Sunday, May 27, 2007


"Bright and in likeness of fire, the sevenfold mystical dowry pouring on all human souls infinite riches of God."

- Pentecost verse of hymn "Hail Thee, Festival Day"

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Convergence of All Loves

I gesture around the sanctuary and I say to my friend, Barbara, “This is the epicenter of my psychological universe.” She nods, smiling. She knows well how weird I am. The words echo off the walls and disappear into alcoves and niches. As I hear my own voice hanging in the air, I realize that the words are true, but I do not know why.

Today as I awaken from the part of sleep that is remembered, I see the façade of the church in the shot I use so often in this blog, known to me as “Exterior 1”. I read the words “Convergence of All Loves” from the otherwise blank wall of my mind: red letters, Times New Roman font. Maybe I am blogging too much.

My eyes remain closed. I free associate in perfect comfort, reluctant to rise. The façade dissolves to the interior as I first saw it as an adult in July of 2005. I had attended Mass in the basement and Elaine led me up the stairs to the loft. First I saw the Madonna, as yet without child, looking down from above the upturned crescent moon. Then I saw the scaffold, the gash in the ceiling, the shard of sun glaring through the skylight. My eyes settled on the large and angular shapes of the Jonynas windows and I began to cry. I envisioned the sanctuary intact with smaller, arched windows of amber glass and suddenly remember being there as a young child and feel the child’s emotions with a piercing purity and lack of understanding.

I think about the words, “convergence of all loves” with conviction. This is a place where my grandparents trod before my father came into being; a place where my father and aunts prayed as children. It is a place where I myself have been at an age before words organized emotion, where a sense of its sacredness was imprinted upon me through my senses.

Like Christopher Isherwood, I am a camera fixing each image in the crosshairs of my lens, preserving it for memory like the child taking temporary leave of the comb, the brush and the bowl full of mush in “Good Night Moon.”

The Cartesian crosshairs of my lens as I shoot, not to kill but to preserve, align themselves with the cross of Christ. This church represents the convergence of all my loves.

May the Holy Spirit help all to envision each of us and this house through the lens of mercy.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Remembering Bob Heffernan

Robert C. "Bob" Heffernan


The picture at left shows Bob Heffernan in character as "the old drunk" in Peter Callahan's 2001 film, "Last Ball." He is sitting in the gloom of John's Bar and Grill, an old ungentrified saloon on Warburton Avenue. The film, written and directed by Hastings native Peter Callahan, is an autobiographical "coming of age" film shot in and around Hastings. In the process of depicting Callahan's story, the film preserves many things that are now lost or changing, among them St. Stanislaus Kostka, Junior's gas station and the old community center, all on Main Street.

This is significant to me, because I first met Bob in front of Junior's and across the street from St. Stanislaus. I was heading East and he was heading West, to the heart of the village. He looked up at me, smiled and gave me a warm hello. The sight of him jarred me out of my chronic reverie and I smiled back. I didn't know who he was, but I felt that I should, as if he were a celebrity or elected official.

I continued to meet and greet him now and again in passing on the street or in the Hastings Center Restaurant, our local diner, but I did not learn his identity until I shared a table with him at the after-Mass coffee social in the basement of St. Stanislaus. He introduced himself and gave me his calling card, a plastic wallet calendar with his head shot, union memberships and contact information. He was an actor.

Over time we all got to know and enjoy him. He regaled us with anecdotes about actors, productions, Sardi's and the Lamb's Club. Most importantly, he laughed and joked. Bob brought a brio and panache to the ensemble of St. Stanislaus, lending memories, wit, humor, kindness, play and a touch of glamor to the parish. Over time we also got to meet his three daughters, singly or as a group, when they attended Mass and coffee social before escorting him to some occasion.

In May of 2004, after we had heard that St. Stanislaus was in danger of closing, we decided to celebrate our existence by marching in the annual Memorial Day Parade. Bob graced us with his presence, handsome in his Panama hat, waving from the Sherkus' convertible like a kindly monarch.

In 2005 all of Bob's daughters were in attendance at coffee social on Father's Day. Mayor Lee Kinally was present, which was not unusual, but he gave us a surprise as he declared that day "Bob Heffernan Day" in Hastings-on-Hudson. We sang "Sto Lat," applauded and felt that this celebration of Bob was well-deserved

After the closing of St. Stanislaus in September of 2005, Bob continued to join us in our coffee social, now held in the basement of the rectory of St. Matthew parish after the 9:00 AM Mass

In the fall of 2006, Bob suffered an illness that took him away from us for a while. At this time, one of the weekday Masses at Our Lady of Vilnius was offered for the intention of his health. Bob eventually returned to us, weakened, but in good spirits and accompanied by a care taker.

On Monday, the St. Stanislaus Kostka Holy Rosary Society included him in their prayers, having heard that he had suffered "a little setback." This Wednesday I was saddened to receive a an e-mail informing me that Bob was "called home to God."

Bob's obituary was published in yesterday's Rivertowns Enterpriseand today's Journal News. These tributes describe him as a parishioner of St. Matthew's. Maybe he was, but I will always remember him in the context of St. Stanislaus Kostka. And I will remember him when I pray outside of Our Lady of Vilnius, wherein we once prayed for his health.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We need your help.

