Westchester immigrants creating Pope Francis' chair for US visit

Thursday, August 6, 2015
Westchester immigrants creating Pope Francis' chair for US visit
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Tim Fleischer has the story

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. (WABC) -- For Brother Salvatore Sammarco and his three fellow carpenters, there is no higher calling.

Working from a simple photograph and detailed plans, they are building the chair that Pope Francis will use during his mass on his visit to New York next month.

"I would say it's holy and unites us as one as we are. It brings out the reality," Brother Sammarco said.

The men, Hector Rojas from Mexico, Fausto Hernandez a native of the Dominican Republic and Francisco SantaMaria a native of Nicaragua, were chosen to help Brother Sal in a collaboration between Don Bosco workers in Port Chester and Catholic Charities in Yonkers.

"Spiritual connection, you know. That's why it's more special. I am glad to be helping the guys build the chair," Rojas said.

Gonzalo Cruz, Don Bosco's director, helped to interpret for Fausto.

"My family is so happy and I am so proud of this project, because we are day laborers and building this chair for Pope Francis," SantaMaria said.

"To develop those skills, to help them enhance their dignity and to serve others," Timothy Cardinal Dolan said.

Cardinal Dolan saw their handiwork up close, carefully drawn from the pope's teaching of respecting workers and those on the margins of society.

"The simplicity that Pope Francis wanted with his love and care for those who have a particular burden in life," Cardinal Dolan said.

Two other pieces, the altar and the ambo or pulpit, are being handcrafted by students and wood shop teacher William Kelly at Lincoln Hall in nearby Lincolndale.

"It's an honor. I never thought I'd ever get the chance to do something like this," said Mauricio Agudeo, a student.

When the pope sits in his chair during mass, there will be, as the men believe, a spiritual feeling.

"When I see the pope he is very simple," SantaMaria said.

"It's like sitting at the feet of Jesus," Brother Sammarco said.