Friday, January 30, 2009

Speculation About Cardinal Egan's Retirement

And possible successor...

Today Newsmax states Pope to Announce New Archbishop of New York. Though this type of article has appeared episodically since the Cardinal submitted his retirement papers, the speculation has intensified and become more frequent. Let us pray for an Archbishop that is responsive to our cause.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Two "Realignment" Parishes Remain At Large

On January 19, 2007 the Archdiocese of New York held a press conference to announce which of the candidate parishes would close under their much-vaunted "Realignment" process. A press release was issued and duly posted as a pdf file to the press release page on the Archdiocese of New York website.

On the same day a press release about the impending closure of Our Lady of Vilnius quietly rolled off the fax in the Our Lady of Vilnius Rectory, informing us of the AD of NY's intent to close us as well. The release was never posted on the archdiocesan website.

Back at the beginning , before I had eaten so extensively of The Kugelis of Knowledge, I looked at St. Mary's as a model of resistance to closure: positive media exposure, a well-designed website offering directives for prayer, comportment and letter-writing, mult-ethnic, multi-racial artists, performers and community activists publicly endorsing the parish's value to the community and lobbying for its survival. What impressed me most was Father Scafidi's open support of his parish in the media. I remember seeing him interviewed by a major network on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral after the Chrism Mass in 2007.

Today Gannett's Time Herald-Record presents a follow-up story on the 2 parishes that have eluded a decision in the Realignment process, 2 Newburgh Catholic churches 'still under review', subtitled "St. Mary's, St. Francis carry on with support of parishioners." The brief piece reminds the reading public that all is not over and that 2 decisions remain while parish life continues as usual. A quote from the article:

"So will the archdiocese eventually make a decision? Ultimately, it's Cardinal Edward Egan's call.

Spokesman Joseph Zwilling would only say there's no timetable for rendering a verdict. For now, he said, the archdiocese will "continue to monitor the situation" in Newburgh.

"We want to make sure it's the right decision, both for the Catholic community in Newburgh and for the archdiocese," Zwilling said.

Two years later I wonder if decisions are really pending, or if their public "revelation" has merely been deferred. I chide myself for suspecting that St. Mary's was destined to stay open all along, a poster parish for the Archdiocese' tolerance for dissenting voices.

I hope that I am wrong. Please pray for my soul.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Real Jeopardy: Music to Think By

While pondering the course of events on Broome Street since 2005, and while trying to get an aerial view of the Monopoly board that is New York City, pause to refresh while listening to Shirley Bassey and the Propellorheads perform "History Repeating":

If the visual is too distracting, you can open a new browser tab and continue reading about Our Lady of Vilnius and San Lorenzo Ruiz. The band will play on!

Broome Street Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz: The Plot Thickens

According to a recent item in The Filipino Reporter,the Archdiocese of New York says that the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz will not close (See my previous post Joseph Zwilling is Mistaken). In apparent contradiction, there is a movement afoot to save it. Today, an item in PR Inside Please help Save the Filipino Chapel in New York. The piece presents somewhat different information from the other articles and encourages members of the Filipino community to sign an online petition.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Joseph Zwilling is Mistaken!

San Lorenzo Chapel to stay open but under new director, an item in the Jan. 9 - 15 edition of the Filipino Reporter clarifies the status of the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz, not far from Our Lady of Vilnius on Broome Street. Too good not to blog in its entirety:

"San Lorenzo Chapel to stay open but under new director


In a sudden turn of events, the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz in lower Manhattan will not be shut down as earlier reported. But its director, Fr. Erno Diaz, will be replaced, the Filipino Reporter has learned this week.

The closure of the Chinatown-based Catholic shrine designated for the Filipino faithful was reportedly set on Jan. 31, 2009, and had been confirmed to the Reporter by sources privy to the move, including the spokesman of the Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, who cited low attendance as the main reason.

But on Tuesday (Jan. 6), Zwilling, director of communications of the Archdiocese, backtracked and repeatedly apologized for his “error” in confirming the closure of the Chapel on Broome Street.

“I was misinformed last week and I wish to correct what I said to you last week,” Zwilling told the Reporter. “The Chapel is not will remain open for the Filipino community. I was incorrect when I spoke to you last week.”

