Thursday, June 28, 2007

"The New York Observer" publishes a thoughtful and balanced piece about our plight

Every morning I scour the news in hope that a comprehensive and balanced piece about our church will appear in the press or on the net.

Today my hopes were met by a "New York Observer" article, Cardinal Egan Paints Himself an Unhappy Ending, subtitled "A church closing turns ugly as valuables are carted off and a fresco is covered."

Grant Gallicho presents a concise history of our situation and places it in the context of Cardinal Egan's tenure as Archbishop of New York. Please read this article and don't hesitate to comment.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


The saying goes that it is always darkest before the dawn. Today it has dawned on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and we revel in the light.

The Lithuanians all laughed last week when they spoke of "Jonines" and I asked, "Isn't he the guy that designed the stained glass windows at Our Lady of Vilnius?"

Without Our Lady of Vilnius I would not have known enough about Jonynas, the artist, and Jonines, the festival, to confuse the two.

But I digress. On June 23, Lithuanians, and others who think that this festival is cool, will celebrate Jonines, the Feast of St. Jonas, or St. John, as we call him here.

The traditional festivities include song, dance, stories, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with a morning dew. I even have a feeling that Jellybean might sing, most likely "Memories" from "Cats." God help Father Eugene.

I will happily gather with the friends that I have made at Our Lady of Vilnius in a New York city park to celebrate Jonines and Our Lady of Vilnius, the parish that has made so much possible for me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recently sighted..

From the same Archdiocese of New York website that brings us Cardinal Egan's insights in a feature called "In the Holiness of Truth," we have the following quote:

-Acts, 16:5

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Matt Dillonauskas, where are you?

Our ruling was mentioned as an aside in the June 11th "Village Voice" item, "Matt Dillon, Patron Saint of St. Brigid's?" The post highlights Matt Dillon coming to the defense of St. Brigid's, which he came to know through a movie shoot. Salient quote:

"“It's unbelievable to me that the Catholic Church would even consider destroying it,” Dillon told the Voice, adding, “If the city keeps going the way it's going with all this new development, it's going to end up looking like Toronto.”

Replace "St. Brigid's" with "Our Lady of Vilnius" and "Ireland" with "Lithuania" and every word of the article would ring as true.

Our Lady of Vilnius needs an angel. Matt Dillonauskas, where are you?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Once More, With Love...

"For it it is spring, at last, a time of the land’s Easter,
A resurrection, the egg breaking its shell.
The black Madonna, the mother of watchful God,
Broods no longer; she knows her son has risen."

-from "Words for the Parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka on the Occasion of its Ninetieth Anniversary" by Stephen Stepanchev

My Favorite Lines

"For it it is spring, at last, a time of the land’s Easter,
A resurrection, the egg breaking its shell.
The black Madonna, the mother of watchful God,
Broods no longer; she knows her son has risen."

-from "Words for the Parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka on the Occasion of its Ninetieth Anniversary" by Stephen Stepanchev

Today is the 93rd Anniversary of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church

"On June 14, 1914, after renovations and repairs were completed, the Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph F. Mooney, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York, with over 3,000 people in attendance. He was assisted by Rt. Rev. Msgr. A.A. Lings, Dean of Westchester County, and pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Yonkers, the Rev. Charles Galuszka, chaplain of the Dominican Sisters in Newburgh, N.Y., the Rev. H Deneen, secretary to the Vicar General, and Rev. Dr. Joseph C. Dworzak, founder and Pastor. The consecration and High Mass took place after a procession, which included many organizations among them the Polish Military Association of Yonkers, the St. Stanislaus Society of Hastings-on-Hudson, and the Paderewski’s Band, which played as the procession marched from Washington Avenue to the church."


I awake to the sound of water rushing north,
Past my window, as the moon, tiding in the bay,
Pulls the Hudson and pushes barges carrying wheat.
I see a sea gull diving for a frightened fish.
Down below, in the garden, a scent of lilac
Draws me. Forsythias yellow the humid air.
I watch the skywriting of Monarch butterflies.
I hear the glad ringing of the church’s bells.
For it it is spring, at last, a time of the land’s Easter,
A resurrection, the egg breaking its shell.
The black Madonna, the mother of watchful God,
Broods no longer; she knows her son has risen.

