Woman's funeral mass held outside shuttered church
(Harlem - WABC, August 30, 2007) (WABC) -- A woman's dying wish was for her funeral to be held at her beloved church.
The problem is that Our Lady of Angels in East Harlem was shut down in a round of budget cuts.
And the New York Archdiocese isn't about to make any exceptions.
Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Tarazona has the story.
The bottom line was that they simply couldn't have the funeral inside the church because the archdiocese had chosen to close it down months ago. But that certainly did not stop family and friends from going the extra mile.
"When she got sick, she spoke to her sons, she had four sons and she tell her sons, 'If I die and the church isn't open, I want my funeral to be on the sidewalk," friend Carmen Villegas said. "That was her last wish."
Her last wish came true Thursday.
She wanted her funeral to be held at Our Lady Queen of Angels, and now 72-year-old Carmen Gonzalez can rest in peace.
Even though the church doors were permanently closed months ago, her casket, surrounded by flowers, memories and friends stood firm. The funeral was held outside the church, where she prayed for nearly half a century.
"She said, 'I don't want to be taken to one of these churches that Cardinal Egan has told us we should go to, because we have our own church,'" friend Zaida Rodriguez said. "'When I go, I want them to bring my body right here in front of the church.'"
Memories recalled both good times and bad. Friends say even though Gonzalez was dying of cancer, still she fought until the very end, hoping the archdiocese would reverse their decision to shut the church down. When she died, that hope did too.
"Two weeks before she died, she was released from the hospital," Villegas said. "And she came to the service. And this is where she wanted to be."
The archdiocese responded.
"The vast majority of parishioners have gone to other nearby parishes and have been warmly welcomed there," Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said. "We would hope that Mrs. Gonzalez' family will see that she had a proper mass of Christian burial at a local parish."
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