ROCHESTER — Organizers of an annual revival mission for the Latino community took additional steps during this year’s planning to ensure that there would be no noise-related conflict with Rochester police as occurred during a religious event this spring.
During Our Lady of the Americas’ annual outdoor rosary novena in May, neighbors of the East Main Street church complained to Rochester police about the noise, according to Brother Juan Lozada, director of the diocese’s Spanish Apostolate. In light of that incident, Brother Lozada said that the parish’s staff members obtained a special permit from the city for the Aug. 9-13 mission, even though as a religious organization it did not need to do so. The city ordinance stipulates that excessive noise is prohibited except for "political or religious activities or the operation or use of any organ, bell, chimes or other similar instrument from on or within any church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other house of worship."
Brother Lozada said that the parish staff obtained advice from the city’s permit office on the placement of its loudspeakers to avoid any potential noise disturbances. They also planned to distribute fliers alerting neighbors to the upcoming event and planned to have a copy of the permit available to anyone who may request it during the mission events. This year’s speaker is Nestor Bello, a charismatic preacher from New York City and native of the Dominican Republic.
Through conversations with the city’s office of special events, the church community learned that it had acted within its rights in holding the outdoor rosary novena in May, Brother Lozada said. Held in honor of the Virgin Mary, the annual event includes both music and prayer. It had taken place without any problems for nearly four decades at the former Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church on Woodward Street, according to Father Laurence Tracy, a longtime Hispanic advocate. But this year, the musicians were forced to pull the plug on the novena after being threatened with confiscation of the equipment, Brother Lozada said, adding that he was hopeful that the mission would not experience any such negativity.
"It wasn’t just a question of noise" Father Tracy said in regard to the May incident. "(This novena) has been done for hundreds of years in Puerto Rico. It’s deeply rooted in the culture. … It was a deep cultural hurt … for our people."
In response to the incident, Father Tracy said that he contacted Councilwoman Jackie Ortiz to arrange a meeting between the Rochester Police Department and the church’s community leaders. While that meeting has not yet taken place, Ortiz said that she has reached out to Rochester Police Chief David Moore to find out more about the May incident. Ortiz noted that the area is highly trafficked with events going on at the Auditorium Theatre and the Main Street Armory year-round.
She added that she will work with the police department to learn if they receive other noise complaints about events at the theater or armory and, if so, what procedures were followed by officers. Even if the May conflict at Our Lady of the Americas was a lone incident, Ortiz said she wants to find out why it happened.
"When people want to be selective on what they don’t want to hear, it becomes a concern," she said.