NYC Latino Catholics Prepare for Papal Visit

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By Kelly Carrion

At St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in the diverse New York City borough of Queens, parishioners were preparing for the Pope's arrival to New York City on Thursday afternoon. Many tried to obtain tickets to see the Pope in his "Popemobile" traversing Central Park, though only a few succeeded in getting tickets. Still, members are hopeful and wish to get a glimpse of the pontiff, who will officiate mass at the iconic St. Patrick's Cathedral and at Madison Square Garden.

But for parishioners like Noel Peguero, an active member of St. Joseph's, it's the pope's insistence on shedding the trappings of pomp and wealth that impacts the most.

"He is the most humble man in the Catholic Church right now," said Peguero. Other parishioners stressed the same.

Another church member, 16-year-old Kate Sosa, said she was very surprised at how active the Pope is on social media. She says this is how she gets most of her information on the pontiff.

That connection to youth could prove significant if it helps keep youth in the pews; 60 percent of Catholics under 18 are Hispanic.

"I would like to ask him how he got the idea to connect with us, people of my generation, teenagers, through social media," said Sosa.

RELATED: In a Multicultural Church, Pope 'Is One of Us'

For months and especially in recent weeks, Latino New Yorkers who are part of the festivities surrounding the Pope's arrival have been getting ready.

Among them was Carlos Carranza, a Colombian American teen who plays the clarinet at Xavierian High School in Brooklyn. He will be one of the teen musicians playing the iconic jazzy tune "New York, New York" upon the Pope's arrival in New York.

"It's going to be very special, I'm hoping we don't have a mistake," said the young musician recently to Telemundo-New York reporter Ricardo Villarini.

In the parochial school Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem, New York, where the Pope will go on Friday, little Allison Reyes said, "Ahora esta escuela es famosa, toda la gente quiere venir," - "our school is famous now, everybody wants to come here" - as shegiddily told Telemundo how it felt for her school to be chosen as the place where "El Papa" was coming.

Sheila Samantha Cuéllar was chosen to be the student to hand the Pope a book composed of prayers and messages from several of the area's parochial schools.

"Inside it has prayers from the schools - we promised we would pray for him always," said Cuéllar.

Many of these Latino students come from immigrant families. The Pope said in preparation for visit to New York that he wanted to meet with immigrant families, and he will do that at the event organized by Catholic Charities. Moreover, a chair the Pope will use in his New York mass and the altar cloths have been made by Latino immigrants.

Deacon Fernando Vazquez will be participating at the mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. In an interview with Telemundo New York, he said his role was to be a "puente," or bridge between the faithful who will attend the event and the bishops and leadership there with the pope.

Deacon Carlos Corsel has a special mission - take the Virgen de Luján - the patron saint of Argentinians like Corcel and Pope Francis - and present it to the first Latin American pontiff when he is at the door of the cathedral. For Latino Catholics like Corsel, it's not just a religious connection to the pope, but that of a fellow Latin American.

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