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Howard Beach faithful rally to support priests

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The Rev. James Reynolds thought allegations of sexual abuse by priests nationwide might cause members of his Howard Beach church to lose faith in its leaders.

    “It’s been very upsetting. It’s very sad for us,” he said. “We feel betrayed and are concerned people will lose confidence in us or not want to be around us or work with us because of this.”

    Those worries were laid to rest last week.

    Wearing red and white ribbons that read “We See Christ in You,” parishioners at St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church rallied around their religious leaders May 19 to show support in the wake of widely publicized reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests nationwide.

    In a Pentecost Sunday celebration that surprised Reynolds, the Rev. John Cush and Monsignor Joseph Pfeiffer, nearly 2,000 churchgoers paid tribute to them with speeches and presentations, which included the handing over of a book containing thousands of signed messages of support.

    “It was a wonderful thing that the parishioners did,” Reynolds said. “It was their way of expressing their solidarity and support for us, the good priests, who are being painted with the same paint brush as the bad priests.”

    John DeRiso, a member of the 157-10 83rd St. church, said a group of parishioners came up with the idea for the celebration because they wanted to boost the spirits of their leaders and point out some of the positive attributes of the Catholic church.

    “They feel betrayed and let down by what happened,” he said. “These guys are tremendous for the community and we wanted to rally to show appreciation for everything they do for us.”

    Six parishioners spoke in support of their priests, calling them shepherds and friends whom they relied upon for sound counsel.

    “These men supported us in the best and worst of times,” said Gio Sosa Biziac. “Now it’s our turn to stand up for them.”

    Young churchgoers gave the priests a bouquet of flowers and another group presented them with the book containing messages of support.

    A final presentation of a plaque that will permanently be on display in the church read, “We see Christ in Monsignor Pfeiffer, Father Cush, Father Reynolds.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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