NYC Churches Fail to Prepare for More Visitors During Papal Visit

St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Jean Baptiste, Catholic churches on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as well as St. Cecilia Church in East Harlem, all expect more people than usual to attend Mass this week, in conjunction with Pope Francis’ visit to the city. However, none of the churches have taken measures to accommodate these extra worshipers.

While there are few opportunities for the public to see the Pope during his visit, he will still draw crowds in the tens of thousands. Around that many tickets have been given out to attend the Papal Procession in Central Park on Friday; 20,000 are expected at Madison Square Garden for Mass that night. With so many visitors flooding the City, some predict that Catholic churches will see a greater number of visitors than usual: an estimated 20% more in certain cases.

This will be exacerbated by the fact that there are fewer churches in general. According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, there are 296 parishes in New York and 2.8 million Catholics. There are 72 fewer parishes in 2015 than 2014, due to closings and mergers between separate parishes.

Tony Hicks, who works in Building Maintenance at St. Vincent Ferrer, said that the church had not provided extra seating or parking or increased security, despite the Pope’s presence in New York City.

“If the Pope was coming here it would be different,” said Mr. Hicks. Pope Francis will be conducting evening prayers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday. Mass is usually well-attended at St. Vincent Ferrer, Mr. Hicks said, adding, “Some people just might change their mind [and attend church.]”

At St. Jean Baptiste, Father Ernest Falardeau said that Francis had the power to “inspire young people who are yearning for spiritual values” to come back to the Church. He said he believed more people would attend church this week, a belief echoed by Parish Secretary Angelica Contreras. “I think more people will be at Mass,” said Ms. Contreras. St. Jean Baptiste, though, like St. Vincent Ferrer, had not taken any precautions to prepare for extra attendees.

At St. Cecilia Church, bookkeeper Nelly Diaz said that a nearby parish, Holy Agony, had recently closed, so the church had been receiving more parishioners than normal since August 1st. She said that nothing had been done to accommodate more people for Francis’ arrival

Part of the reason for this lack of action might be that some churches are sending their parishioners directly to Francis, himself.

Morgan Pino, a 25-year-old law student at Fordham University, said that she would not be attending Mass at her parish, St. Vincent Ferrer, on Friday evening, because she had won a ticket to the Papal Mass at Madison Square Garden.

“People may or may not like what he says, but at least they are intrigued and seem to want to be more engaged with the Church,” said Pino.