Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Archdiocese of New York posts press release regarding Our Lady of Vilnius, February 27, 2007

This Archdiocesan statement regarding our closure has just come to my attention. Those who want to read it unimpeded by my elucidation can find it on the official website of the Archdioces, titled STATEMENT OF JOSEPH ZWILLING, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONSON THE CLOSING OF OUR LADY OF VILNIUS CHURCH. Otherwise, I have copied it below, interspersing correction of misinformation and pointing out epistemological lapses.

Statement on Our Lady of Vilnius

February 27, 2007

The parish of Our Lady of Vilnius was closed today. Father Eugene Sawicki, Administrator of the parish, was informed at a meeting that the closure is effective immediately. [While, unbeknownst to him, locksmiths were changing the locks on the church and parish hall. A letter dated 2/21/07 also authorized them to change the locks on the rectory, which they did not do after the secretary informed them that Father Eugene resided there.] Although not a part of the recent Archdiocesan realignment process, [Again, we ask “why not?”. The realignment had a publicized protocol and appeal process associated with it] the decision to close Our Lady of Vilnius was announced on January 19, 2007.

Our Lady of Vilnius, located at 32 Dominick Street across from the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, was a "national parish" founded in 1905 to serve Lithuanian Catholics then living in the New York metropolitan area. National parishes were originally established to serve large numbers of immigrants from a particular country, for instance Germany or Italy, by providing services in their native language and preserving their cultural and religious celebrations. [True and informative, but what is the implication? What inference, favorable to them, would they like the public to make? Our Lady of Vilnius is the only Lithuanian church in the Archdiocese. There are enough Lithuanians and Lithuanians in the tri-state area to require this ministry]

Sunday and Holy Day Masses were regularly attended by six to thirty persons. [Three years ago signs of damage were noted in the ceiling. Subsequent investigation led to the finding that there was some shifting in the beams. The Archdiocese investigated and placed scaffolds in the sanctuary, obstructing it and rendering it unusable. The Archdiocese has not approved repairs, nor approved the release of insurance funds for the repairs. I think attendance is pretty good for a no-frills liturgy in a basement.] They were in English, inasmuch as the priest serving the parish for many years does not understand, read, or speak Lithuanian. [The priest is not fluent in Lithuanian. He has a liturgical knowledge of Lithuanian and says or chants the prayers in Lithuanian on most occasions. The readings are done in Lithuanian by a native speaker. Father reads the gospel and delivers the homily in English. This has been the practice for many years and has only become an issue since the Archdiocese needs to find justification for closing the church.] There have been virtually no weddings or funerals in the church for years. [For the past 3 years the sanctuary has been unusable. Most people want to be married in a church, not a basement hall. Father Sawicki has performed many weddings, baptisms and funerals of Our Lady of Vilnius parishioners in other churches. Regarding funerals, due to the structure of the building, I am not sure that it is possible to maneuver a casket into the basement.] Moreover, persons wishing to participate in Mass and parish activities in Lithuanian are informed of Lithuanian parishes in the neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn and Archdiocese of Newark. [Unless one lives in the Archdiocese of Brooklyn or Newark, or mid to downtown Manhattan, these other options are inconvenient to the point of hardship. Public transportation service is nil or greatly diminished on Sunday. Maspeth, Queens, home to Transfiguration parish has been called “the place that public transportation forgot”.]

Monsignor Edmond Putrimas, Delegate for the Apostolate for Lithuanian Catholics living outside of Lithuania, was informed months ago of the situation of the parish and agreed that it should be closed. [This point of information is controversial. The original claim is equivocal and open to interpretation. More recent correspondence from Msgr. Putrimas seems to contradict this claim.] Similarly, the priest who has been serving the parish for many years was informed of the decision to close the parish also months ago and did not object until recently. [The priest is on record in the press in August stating his opinion that the closure would be a mistake. See Lady of Vilnius and ‘Pretzels’and ‘Provolone’ may lose home]

Appropriate steps have been taken to secure and safeguard the church and other parish buildings. [From the priest, the lay trustees, the parish council and the parishioners.] All items of liturgical or historical value will be removed and stored for future use in other churches. [I am definitely biased, so I would say "Plundered"]

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