Miami Beach’s St. Joseph’s Church is less than a mile from the Champlain Towers building in Surfside which collapsed on June 24, killing nearly 100 people. Brother Juan Sosa, pastor of the parish since 2010, told NCR that they have lost at least 20 to 25 faithful, and that the community is in shock.
“My role is to be a channel of communication, to be the presence of the Catholic Church in the midst of this tragedy. I try to take care of the church and to be as available as possible,” said Sosa.
In a first reflection on the tragedy for Catholics in Florida, the pastor wrote:
How do you deal with a group of devotees who reside in a building that unexpectedly collapses in the middle of the night? The answer emerges from the very tragedy that ultimately affects everyone who hears about it and gazes at the rubble: you must be present and available, hoping that God will restore what is broken and bring peace to those who await news of their loved ones and friends.
Hope Sadowski, who came to the United States from Cuba in the 1960s and has been attending St. Joseph’s School since 1962, said the past two weeks have been incredibly difficult.
“Saturday morning I went to church and the building was there. Sunday when I went to mass the building was gone,” said Sadowski, who could see the rubble of the collapse from the parking lot of the church.
Sosa and Sadowski described a deep connection between the collapsed building and the parish.
Couples married to St. Joseph and children who first communed there were in the building during the collapse, he said.
Sadowski’s friend Ana Mora, who also attended St. Joseph’s Church, was killed when the building collapsed. The weekend before the tragedy, Mora had waited after mass to see Steven, 9, of Sadowski, who was recovering from health problems, and to say that she had prayed for him.
“Steven now has a bigger angel,” Sadowski said.
St. Joseph’s offers mass in English, Spanish, Polish and Portuguese, like its multicultural parishioners. The worship community grows during the winter when it receives visitors from South America and the East Coast. Nearby are Jewish congregations and churches of other Christian denominations.
“This tragedy shows not only the best of humanity’s support, but also an opportunity for ecumenical dialogue. Inside and outside the church, we have put aside all our differences, ideological and political, to mourn and serve together.” , Sosa told NCR.
St. Joseph’s opened its doors to grieving Catholics and non-Catholics, as well as firefighters and journalists, for a series of prayer meetings.
“Before and after June 24, 2021, we were a church known for our hospitality,” said Sosa.
As the community continues to mourn, the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, encouraged people across the Archdiocese to help each other.
“In the days and months to come, the remarkable solidarity shown towards the survivors and the family members and loved ones of those who did not survive, must not diminish, as they will need our support and our accompaniment for months and years. coming soon, “Wenski wrote in a column of July 14 for the Catholic of Florida.