Wednesday, August 30, 2006

July 31, 2006 - A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Father Sawicki learns that Cardinal Egan would like to close the parish

The following is a mailing sent out to inform parishioners and given them the opportunity to petition the Cardinal for the repair of the roof and the continued life of the parish: (To obtain a copy of this petition as a pdf file e-mail me and request "Petition"

Our Lady of Vilnius R.C. Church
32 Dominick St.
New York, NY 10013
Tel. 255-2648
FAX 212 924-6210

From our Sunday bulletin, August 6, 2006…

On Monday, July 31st, on his return to the rectory after the 12:15 Mass, Fr. Eugene received a message from the office of the Cardinal asking him to report a few hours later for a meeting with His Eminence. At that meeting, Father was informed that the church of Our Lady of Vilnius would be closed. No definite time was set for the closing, but it was indicated that it would be before winter.

We learned on Wednesday, August 2nd, while speaking with the director of the insurance department of the Archdiocese, that the closing of our church was part of the realignment process,- a fact that we had not been made aware of. Those parishes whose closing had been projected had the option of appealing the decision. We do not know if we have this option.

Fr. Eugene has repeatedly said that our’s is the church of Our Blessed Mother and if it is her will, it will remain open. We leave the decision in her hands. However, let us do all our power, by action AND PRAYER.

The Lay Trustees of our parish (Joseph Pantuliano and Joy McAleer) along with the very able assistance of Joseph Zaccaria and other members of the Parish Council are preparing an appeal and look forward to the opportunity of presenting it. Any assistance from parishioners will be appreciated. We would also welcome from parishioners a signed statement asking the church roof be repaired with insurance funds and that the church not be closed. In our opinion, insurance funds should be used for repair, not demolition.

Please sign and return to us as soon as possible. MANY THANKS!

A request to His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan
That the Church of Our Lady of Vilnius NOT BE CLOSED.



Friday, August 25, 2006

Our Lady of Vilnius Parish: a little Lithuanian island in Manhattan

Parish established in 1905. Construction of the church competed on March 5, 1911.

"One needs only to recall that the New York harbor houses the prime port of entry for millions of immigrants who caught their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. This city is home to nearly every known ethnic group. Almost lost in these huge communities is a Lithuanian remnant, a little Lithuanian island in Manhattan – Our Lady of Vilnius parish."

from "90 Years for God and Country" by Dalia Bulvičius, prepared for the 90th anniversary of the parish in 1995. To obtain the full text of the history as a pdf file e-mail me and I will send it to you as an attachment

Photo taken by Peter Manzari and posted to Flickr. Shown here with his permission.

Out of Obscurity!

While I am trying vainly to upload my photos using dial-up, the Villager and Downtown express burst forth with an extravaganza entitled "'Pretzels' and 'Provolone" may lose their church"

The pictures are wonderful and all the cultures that inhabit this little sanctuary are given their due. I am so happy to have stumbled back into this church that my grandparents had attended. The article is a bittersweet celebration, though, because the church stands to be closed.

One word in the article that caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up was "Zwilling." I guess that I should have some compassion for this guy who has to defend the indefensible. He is quoted as saying "There is a Lithuanian congregation in Brooklyn, I believe, that the people can attend." Why do I feel like eating a piece of cake right now?

Does the Archdiocese not really get it or are they being willfully obtuse? These parishes that have been around for at least 100 years have a unique culture born of their ethnic roots that grows and is enriched over time. The language may go by the boards as immigrants assimilate, but there is a spirit, an ethos that remains, illuminates the parish and presents its gift to all who attend, not just the Lithuanians. This is a culmination of all the pastors and all the parishioners that ever worshipped here. It is something valuable which should not be discarded. There is no mention of anything spiritual or sacred in this calculus of which church shall remain and which shall be closed. The Archdiocese should start looking at spiritual value and leave it to the parishioners to keep this parish alive.

I feel much better now. As Father Sawicki advised me after I was ranting to him on the phone about the proposed closure of my other endangered parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka, "Now say goodnight to Our Lady." I did. And I will.

Disclaimer Number One

This blog does not have any official connection to the parish of Our Lady of Vilnius. Any opinions expressed are strictly my own. Any that are not will be explicitly credited to those who have expressed them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

St. Brigid's - A Blessing for Another Church As Yet Unsaved

Judge Keeps Temporary Restraining Order in Place for St. Bridgid's

I had hoped that my first post in this blog would be about Our Lady of Vilnius, but I felt it was best to draw attention to the canary in the Archdiocesan coal mine.

On July 30, 2005 New York Times columnist Dan Barry described the parish's predicament in  "A Prayer for a Church Unsaved". The tale of St. Brigid's is a long and convoluted one.

The structure of this historic church built by Irish shipwrights was allowed to deteriorate to the point where occupancy was unsafe. The church was closed, but the parish persisted, holding Mass in another building on the site. The parishioners, now mostly Latino, formed a Committee to save their church. The descendants, actual and spiritual, of the Irish who founded the parish and built the church jumped on board. This dedicated group of people has staved off the wrecking ball, which actually took one whack at the structure. Demolition was halted by a restraining order, which the judge ruled to keep in place for the time being.

Prayers and best wishes for all who love St. Brigid's on today's ephemeral, but important triumph. It is a morale boost to all of us who love our endangered churches and parishes.