“It was my error in confirming the story with you last week,” he said. “There had never been a decision to close it. We had discussions what the future would be. There had been discussion that it would close but, again, obviously I did not have the whole set of information when I spoke to you previously. So the only explanation is I was in error. I was mistaken.”

Another source told the Reporter the decision not to close the chapel came from the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the United Nations.

But Zwilling flatly denied it, saying the Apostolic Nuncio has “no authority” over the Archdiocese or any of its branches. When asked if the Vatican or the Apostolic Nuncio has anything to do with the decision to keep the chapel open, Zwilling said: “As far as I know, no. There was none.”

Zwilling said the decision was actually made by the vicar general of the archdiocese, Bishop Dennis Sullivan. “I was part of the discussion, but obviously I did not get the full story myself when we were discussing the future of the chapel,” Zwilling stated. “There had been a subsequent meeting which I was not present. There was more discussion of the situation and the decision was reached not to close the chapel, but a new director would be appointed.”

“As of Tuesday, the new director has not been named yet,” Zwilling said. “Fr. Diaz’s new assignment has not been decided yet, but those are in the planning stages.”

“It’s also under discussion if the new director will serve part-time or full-time,” he added, “because the person has not yet been identified so we do not know if the person will do this in addition to other duties, or if this will be a full time work.”

There is no word if another Filipino priest will succeed Diaz as head of the chapel embattled by poor attendance in the past three years since it was opened and dedicated to Filipino Catholics, the spokesman added.

Apart from serving as director of the chapel, Fr. Diaz is also coordinator of the Filipino Apostolate of the Archdiocese of New York, a position he’s holding since 1995 when the late John Cardinal O’Connor established the archdiocesan Filipino Apostolate.

In an interview with Zwilling last week, he repeatedly confirmed the Jan. 31, 2009 closing of the Chapel, saying it “never really served the purpose of serving the broader Filipino community.”

“In the feedbacks that we have gotten from parishes all across the Archdiocese, the Filipino community integrates and wants to be a part of their local parish community rather than travelling to as separate chapel or church designated for Filipinos,” Zwilling remarked earlier.

He continued: “Had there been more parishioners, financial support would have followed. But Filipinos didn’t leave their parishes in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Westchester and elsewhere in Manhattan to go to San Lorenzo Ruiz.”

To know more about the chapel, visit "

The same edition of Catholic New York that features Court Stays Demolition of Our Lady of Vilnius Church also has a small piece on Father Erno Diaz. I could not locate this item online. It is on page 7 of the print edition and states that Fr. Diaz will receive a new archdiocesan assignment at the end of January.

By way of commentary, I can only say "Huh?"

Call and Response

God bless Barack Obama as he begins the work of his presidency.

Valio! Valio! Valio!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Archdiocese of New York House Organ Plays a Familiar Tune

Catholic New York conveys the story of our recent stay against demolition. Once again, the truth, but not the whole truth.

The Archdiocese never mentions that the sanctuary was closed for 3 years when citing the statistics for Mass attendance or sacramental viability. For the last 3 years of our parish life, Mass was held in the basement hall. Citing "no funerals" for the past 2 years is disingenuous, given that a coffin could not be brought into the hall with any appearance of decorum, if at all. The Archdiocese allowed the building fall into a state of disrepair and now presents this decrepitude as causality for closing the church.

Regarding the confidence expressed by Mr. Zwilling: there is no reason why the archdiocese should not win because they have much more influence and far greater resources than we do.

Unlike parishes closed by the realignment we have never had the opportunity to present archdiocesan officials with what we believe to be the special merit of our parish. Those who worship in Lithuanian were directed outside the archdiocese for Mass and sacraments. The rest of us were not mentioned.

Archdiocese of New York: Please e-mail me. I would very much like to speak with you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King

Satyagrahi Extraordinaire

SATYAGRAHA as explained by Gandhi:

"Its root meaning is holding onto truth, hence truth-force. I have also called it love-force or soul-force. In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself."

He assumed a role that put his life on the line. By doing so he achieved near-miracles during his lifetime and will continue to do so long after. God bless him!

