Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Wikimedia Commons

Something New Under the Sky in Bay Ridge

In a park in multi-ethnic Brooklyn, an initiative by the New York community. Amid songs, exhibits, gastronomical delicacies, and games for the children, the occasion to encounter an ideal without end.
Marco Bardazzi

For those arriving in New York from the ocean, as millions of immigrants have done for decades, the first impact with the New World is historically represented by the Statue of Liberty. In reality, when the gigantic Lady looms in front of them, the true “gate to America” is already at their back. Staten Island, Bay Ridge, and, since the 1960s, the Verrazzano Bridge, are the true outposts on the Atlantic.

Strong in this tradition as a sentinel facing the world, Bay Ridge–one of the outermost points of multi-ethnic Brooklyn–has a long history of hospitality and peaceful coexistence between different cultures: Germans, Irish, Scandinavians, and, more recently, Italians, Greeks, Russians, and Indians have all arrived in succeeding waves and settled here. Few places like this one could be better suited to host, on the American continent, an event whose title is taken from the Meeting in Rimini: “2000 Years, an Ideal Without End.”

The New York community chose Bay Ridge and its Owl’s Head Park for their Beginning Day (October 14th), with an open-air festival that was, above all, a visible and attractive proposal for the entire neighborhood.

Three hundred, maybe four hundred people crowded into a slice of park transformed into an arena with live entertainment (on a stage), space for the audience, a refreshment stand, a children’s area (with arts and crafts and face painting), and a magnificent exhibit mounted by the GS (student youth) group. An unusual presence; a Saturday afternoon enlivened by something new and surprising in a park known until today mostly because it hosts the area’s best sledding in the winter. The novelty also struck a reporter for The Tablet, the weekly issued by the Archdiocese of Brooklyn, who had come to have a look around after finding by chance (although this is not the right word…) a flyer in his front door. “Singing songs in the park can be evangelization,” said a headline in The Tablet a few days later, devoting an enthusiastic article to the event. “What the group (CL) did in the park is a perfect example of how Catholics can be more visible,” wrote the reporter. And after recounting the afternoon in detail, he concluded, “It was evangelization in its purest form.”

Like a magic piper, the Bay Ridge Band drew one and all–mothers with children in strollers, elderly people out for a walk, young people busy jogging–toward the festivities. The attraction to an “ideal without end” and the joyous sharing of a “sacred” moment–the weekend–were visible in the many signs that even the most absent-minded passerby could not help noticing.

One could not help noticing the attention to the children, for example, who were caught up in sack races or gratified by the devotion of so many adults who set up a face-painting booth, where the eyes of the youngest children sparkled with happiness as their faces were painted. There was also a great table full of food for everyone to have a snack, the work of dozens of family cooks scattered throughout the city.

There was something new under the sky in Bay Ridge, an area accustomed for centuries to seeing everything. It was something unusual enough to urge many toward a desire to know more, and to stop at the booth of flyers and Traces magazines, where they could pick up a supply of texts and notices to help them better understand what inspired this strange group of people to sing spirituals in the park.

Something fascinating, powered by the thrust aroused by wonder at an encounter that has been and continues to be repeated for 2,000 years, but that has never been so concrete and up-to-date as in the park in Bay Ridge when the words of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete (of St. Joseph’s Seminary) testified to all–including the passersby deep in their jogging–the profound reasons for an afternoon different from all others.