Ninety years ago, on these verdant hills,
A group of earnest Polish immigrants
Erected a church and parish, honoring
A Polish saint, a man of solemn piety,
Who loved both God and his great creation, man—
St. Stanislaus. The congregation grew
Through generations of war and prosperity,
Births, weddings, holidays, and funerals,
Encompassing in dramatic communion
All the folk of Hastings, of America,
Under the shepherding of learned priests,
From Dworzak to Daszkiewicz
And Pinto to Wenceslaus.

The bells are ringing, the children are singing, life
Is basking in the splendor that is spring,
The promise of return that the millenniums bring.

-Stephen Stepanchev

Note: Stephen Stepanchev is Professor of English emeritus from Queens College. He is a former poet laureate of the Borough of Queens and a Hastings-on-Hudson resident.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Neither More Nor Less

Back on March 1, when we were still reeling from the closure of our church, Bob Arihood came west, took some photos of our vigil and published a post, Our Lady of Vilnius is closed.... I found the acknowledgement of our loss and our sadness very comforting. Someone from outside our little circle came and bore witness.

Last Thursday (6/7/07) Colin Moynihan of "The New York Times" acknowledged Bob's work in a piece entitled On a Corner, a Shutter Clicks as Poets and Punks Pass in Review. The article describes a small slice of East Village life as it is being observed and documented by Mr. Arihood.

The blog, Neither More Nor Less, focuses on the people and creatures that survive and, perhaps, prevail in what can be an anonymous and harsh environment.

Our Lady of Vilnius is closed, but this blog consoles me because it is very much in our spirit.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another "Hill of Crosses"

The Hill of Crosses at Our Lady of Vilnius, the last time that I saw it, took up roughly 1/4 of the basement vestibule. After every vigil the crosses are methodically and meticulously removed from the front of the church at someone's mysterious command. They are stacked on their sides on the floor like cordwood, but they still symbolize our prayers to re-enter our home and hear Mass there.

Today's press brings to light another 'Hill of Crosses,' this one growing in Waterbury, CT, for the intentions of the Lithuanian parish of St. Joseph.

Today's "Hartford Courant" online runs a story titled Plan To Demolish Rectory Draws Opposition. The story presents what is now a common scenario in the press, the diminishing ethnic enclave trying to preserve its tradition and institutions in the face of development, demographic shift and assimilation.

At St. Josephs parish in Waterbury CT., parishioners have begun building a "Hill of Crosses" and praying for the intention of preserving the parish rectory. The story states, "The crosses at St. Joseph appeared mysteriously one morning this winter, and recently a tall, carved wooden statue of Christ was added nearby."

Our Lady of Vilnius is mentioned in the article. Apparently Lithuanian parishes are viewing our plight as a cautionary tale and moving to take action.

I feel that my parishes, St. Stanislaus Kostka and Our Lady of Vilnius, were misunderstood by the Archdiocese. It seems that their origin as "national" churches created a perception that they were "foreign." This origin has given the Archdiocese an excuse to remain electively blind to the spiritually and culturally unique communities into which these parishes had evolved at the time of their closure. It seems that the decrease in numbers of the founding ethnicity and the reduced linguistic need legitimizes these closures in the eyes of archdiocesan officials.

The succession of parishioners and priests have created a culture, a legacy and a tradition that is unique. While there may be fewer old timers and a reduced linguistic need for these parishes, I feel that there is a crying need for their connection to history: national, international and personal. I feel that they present a basis for community in a world that is becoming too transient, impersonal and centered on bottom line values. People can come to these places, learn, love and put down roots. Maybe some of these roots would grow into vocations.

Jesus Christ came to us as man, with a particular body: a voice, a touch, a personality, thoughts and emotions. I can't imagine that He wants to see all His houses purged of their particularity and traces of specific humanity: specific people.

Our Trustee and much more, Joy McAleer, is asked for advice in this article, to which she says: "Pray."

I would listen and act, praying for our own church, all the little ethnic churches in jeopardy and the Church that doesn't seem to understand.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

NSM presents film "Ghetto"(2006) today, 2:00PM, Anthology Film Archives

Please join us at a screening of "Ghetto", a feature film based on true events that took place in the Vilnius ghetto during the Nazi occupation (1942-43). It tells the tragic story of the unique Ghetto Musical Theatre.