The Our Lady of Vilnius Diaspora: More Roamin' Catholics

Where are the scattered parishioners of Our Lady of Vilnius attending Mass? St. Patrick's Cathedral (Old and New), Our Lady of Pompeii, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis Xavier, the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart, St. Peter's, Annunciation (Apreiskimo) and Corpus Christi to name a few. Because we can't attend the one we love, we attend the one that's near. We believe, we pray, we participate in the Eucharistic celebration, but few of us are committing ourselves wholeheartedly to immersion in a new parish family.

When the Archdiocese of New York closed Our Lady of Vilnius, they did not designate a parish to receive the the displaced parishioners. The AD of NY press release stated that those who needed to worship in Lithuanian could attend Mass in Elizabeth, NJ, Maspeth, Queens or Williamsburg, Brooklyn. No comment was addressed to the rest of us: those fluent in English who attended Our Lady of Vilnius because the unique culture of the parish made God's grace more accessible to us. No provision was made to keep the family intact.

Until the fate of Our Lady of Vilnius is resolved, I will join the ranks of roamin' catholics everywhere, sitting in any available seat at God's table, but always as a stepsister to my brethren. I will leave the table nourished but vanish like a ghost, unnoticed and unremembered by those with whom I have just eaten.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Page from Our Lady of Vilnius History

Text not available

"Our Lady of Vilna, New York, N.Y. - The first Lithuanian parish in New York City was founded in the basement of Our Lady of Sorrows in 1885. At this time there were about 2oo Lithuanian families residing in the city. In 1886 the pastor, Father Vanagiris, suddenly left for another city. Since there was no Lithuanian priest to minister to the people, the congregation dispersed and attended the various Churches within convenient reach. Such was the state of affairs in 1905 when Rev. Joseph Shestokas took charge. Father Shesktokas organized a congregation in the basement of St. Teresa's Church , where Mass was said until March 5, 1911, when the Church of Our Lady of Vilna at 568 Broome Street was erected. The church, a beautiful specimen of Roman architecture, is of yellow brick, seats 600 and cost, including furnishings, $70,000. A brick rectory was bought in November, 1912, for $10,500."

The Catholic Church in the United States of America Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. V. 1-3 ... By Catholic editing company, New York

Friday, January 16, 2009

Further East on Broome Street: New York's Filipino Chapel Faces Uncertain Future

Today I was alerted to an article about the uncertain future of the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz, located at 378 Broome Street. An article in Asian Journal, New York’s Filipino Chapel to remain open, for now describes how

"The chapel’s uncertain future allegedly came about due to the supposed lack of Mass attendance, despite the vibrant community life in the Chapel with its various activities."

Sound familiar? So does the rest of the article. Here is an inspiring quote from Fr. Erno Diaz, the chapel's director.

"Our home is facing a struggle. We are facing an uncertain future but we can pray for divine intervention. As they say, prayers can move mountains"

So let's take Fr. Diaz' words to heart and pray for divine intervention for all congregations that are facing the loss of their home and the scattering of their parish family.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brooks of Sheffield Blogs Our News

Kindred spirit Brooks of Sheffield noticed our City Room item and blogged it on his site, Lost City. We are fortunate enough to be creeping up on our third year in residence on his list of places doomed to oblivion. Thanks to Brooks for putting us before his readers and his mission of letting us know what is slipping away and eulogizing what has been lost.

Photo courtesy of Cornerstones of New York

Commemorating January 13, 1991

An inspiring message of commemoration from Liuda of the Yahoo Friends of Lithuania Group:

"Sveikinimai Jums Draugai!

I am taking this opportunity to share as I do each year the livingreflection of what took place 16 years ago at the TV Tower in Vilnius,Lithuania. Some memories fade, but for all Lithuanians who cherish freedomof mind, soul, spirit and country, memories of those events leading to theIndependence of Lithuania never fade.

The Lithuanian National Anthem ("Lietuvos Himnas") is usually sung atLithuanian gatherings throughout the World. There will be no better day thantoday to perhaps rededicate ourselves to the ideals set forth inLithuania's "Lietuvos Himnas". I know of no other Anthem as beautiful andlyrically more meaningful than is ours.