After we prayed the Litany of Loreto and sang "Marija, Marija" this past Sunday, we folded, labeled, stamped, sealed and mailed 549 letters to parishioners, people who contributed to the church and those who signed the paper petition back in August. We worked hastily and happily in each other's company on the steps of the church. If you get one of these letters, it may contain some genuine urban grit from Broome Street and the Holland Tunnel.

Because legal action is under way, an emergency legal defense fund has been created to help cover the costs of our battle. Efforts already in progress are expected to cost at least $20,000. Please read the letter of appeal in English HERE, or in Lithuanian HERE, and consider making a tax-deductible donation.

We would be grateful for whatever help you can give us, especially your prayers.

Thank you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hey Jude!

I think that we should all pray to Saint Jude Thaddeus now for our parish. According to Catholic Forum:
"His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude's help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause."

All of us individually and Our Lady of Vilnius as a parish know what it means to be misunderstood, undervalued and pushed aside. We should develop this bond of empathy with Saint Jude, befriend him and seek his help.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


"In the end, My Immaculate Heart will Triumph"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Today on Fifth Avenue: Protesting Closure and Saluting Israel

Today as we gathered across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral to protest our closure we had an unobstructed view. The street was closed off to provide access to "New York's Salute to Israel," parade in progress a block north.

Among the strollers on this ad hoc pedestrian mall were parade spectators heading uptown. Many stopped to look at the pictures of our church and some identified themselves as having ancestral ties to Vilna.

Some of those who stopped were aware of the cultural preservation agreement between Lithuania and the USA and expressed an awareness of cemeteries in Lithuania on the preservation list. They looked sadly at our "before" and "after" photos and left us with their advice and encouragement.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

dotCommonweal updates its readers on our plight

Grant Gallicho follows his inital post with Vilnius parishioners sue archdiocese. (updated)

Vist, read, discuss and possibly, subscribe. I got hooked by the attention given to Our Lady of Vilnius, and now the magazine is my favorite transit reading.

Our Lady of Vilnius is still hanging in there after day in court

After an aggressive attempt on the part of archdiocesan attorneys to have the case thrown out, we survived our day in court with the continuation of the temporary restraining order. The New York Post acknowledges this in their brief item by Dareh Gregorian, HANDS OFF LITHUNIA CHURCH

How dead do they want to kill us? and, why?

The archdiocese is very powerful and, in the case of Our Lady of Vilnius, it has consistently applied more force than needed to do the job. This has been evident in:

  • Their lack of response to the Administrator and trustees regarding the roof repair for a period of over 2 years

  • The citation of low attendance and low sacramental viability as reasons for closure after engineering these statistics by obstructing the sanctuary

  • The failure to disclose the unrepaired roof and obstructed sanctuary when presenting low attendance and sacramental viability as reasons for closure in their press releases
  • The failure to include our parish in the realignment process which came with instant media coverage and an appeals process

  • The abrupt locking of the church, hall, and nearly the rectory, while Father Sawicki was uptown meeting with Cardinal Egan.

  • Scheduling Lithuanian Consul General immediately after locking the church in order to receive President Adamkus' plea too late
  • The lack of a written decree of suppression

  • The lack of a written reply to our canonical appeal

  • The emptying and of the church and the painting over of sacred images. Meatpackers used to pride themselves on using "everything but the squeal." The archdiocese seemed to use this paradigm in stripping Our Lady of Vilnius. Even a grimy old electric fan is tagged with an inventory number, ostensibly for safekeeping.
  • Covert maneuvers that became known in the courtroom yesterday.

I was disturbed by the agressive demeanor and confident (dare I say "arrogant?") presentation of the archdiocese' case, which basically came down to the hierarchical nature of the Roman Catholic Church investing them with the power to do whatever they want to do.

I enjoyed it when the opposing attorney's voice had gradually become so hoarse and shrill that he aplogized and promised brevity.

Why is an institution that was started by Jesus Christ relying on keen manipulation of the letter of the law to suppress us? Why is our devotion a source of consternation? Why do they have such little care for our minds and hearts? They can, but why do they choose to?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Today Our Lady of Vilnius Parish has its day in court

Holy Mary, pray for us

Today's New York Postheralds our appearance in court to prevent the archdiocese from pursuing their agenda with Dan Mangan's brief piece, SHUT CHURCH PRAYS - AND SUES


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

dotCommonweal digs deeper and presents new information

At least new to me and I'm a major yenta. In today's post, Our Lady of Vilnius: protected site defaced, Grant Gallicho clarifies the church's status under a 2002 agreement "to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of all national, religious,or ethnic groups that reside or resided in [each country's] territory,"

He presents a copy of a letter dated 2/23/2007 that was written by Warren L Miller, Chariman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, to Cardinal Egan. This letter respectfully requests the Cardinal to reconsider his decision to close the church. Cardinal Egan had the church locked and occupied on February 27, 2007 while Father Sawicki was meeting with him.

Please visit the site, read the post and contribute to the online forum.


Let us pray.

O God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death and resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech you, that while meditating of the mysteries of the most holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and what they promise, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Refuge of sinners, pray for us

Comforter of the Afflicted, pray for us

Queen of all Saints, pray for us

Mother of our Creator, pray for us

Mother undefiled, pray for us

Holy Mary, pray for us