Directed by Lithuanian film director Audrius Juzenas.
Lithuania/Germany, 100min. In English.
Suggested donation $10 (donations will go to the "Save our Lady of Vilnius" fund)

Date and time: 9th of June, at 2:00 pm
The place: Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Avenue (corner of E. 2nd Street) Manhattan Directions: take 6 train to Bleeker str., or F to 2nd Ave. station.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wherever the Archdiocese of New York has put our bell, I am sure that it is not tolling our death knell!

Among the items removed for safekeeping by the Archdiocese was our bell, most likely weighing in at over a ton and inscribed with the names of Lithuanian immigrants who contributed to the construction of the church.

Today's "New York Post," item, RULING A DEATH KNELL FOR CHURCH, by Dareh Gregorian presents the outcome of our recent suit against the Archdiocese of New York to reopen the church and prevent further removal of items. I disagree with the summary that it is a death knell for the church. We the "former parishioners" are Roman Catholics and hold a firm belief in the Resurrection.

The hierarchical nature of the church makes it the 400 lb. gorilla of my childhood jokes, i.e., "Where does a 400-lb gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants to."

A similar piece ran in the "New York Daily News", Case closed for downtown church. This item emphasized that the decision places our fate squarely in the hands of the Archdiocese.

How do you make a 400-lb. gorilla act with kindness and mercy?

This is not a joke.

The full content of the decision can be viewed at The New York State Courts Reporting Bureau

Monday, June 04, 2007

Encouragement from a Poet

"An intelligent person fights for lost causes, realizing that others are merely effects."
-e e cummings

Sunday, June 03, 2007

dotCommonweal Reacts to today's "New York Times" article

Grant Gallicho comments on today's piece in the "Times" in his post, The 'Times' notices Our Lady of Vilnius. Whereas I am still fixated on how the media have not made any apparent effort to penetrate the Archdiocesan cant, Grant Gallicho has focussed specifically on the methodology of fresco preservation, quoting two sources and promising to look into the issue further.

Visit dotCommonweal. Read, think and share your reactions in their online forum.

"How did you find today's New York Times article about Our Lady of Vilnius?"

Where's the beef?

Below is a joke that my father told me when I was a little girl. It was old then and went like this:

A waiter walked up to one of his tables and asked a patron, "How did you find your steak, sir?" The man said, "I looked under the potato and there it was."

This is one of the first things that I thought of after I read the online version of this article last evening.

The piece, A Dwindling Congregation, Aiming to Reclaim Their Parish, disseminates the basic facts about the premature stripping of the church and our subsequent suit.

How did the article disturb me? Let me count the ways:

  • Enough credence is given to Joe Zwilling's description of us as "dwindling" to confidently make this assertion in the title.

  • A paragraph in the article seems to conflate the dispersion of the Lithuanian community from the area around the church with a dwindling of the congregation. Not so. The church is attended by Lithuanians from the tri-state area as well as non-Lithuanians who like the atmosphere and/or Father Eugene. In addition, its weekday Mass has been loyally attended by the working faithful in the area.

  • The Archdiocese has gone out of its way to educate the public on the difference between "national" and "geographic" parishes in its quest to justify the closure of our church. In this article, Zwilling outdoes himself by holding our parish to a new standard, that of the geographic national parish - not only does the parish have to serve Lithuanians, but the Lithuanians must live nearby in order to justify the parish.

  • Zwilling states that the church is not for sale. Why were no questions asked about plans for any of the other ways in which profit can be made from real estate?

  • "The church's fresco was painted over, he added, to protect it from deterioration because it couldn't be removed." Huh?

  • "Even after their church was shuttered, the parishioners held out hope." Mistake in tense. We still hold out hope.

  • "..where they brandish their signs, eat Lithuanian rye bread, prop white crosses in the front of the church and pray for its reopening." I don't like "brandish," it has legal connotations of menace. Also the compressed description of our activites sounds mechanistic and trivial: brandishing and eating come before prayer. I would have said that we gather to pray for the reopening of our church, to break bread in the only way that we can right now and to be with one another in the spirit of community that strengthens our conviction that this parish is necessary.

So a neighbor comes up to me and asks, "How did you find today's "New York Times" piece about Our Lady of Vilnius?" I replied, "I lifted up the Archdiocese of New York's press release and there it was."