"Lithuania, my homeland, land of heroes!
Let your sons draw strength fromthe past.
Let your children follow only the path of virtue, working for thegood of their native land and for all mankind.
Let the sun banish alldarkness from Lithuania, with light and truth always guiding our steps.
Let the love of Lithuania burn in our hearts And for the sake of our country,let unity blossom."

Translated from the original by Vincas Kudirka

Kudirka in his poem depicts Lithuania vividly as "land of heroes. "Throughout time, there have been many "heroes" in Lithuanian history. However, just eighteen years ago, on this day, some ofLithuania's greatest "heroes" sacrificed their lives so that their countryand our homeland could be free. There were thousands of people at both the TV Tower and also the Parliament. They went and gathered there to protect these buildings from Russian aggression, knowing that Russian tanks would come. Personally, I know one man who was there with his young son sitting on his shoulders; that youngson is now an adult, living and working in a Free Lietuva.One young man, Rimantas Juknevicius, was asked by his Mother, "Why are yougoing there?" Rimantas replied without waver, "Kas kitas jei ne as?" (Who else if not I?)

Fourteen "heroes" died in the siege, many young people and some under thetreads of tanks. Rimantas died at 25 years of age. Today, let's take time to personally remember and commemorate the ideals ofthose who died on today's "Defenders of Freedom Day", only seventeen yearsago. And, as you focus upon each name below, quickly mentally calculate the age of each.

Loreta Asanaviciute (1967 - 1991)

Virginijus Druskis (1969 - 1991)

Darius Gerbutavicius (1973 - 1991)

Rolandas Jankauskas (1969 - 1991)

Rimantas Juknevicius (1966 - 1991)

Alvydas Kanapinskas (1952 - 1991)

Algimantas Petras Kavoliukas (1939 - 1991)

Vidas Maciulevicius (1966 - 1991)

Titas Masiulis (1962 - 1991)

Alvydas Matulka (1960 - 1991)

Apolinaras Juozas Povilaitas (1937 - 1991)

Ignas Simulionis (1973 - 1991)

Vytautas Vaitkus (1943 - 1991)

Vytautas Koncevicius (1941 - 1991)"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The New York Times reports: Court Stays Church Razing

On page A17 of today's New York Times, in the "aslo online" section, is a small picture of our Sunday "steps" gathering. The accompanying text invites readers to visit the full post at the New York Times City Room blog, Court Stays Demolition of Lithuanian Churchby Sewell Chan. Text of the page A17 squib:

"The Archdiocese of New York announced in 2007 that would close Our Lady of Vilnius Church, a historic building in SoHo that served the Lithuanian community for more than a century. Now an appellate court has blocked the demolition of the church."

Please visit the site, read and add your sentiments to the lively forum that is developing around this issue. Hmm...why did I say "developing"?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Steve Earle, City Winery and Our Lady of Vilnius Living in a City of Immigrants

And within blocks of each other!

This morning I rolled down the parkway listening to the jaunty strains of Steve Earle's song about New York, "City of Immigrants". I thought of how our little church embodied that song and, in many ways, embodied our city. Steve Earle lives here now, probably within shouting distance of Our Lady of Vilnius. He should come down some Sunday and have a bowl of soup or a dish of kugelis with us.

Tonight Steve and his wife, Allison Moorer, will be performing 2 short blocks and 1 turned corner from Our Lady of Vilnius at the City Winery on the corner of Varick and Spring. See details here.

Here's a clip of Steve Earle singing "City of Immigrants" on the David Letterman show:

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
I don’t need to go travelin’
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black, city of white, city of light, city of innocents
City of sweat, city of tears, city of prayers, city of immigrants

Livin’ in a city where the dreams of men
Reach up to touch the sky and then
Tumble back down to earth again
Livin’ in a city that never quits

Livin’ in a city where the streets are paved
With good intentions and a people’s faith
In the sacred promise a statue made
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of stone, city of steel, city of wheels constantly spinnin’
City of bone, city of skin, city of pain, city of immigrants

[All of us are immigrants
Every daughter, every son
Everyone is everyone
All of us are immigrants

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
River flows out and the sea rolls in
Washin’ away nearly all of my sins
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Meanwhile, in New Orleans

This morning's New York Times informs us of 2 Arrested as Police End New Orleans Church Protests . Parishioners in 2 New Orleans churches had been keeping vigil since October. The article states that Church officials tie the closings to a severe shortage of priests. Again, the truth, but perhaps not the whole truth. Salient quote:

"One of the protesters, Harold Baquet, a photographer, dismissed the priest-shortage argument, saying that Our Lady of Good Counsel had been making good use of retired priests. Mr. Baquet, who was not arrested, decried both the closing of his church and the forced entry on Tuesday.

