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Sending the right message on Palm Sunday

Bishop William Murphy greets parishioners after saying Palm

Bishop William Murphy greets parishioners after saying Palm Sunday Mass at St. Martha's RC Church in Uniondale, N.Y. (March 27, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by John Dunn

Sunday school children waving palm branches were to lead the procession marking Palm Sunday Sunday as they marched into the same Episcopal church in Oyster Bay where former President Theodore Roosevelt worshipped almost a century ago.

In Wyandanch, Catholic Mass will be celebrated in English, Spanish and Creole at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, which was heavily damaged by an arson fire more than two years ago.

And the Rev. Tom Goodhue was pondering the relationship between God and Christians knocked down by the recession as he worked on sermons for Holy Week, which starts Sunday and ends Easter Sunday.

"The Christian story in which God becomes one of us and suffers what we suffer is a very powerful thing this particular year," said Goodhue, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches. "God is in the thick of the hard times with us. That's very much a part of the Palm Sunday celebration."

Hundreds of thousands of Christians are expected to take part in Palm Sunday services across Long Island.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day more than 2,000 years ago when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Cheering throngs greeted him by waving palm fronds and strewing them across his path. It was followed by what Christians call the Passion: The Last Supper, Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his prosecution by Pontius Pilate and his suffering and death by crucifixion.

Like many services on the Island, members of the congregation in Christ Church - Roosevelt's former parish - will play different characters as they read from the gospels, said the Rev. Peter Casparian.

"It really is about the most dramatic service of the year," he said.

The Rev. William Brisotti said he expects about 1,500 people will attend one of the seven Palm Sunday Masses at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, which is still struggling to rebuild from a fire. The church broke ground on reconstruction last week.

Brisotti said the Palm Sunday story has meaning to many members of the parish, one of the poorest on Long Island, as they combat gang violence, teach tolerance and understanding and face "the basic struggles of survival" in hard times.

He noted the Mass said in Haitian Creole will be particularly compelling for the parish's Haitian community.

"There isn't a family here who wasn't touched by the Haiti earthquake," he said.

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