While a thousand people streamed into a courtyard at St. Lucy Parish in the Bronx to watch a reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ, next door a steady trickle of believers quietly collected water from that church's grotto, taking the liquid home to heal, cure, and bless.
"I have heard many times healing has been definitely proved," said Rev. Nikolin Pergjini, the pastor who presides over the parish, which built the grotto in 1939.
The church's founder modeled it after Lourdes in France where Catholics believe the blessed virgin appeared 18 times to a teenage girl. Just like the French site, the Bronx Lourdes now attracts religious pilgrims from all over the tri-state area instead of from all over the world.
The water at Lourdes in France emerged from an underground natural spring. The water here in the Bronx is New York City tap water, not even blessed by a priest.
"It's not blessed," the pastor said. "People get the water and they definitely believe and trust."
On Good Friday jars, bottles, and body parts made of plastic, glass, and flesh all plunge beneath this man-made spring.
"This water is like a god," said Ceres Filius, who drinks the water when she feels sad.
Harold Holly drinks it when he feels old.
"I've been feeling sharp pain in my chest and left arm," he said.
Manny Rodriguez sprinkles it all over his body.
Auto shop owner Juan Rosario pours it all over his car.
"Keep my mind focused while things are not going so good," Rosario said.
When the procession of the cross finished, the line for this holiest faucet of city tap water grew. So too did hope for its possibilities.
"I am going to go to the doctor though but I have more faith in the blessed water," Holly said.
St. Lucy offers mass in English, Spanish, Italian, and Albanian. It's located at 833 Mace Avenue in the Bronx.
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