“We turned that community into something ethnically, racially and culturally diverse,” Mr. Baquet said. He added, “Breaking down the old cypress door was abominable, anti-Christian, anti-justice, anti-peace. It’s a drastic overreaction. We weren’t trying to hurt anybody. We were just trying to maintain a Christian community.”

The article mentions the vigils that continue outside New York City churches as the 2 year anniversaries of the closures approach. These arrests echo what happened more precipitously 2 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York with the arrest of the passionate and principled parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem. The New York Times chronicled this event in their February 13, 2007 piece, After Vigil to Protest Church Closing, Six Women Are Arrested.

Below, parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Angels stand for their principles outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The Inspirational Vigilers of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Yesterday's New York Times article was accurate, informative and moving, but you've got to view the audio slide presentation. See and hear the vigilers as they proceed with what has become their lifestyle. We are not alone and they are not alone. What an epiphany!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Parish Closures: An Epiphany

The Three Kings arrive and The New York Times revisits a parish closing in 2004.

In Quiet Rebellion, Parishioners Keep Faith by Abby Goodnough examines the 1,533 day-and-counting vigil held by parishioners of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Scituate, MA.

Molly Wilson O'Reilly addresses the story on dotCommonweal in her post Peaceful Occupation. The post is followed by a lively forum of 23 comments by the usual suspects and some other voices. Please visit, read, join and comment!

Kudos to the National Desk for not letting this issue fade into oblivion. Now if the City Desk would turn its gaze to struggles in the Archdiocese of New York.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Powerful Enough to Evict God?

Cant't He refuse to leave?

Some recent views of the interior of St. Stanislaus

One of the first questions in the Balitmore Catechism asks "Where is God?" The answer provided is "God is everywhere". I am not knowledgeable about canons and rituals other than the Mass and major sacraments, but I surmise that a ritual of "deconsecration" has taken place. This ritual seems to legitimize the removal and sequestration of the more valuable contents and the transformation of the remaining contents into garbage, now devoid of all value, especially sentimental value and garden variety familiarity.

I have not seen the interior of St. Stanislaus since the church was deconsecrated and dismantled. To me it is sad and unsettling; my visceral response is nausea.

My only hope is that He has refused to leave both St. Stanislaus and Our Lady of Vilnius. No matter what words were said and gestures made, I cannot believe that He is gone from these places were so many people have prayed and felt His presence in the silence.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Archdiocese of New York puts St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and Rectory Up For Sale

Of the "Realignment":

"This process, established by Edward Cardinal Egan, was designed to identify the religious, spiritual and education needs of the Catholic faithful throughout the entire archdiocese, and determine how those needs could best be met."

Egan said the decision-making process - which included "emotional" sessions with churches marked for closure - was not finance-related. There are no plans to sell church property, he said."

- from "Parishes to Perish, The New York Post, January 20, 2007.

Last Friday, as I was getting a ride home from the A&P, I saw a man on the steps of Saint Stanislaus Kostka taking photographs of the front door. He then took a shot from the front and then the side. "Stop the car!" I said and ran across the street and spoke to the young man. He told me that he was a member of a Latino congregation that was interested in purchasing the church and that some members of the congregation had seen the building earlier in the day with a realtor. He looked wary, then said perhaps he had the wrong church.

Today, en route to a friend's house for a gathering, I saw the realtor's sign outside the St. Stanislaus rectory: Houlihan & O'Malley. If you visit their website and use the MLS search, you can learn more about these enticing properties than the average parishioner ever knew. The asking price for the church is $825,000. The rectory is on the block for $1 million.

But it's not about the money.