CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 August 2017

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A Maryknoll pocket in New York for Chinese migrants

 

NEW YORK (SE): The parish of the Transfiguration in New York gained a new claim to fame on Nine/Eleven 2001, as the giant World Trade Centre came crashing to the ground.

Situated in nearby Mott Street, the pastor of the time, Maryknoll Father Ray Nobiletti, was one of the first priests to arrive at the scene of the disaster.

The inner city parish was built in 1801 and is the oldest Catholic church building in the city. Originally it served Irish immigrants, the newcomers to the new land of hope, who settled and moved away, but their places were taken by a new wave of incoming Italians.

They too eventually spread out around the boroughs and suburbs of the sprawling city and in the wake of the 1949 communist revolution in China, Cantonese-speaking refugees seeking safety in New York began taking up residence.

The sudden influx of Chinese migrants meant Chinese restaurants, and a new ethnic flavour in the area saw it become generally known as Chinatown, with the Transfiguration parish right in the hub.

 The parish was well set up to receive them, as in 1945, sisters from Maryknoll, who had worked in Guangdong, began staffing Transfiguration Elementary, a private Catholic school in a building adjacent to the church. 

Today, Transfiguration Elementary, which goes from grade one through to eight and has an entire lay staff, is a top choice for neighbourhood parents, for many non-Catholics and even for families outside of Chinatown, who are attracted by its high academic standards and emphasis on moral development.

During the 1980s, another wave of immigrants arrived from China, but this time, they were Mandarin-speaking migrants from Fujian province. 

As skilled labourers and with many having work experience in Japan, there are skilled sushi chefs among them and local employment agencies contract them out for a week at a time to restaurants as far away as Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

They return to Chinatown for around two days of the week and, although this life-style does not foster community or family roots, the parishioners still view Transfiguration as their social anchor.

 

The sudden influx of Chinese migrants meant Chinese restaurants, and a new ethnic flavour in the area saw it become generally known as Chinatown, with the Transfiguration parish right in the hub

 

 

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