By Steven Schwankert
NEW YORK (OSV News) — A shower of confetti and a Knights of Columbus honor guard welcomed New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan to the Church of the Transfiguration ahead of that parish’s annual Assumption procession.
Hundreds of parishioners fanned themselves in the sanctuary, balcony, and vestibule of the church, which is not air-conditioned, on Aug. 13 — the hottest day of August so far.
Entering the church from Mott Street, Cardinal Dolan, and his concelebrants were covered in a hail of confetti, a festive tradition at some predominantly Chinese churches. Nine altar boys and girls and a Knights of Columbus honor guard processed in, as the parish’s multi-ethnic, multilingual choir sang the Mass’s opening hymn.
“It is an honor and a joy for me as your archbishop to be here with you for Sunday Mass. Last Sunday, we celebrated your parish feast day, the Transfiguration, and this Tuesday, we celebrate the Assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven, both great feast days for this historic parish,” said Cardinal Dolan at the beginning of the Mass, which was celebrated in English and Mandarin Chinese.
“If you ever want an icon of the church in the United States and especially the church in the Archdiocese of New York, we just saw it,” said Cardinal Dolan in an interview with The Good Newsroom, the archdiocesan news outlet, following the Mass. “We had these wonderful people who have such a loyalty to Jesus and his church, the wonderful people, they love the United States, they love their traditions, they love their parish, they love the church. Even within them, there’s a diversity, look at the three languages, but they’re all united in Jesus Christ and his church, and it’s such an inspiration. This is New York. This is the church. Alleluia!”
“It means a lot to us, all of us here, especially in the Chinese Catholic community, we have more than just parishioners from the Transfiguration and the Lower East Side. Many have come from parishes in Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey, and even as far as Pennsylvania for this big feast day. So your presence, Your Eminence, means a lot to us,” said Father Roger Kwan, a concelebrant of the Mass and administrator of the Church of the Transfiguration.
The Mass was a reunion of sorts for Cardinal Dolan and Father Kwan. Cardinal Dolan ordained the priest in 2019, upon the latter’s completion of his studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie.
Father Kwan became administrator of the Church of the Transfiguration in April 2022, after serving as parochial vicar at St. Clare of Assisi-St. Francis Xavier parish in the Bronx since 2019.
The annual procession takes place each year on the Sunday after the feast of the Transfiguration — the church’s feast day — and the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Aug. 15.
After the conclusion of Mass, Father Kwan and several hundred parishioners and visitors assembled to start the 27th annual procession, which began in 1994 as a way for immigrants from China’s Fujian province to express their gratitude and devotion. The two-hour procession began at the church, moved along Mott Street and Mosco Street, and passed other Chinatown sites before returning to its starting point.
The procession included a drum group and a brass band, and marchers from Catholic Chinese organizations, including the Sacred Heart Society of St. Bartholomew Parish in Elmhurst, part of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, where Father Andrew Tsui is parochial vicar.
“This is my home parish. I grew up in Chinatown,” said Father Tsui. “There are not a lot of Chinese vocations. I was the first Chinese-American from this parish,” he said. Upon ordination in June 2022, Father Tsui also became the first American-born Chinese priest to serve the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“It’s been going on since I’ve been a kid, and my friend and I have been helping out since then, more than 20 years. We still make the time for it. You can see how the community comes together, it’s a nice gathering. A lot of us commute from far away. It’s a nice time to see old friends as well,” said John Szeto, 39, a third-generation Transfiguration parishioner.
Established as a German Lutheran church in 1801, the church later served Dutch immigrants before Archbishop John Hughes — New York’s first archbishop — purchased the building and made the Church of the Transfiguration part of the Archdiocese of New York in January, 1853. As Mott Street emerged as the heart of what eventually became Manhattan’s Chinatown, the church adapted to serve the local Chinese community. Today, the Church of the Transfiguration offers Masses in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English each weekend and holy day of obligation.