Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills falls inside an orange zone of a COVID-19 hot spot, one of the areas identified by the state as having elevated rates of coronavirus, prompting additional restrictions.
Religious gatherings are limited to no more than 25 people.
“Mixed feelings because you see a lot of people without masks,” said parishioner Fabiola Malord.
She has attended mass at the church for 14 years and got up early Sunday, expecting to wait in line for her seat.
“The governor is doing what he has to do but churches have been on lock down. It’s emotional just thinking about letting only 25 people in,” Malord said.
Also standing in line for a seat inside was Tony Fierro.
“Listen we all have to be safe and I understand the restrictions but I think certain things like practicing your religion is something that’s important to a lot of us and do it safely of course,” he said.
But leaders of the Diocese of Brooklyn say they can safely practice their faith and allow more people inside.
Parishioners estimate they’ve had between 100 to 180 people in the church over the past few months without incident.
Before the pandemic, they would expect between 200 and 400 people to fill the pews.
“Before I came here, I did my grocery shopping. If I wanted to later in the day I could go to liquor store. I do not see why I can’t practice my faith just like other businesses are doing,” Fierro said.
In orange zones, schools close in-person attendance, non-essential businesses and gyms must close, and indoor dining is not allowed.
Residents nearby who don’t attend this church empathize with parishioners.
“We are living in a tough time right now and people want a sensed hope and going to church may give them that sense of hope,” said Tom, who wanted to be identified by his first name only.
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs held two masses held simultaneously, one in the church and another in the convent chapel. They say that allowed up to 50 to attend, 25 each in the separate areas. It appeared that no one was turned away Sunday morning.