Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day to all the paisanos of Our Lady of Vilnius

There was never a strong partition between the living and the dead of Our Lady of Vilnius, so on this Columbus Day we honor the Italians and Italian-Americans, among us and gone home to God, that contributed to  the parish, among them Frankie Pretzels and his buddy, Provolone, Tony Zaggarino,  Gerard DeSapio and his son,  Carmine DeSapio, who donated the painting of St. Anthony of Padua over the West Altar, pictured above.  We offer special prayers and remembrance for Joe Zaccaria, who devoted so much time, energy and emotion to the effort to save our parish.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Me too, Father Groeschel

Paul Vitello's obituary of Father Groeschel, "Benedict Groeschel, 81, Dies; Priest Aided Poor and Drew a TV Flock" appeared in today's New York Times print edition.  The final quote:

 “I used to be a liberal, if liberal means concern for the other guy,” he said. “Now I consider myself a conservative-liberal-traditional-radical-confused person.” 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Increased Offertory Campaign Week 3 "Blurb" from

"Week 3

 As a result of the “Sharing God’s Gifts” program, the parish has received many commitments from faithful parishioners to increase their weekly contributions.  Overwhelmingly most of our congregation has given us good feedback. As usual, there were those who were slightly critical of the parish request.  For most, after more was explained to them about the needs of our parish, they were quite satisfied with the clarifications.  One way to contribute is to use the automated pay method-the PARISHPAY Program.  Once you sign up for this program, ParishPay will collect monthly contributions from your checking, savings or credit card account and then send it to the parish. There is no cost to you to participate in the program.  You may log on to or you may call 1-866-727-4741 ext. 1. Let us pray that our Stewardship of our parish is successful."

This is an excerpt from a document called "Increased Offertory Campaign Blurbs" that I found by Googling "Increased Offertory".  

RIP Father Benedict Groeschel

After Our Lady of Vilnius was closed Rita decided that we needed to seek the counsel of Father Groeschel in our endeavor to save the church and our parish community.  She had seen him on EWTN speaking about 9/11 and was impressed that he didn't come out with the usual content.  So we made a pilgrimage to a talk that he was giving on positive psychology at the Church of the Holy Innocents.  We enjoyed the lecture, stayed for the Mass and then stood on line to share our concerns.  Most of the people on the queue in front of us were waiting to express praise and gratitude or to request his autograph.  We were last.  Rita deferred to me because she thought I, as a native speaker, spoke better English.  "We are from Our Lady of Vilnius and we would like to talk to you about our parish," I declaimed formally, as I was somewhat starstruck.  Father showed his familiarity with the case by reiterating some of the reasons for closing OLV outlined in the archdiocesan press release:  poor attendance and broken roof.  When I challenged, he listened.  I told him that there would be no Lithuanian presence in the archdiocese when Our Lady of Vilnius closed: no hymns, no Our Lady of Siluva, no Rupintojelis.  He said that, if that is the case, it would be the Lithuanians' own fault.  He then made some good suggestions for approaching the archdiocese in order to integrate these things.  Rita was flabbergasted at his brusqueness and one of the young Franciscans tending to him explained that it had been a long day for Father and that he was always in pain.

I was disappointed at first, but the more I engaged in the effort to save OLV, the more I saw that he was right:  if we wanted to have a place at the archdiocesan table as a culture, we had to make it happen and in a highly specific way.

Though this is my most significant memory of Father Groeschel, I have others:  hearing him speak about the Eucharist at Dunwoodie, seeing him on the altar at major liturgies at St. Patricks, seeing him as a lone, hooded figure praying outside the Womens' Center in Dobbs Ferry.  I remember praying for him at the time of his accident, marveling at his recovery and enjoying him on Sunday Night Live.

He was a singular intellect with a no B.S. tone, his mixture of erudition and working class smarts bracing and funny.  He spoke and lived his truth.  May all of us who feel his loss carry him with us by becoming more like him.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Same Feelings, Different Church: Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church in Harlem

Since the real estate market in New York City is decimating the natural habitat of churchgoers, stories about churches gone condo and or simply gone will proliferate.  In today's New York Times, David Dunlap turns his gaze toward the Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church in Harlem, his piece "After 90 Years, a Harlem Church Vows to Endure Amid Relentless Change" chronicling the building's history and drawing familiar sentiments from its Senior Pastor, Dedrick L. Blue:

“The beauty of Harlem is being lost,”Dedrick L. Blue, the senior pastor of the church, said in an interview last week. “Pieces of its history are being destroyed by modern development and greed.
 “The steeple represents certain things that must endure. Faith must endure. History must endure. In a city where people see churches only as relics, this steeple says, ‘No, this is an act of faith.’ And it is an act of faith to stay here."

Amid relentless change, why would the faithful want all things to be made new?

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name: Yannic Rack's article about us in Downtown Express

Yannic Rack's article about Our Lady of Vilnius appears in The Villagers sister paper, Downtown Express, as "Parish Hopes for Salvation at Vilnius Church".  Thanks to Milda DeVoe for stepping up and offering her pithy, on-target commentary.  Please don't hesitate to join her.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Things Made New: Our Lady of Vilnius gets mention in NY Times piece on church-to-condo trend

James Barron's piece "A Difficult Passage from Church to Condo" focuses on the transformation of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist on Central Park into condominium.  In the process, he recaps other church-to-condo transactions, stating  "Last month, a developer filed plans to build an 18-story condominium building on the site of the former Our Lady of Vilnius Roman Catholic Church, on Broome Street near the Holland Tunnel. "   The article thereby groups us with "...congregations (that) struggle to afford the maintenance of buildings that were designed to hold far more congregants than now attend services, " but we were never one of those.  At the time of its closing, Our Lady of Vilnius was solvent with a positive bank balance.  The roof could have been repaired had the archdiocese given permission for the repair, as insurance monies were available and a donor had stepped forward to fund the shortfall.  

We are going to hear a lot about dwindling congregations and responsible stewardship as all things are made new.  Will they all be accurate?