Catholic Charities of New York could have gone to a big company to build the chair Pope Francis will sit in during his U.S. visit. Instead, they turned to two day laborers.
PORT CHESTER, N.Y. (AP) – Carpenter Hector Rojas tried to explain the emotion behind cutting, sanding and assembling a wooden chair that Pope Francis will use during a Mass at Madison Square Garden in his first U.S. visit.
"It's a beautiful feeling, when people count on you," said Rojas, who is from Mexico but lives in Port Chester, north of New York City.
Rojas, 30, Francisco Santamaria, 61, of Nicaragua and Fausto Hernandez, 51, of the Dominican Republic are day laborers from Don Bosco Workers and Obreros Unidos de Yonkers, chosen by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York to build the chair.
"They could have called a large company, but they called us," Rojas said. "We are very happy to help them."
"It is a great pleasure to do this. The pope is our idol," Santamaria said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, visited the workers Thursday at the garage where they were working and congratulated them. He also visited Lincoln Hall Boys Haven in Lincolndale, where young men are building a lectern and alter for the Mass at the Garden.
"We are very proud of you," Dolan told the three men.
The trio has spent more than a week so far working on the chair. It will be light brown with a white backing and mahogany trim. They were assisted Thursday by Brother Sal Sammarco, a member of the Salesians order who traveled from Florida to coordinate the project.
During his visit to the United States in September, Francis will travel to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He will meet some of the laborers from Don Bosco and Obreros Unidos during his visit to a Catholic school in East Harlem on Sept. 25.
Some of the workers are in the U.S. illegally, but Dolan defended them.
"They are allies, hard-working people," the archbishop said.
Francis also will meet some of their wives, who are weaving and embroidering 10 white tablecloths for the pontiff's visit. Tablecloths with images of a heart and a dove will be used on the altar for the Mass. Others will be placed on tables at the Harlem school.
"I will ask many blessings for my family," said craftswoman Agueda Zavaleta of her plans when she meets the pope.