1: WILLIAMSBURG BROOKLYN (WB)
Most Italians, Poles, Germans, Irish, and Austrians were of the Catholic faith, giving Catholic parish priests a predominant influence over WB and Greenpoint communities. The priests of The Shrine of the Madonna Church on Havemeyer Street were dynamic, Old Country Italians who dogmatically espoused doctrines of condemnation not easily understood by young children. From their earliest years of tagging along to Sunday Mass with their parents, children in their congregations had difficulty sitting still on the hard pews. Any child’s attempt to reconcile an “all-loving Christ” with “Godly punishments” that might rain down upon them and their fellow parishioners, when there were visible contradictions inside of the church walls and outside in the neighborhood, made matters worse.
In this church, the congregation at Mass sat side by side in the pews and made up a gaggle of single persons, small and large families, young couples in love, bitter divorcees, gays, lesbians, mob bosses, acknowledged local prostitutes, and known adulterers. The same mix walked out of Saturday-evening confessionals. It sought God’s forgiveness by praying hard over the Holy Rosary or reciting the Hail Mary prayer as many times as their priest had recommended from behind closed doors and sliding panels.
The same priests welcomed other known sinners and saints every Sunday morning, including one devout “family,” a heterosexual married couple, which regularly brought to church a man who lived openly with them in a ménage à trois!
The people of WB understood who was who and what they did publicly or behind closed doors. This uninspected cross-section of humanity tolerated the diversity with mere yawns or an occasional whisper.
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