent abuse in the future.

Yesterday's event in Huntington Station featured Latino immigrants wearing traditional clothing from their homelands and carrying large flags from 19 Spanish-speaking nations, the United States and the Vatican. Afterward, parishioners were treated to a talent show and a smorgasbord of foods from around Latin America - from Salvadoran cornmeal "pupusas" to the roasted pork that is a speciality in Puerto Rico.

El Dia de La Raza is Latin America's version of Columbus Day, a time to celebrate the mixing of many races that blended together after the Italian explorer landed in the New World - Spanish, indigenous, African. The event's name also often is translated as the Day of the People.

During his homily, Murphy spoke of that blending and noted how it has produced many religious figures in Latin America such as the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's brown-skinned patron saint.

"America, our America, is strong because we are united in our faith," Murphy said in Spanish.

The event also attracted some Anglo members of the parish who said it is one of the most moving events of the year at St. Hugh. "I love it," said Elizabeth Black, a long-time parishioner. "It's wonderful."

Photo by Joel Cairo - Bishop William Murphy accepts offerings from Victoria Rubio at altar of St. Hugh of Lincoln.

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