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New York City Workers Celebrated at Labor Mass

Labor Day Mass at St. Partrick’s Cathedral, Catholic Charities New York file photo 2021

After a procession representing building trades, teachers in public and Catholic schools, civil service workers, and others who displayed their solidarity banners, the annual Labor Mass was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sept. 10.

The Mass, sponsored by Catholic Charities, preceded the annual labor parade. Attendees included Marty Walsh, U.S. Secretary of Labor and the grand marshal of the annual event.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, celebrated the Mass. In his homily, he expanded upon the Gospel reading from Luke in which Jesus describes a house built firmly on rock, able to withstand nature’s onslaughts.

“I think he left out the phrase ‘built with human labor,’” Msgr. Sullivan joked, generating laughter from the union assembly.

In a reflection upon Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Msgr. Sullivan warned against the “idolatry” that the disciple cautioned against, noting that in modern forms idolatry often takes the form of subscribing to rigid ideologies.

Unions and the church, he said, both work best when “we stand firm in this age and the ages to come that it is the human person that warrants our attention and our advocacy … Unions have done this as well as any institution in our society.”

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan at Labor Day Mass at St. Partrick’s Cathedral, Catholic Charities New York file photo 2021

In particular, when unions are participants in collective bargaining they offer an example of human dignity and concern triumphing over an ideology that focuses on opposing enemies, he said.

“Collective bargaining says that I will sit down with the devil and listen. I will speak to the other side” helping to create “a world that focuses on the human person,” said Msgr. Sullivan.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan also offered remarks at the end of Mass, praising the role of labor, particularly its rebuilding New York City after 9/11. The Mass and parade were held on the eve of the commemoration of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The cardinal pointed out that St. Patrick’s Cathedral owes its grandeur to those who worked on the original church and its subsequent renovations.

“This majestic temple is a result of labor, labor done in the name of God … all done by you and your predecessors,” he said, noting that workers play an ongoing and vital role in creation.