Flags on display at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse. (Photo courtesy St. Vincent de Paul Church)

Submitted by St. Vincent de Paul Church, Syracuse

Approximately 20 years ago, St. Vincent de Paul Church and its then-pastor, Father Alfred Nortz, invited and welcomed the “lost boys” and refugees who arrived from Sudan seeking safety and refuge from the conditions in their native land. They were provided with material, social, and spiritual support to help them as they experienced their new lives in a new country. Carl Oropallo, a native St. Vincent’s parishioner, was and still is a major supporter of refugees. He has given freely of his time to assist refugees and as a lawyer has provided legal assistance to many. Since then many more immigrants from different lands have found their way to St. Vincent’s Church and a new life.

Inside the church, flags of the native lands of St. Vincent’s newest parishioners are on display. The flags include those of Canada, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Netherlands/Holland, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, Benin, and the U.S. The display does not feature flags of the Irish, German, Italian, and other families who have been in the parish for many years.

St. Vincent de Paul Church was established over 100 years ago. The parish was predominantly Irish when established and the parishioners helped build the church with its magnificent stained glass windows. The pastor was devoted to St. Anne and began the tradition of a novena to St. Anne over 100 years ago. Throughout the years the novena was shortened to a three-day devotion ending on July 26, the feast day of St. Anne. Approximately 55-60 years ago, a major fire destroyed much of the existing church and again parishioners gave their time and money to rebuild. The original school, kindergarten through 12th grade, closed in the 1970’s but now houses a day care program used by many of the immigrants who have come to St. Vincent’s Church and other programs such as a church fellowship group and a not-for-profit that assists pregnant women and their babies in need of housing and counseling services.

St. Vincent’s Church has undergone many changes from its beginnings on “grasshopper hill,” but in the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul continues to serve peoples of all ethnicities and helps to meet their economic, social, and spiritual needs. St. Vincent’s Church has a rich history of peace and justice for all which continues to this day.

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