Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sad New from Mindaugas - Prayers for the soul of Regina

Mindaugas has just informed us:

"I would like you to know that Regina, mother of Gitana -- an active member of Our Lady of Vilnius parishioners seeking to save the church and the parish-- unexpectedly passed away on Sunday, March 28. "

Mindaugas requests that we unite in prayer at 9:00 PM for her soul and for the consolation of her loved ones. Please pray for them at any time, as well.

Prayers for Joe Z.

Joe Z. has turned himself over to the medical authorities for some much-needed repairs. Please pray for him as he heals.

Attention NYC Atheists: Thank Whomever for Religion This Week

This week Passover and Holy Week coincide. Due to this marvelous confluence, Alternate Side of the Street Parking is suspended through Friday in the City of New York.

Motorists of any or no faith should rejoice!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday, Verbø Sekmadienis, 2010


  • Today we will hold palms in our hands and experience a moment of lightness before the solemnity of Holy Week descends. Hosanna Filio David!
  • The Passion of Jesus Christ will be read.
  • Jovita Sleder will greet mourners at the wake of her husband.
  • Pope Benedict will be taken to task once again in The New York Times.
  • Somewhere people will strike one another with a palm branch or a willow saying something like this:

    "I am not the one striking
    The Palm is striking
    You are not in pain
    The Palm is in pain
    Soon it will be Easter"

Wherever you are, pray that our hearts remain open to the infinite peace and mercy of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Pray especially for Jovita's husband, that his soul rests with the Lord and that Jovita and her family be comforted in their grief.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Struggle to Save Our Lady of Loreto

Our Lady of Loreto is the last Italian national church in Brooklyn. A New York Times article, A Church That Held the Neighborhood’s Heart, presented its story in December of 2008: a story of Italian immigrants creating a house of worship and a community through sweat equity and donations from their hard earned pay.

Over time the neighborhood demographics changed and the Brooklyn Archdiocese, having merged the parish of Our Lady of Loreto into Presentation in Bed-Stuy, plans to demolish the church and proceed with a plan to construct low income housing on the site.

Those involved in the preservation of the church have proposed a plan of their own that saves the church, transforming it into a community center and cultural pavilion that would anchor the housing development. The archdiocese has expressed a determination to stick to their plan, which they say is "shovel ready." The New York Times revisited Our Lady of Loreto today with a piece, A Fight for a Church Is Evoking Introspection. The Times piece elicited a post from Margaret O'Brien Steinfels at dotCommonweal, What sbout the Italians - in America?

The people trying to save the church make an appeal to Archbishop DiMarzio in this brief video:

Learn more about the church and the cause at the following sites:

Save Our Lady of Loreto
Our Lady of Loreto

As we enter Holy Week, please include those who loved, and are trying not to lose, Our Lady of Loreto.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Parable, Part II: The Treatment

The wound care specialist diagnosed my father with a bed sore and prescribed treatment that the nurses were to administer. It included an occlusive dressing called "Duoderm" that looked like an individually wrapped square of American cheese. The day after the regimen was begun I called my father with the usual list of intrusive questions designed to assess his well-being:

"Did they begin taking care of your bed sore?"
"Did you move your bowels?"
"Why not?"
"The nurses glued my buttocks together."

Well, I had to investigate that one. I went to the hospital and looked. The rubbery yellow thing was, indeed, plastered across my father's butt like a seal. At my request they applied a new dressing, this time placing it on the wound.

The next day, I called again:

"Did you move your bowels?"
"Why not?"
"I think I'm constipated from the Percocet."
"Percocet? You haven't needed pain meds since they discontinued the morphine pump!
"It's that damn bed sore. It's killing me."

Again, I went to his bedside for a look-see. The dressing was in a gummy little mound the size of a large marble at the base of his spine, pulling on the delicate skin around it. A new dressing was placed, with some back-talk, at my request.

My father was discharged the next day, bed sore and all. I went to the Pharmacy and bought a box of Duoderm. I had never used it before. I read the package insert carefully, cutting it to size, folding it carefully into the anatomy and securing the edges with paper tape. The dressing remained intact for 5 days. I continued this cycle twice more and the wound healed perfectly.


If you think something is wrong, trust your gut and ask questions. Be persistent. Don't underestimate the ability of lay people. Don't leave everything up to the professionals. Love and pray. If we do this, the patient should recover.

A Parable, Part I: The Diagnosis

Statement of Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications in response to the The New York Times Editorial, The Pope and the Pedophilia Scandal, of March 25, 2010.

My father was hospitalized for surgery. I was visiting when the nursing staff came to help him out of bed into a chair. As they pivoted him, his johnny shirt flapped open and I saw red, raw skin at the base of his spine.

"Is that a bed sore?" I asked, pointing.
"No, it isn't," said the nurse.
"Well, what is it then?" I asked.
"I don't know," said the nurse.

I scheduled a meeting with the Nursing Supervisor. The dialogue went like this:

"My father has a bed sore," I said.
"I seriously doubt that. Our statistics are very good," she answered.

At my request a wound specialist was brought in to evaluate the lesion. It was a bed sore.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Great Day for My Local Leprechaun

A couple of days ago The New York Times ran a feature on Jess Buzzuto, who as it turns out, is my local leprechaun. Who knew!

I happen to love Nepperhan Avenue in Yonkers. It has that industrial strength charm that is, unfortunately, more recently pegged as "blighted." Whenever I drive home that way, I imagine what it would be like to live in some of the older residences sprinkled among the industries and think of the blessed silence that must reign there on the weekends.

From this article, I learned that one of the houses that I most admire belongs to Jess Bizzuto. The house sits on a corner atop a slope. In the spring and summer every surface is covered with flowering plants, like a living, stationary Tournament of Roses Float. There is always an American flag made of begonias.

Susan Dominus' piece, titled Bit by Bit, Coming to Terms With His Elfin Self draws a moving portrait of the gardener. The story portrays a great guy who takes what could have been a limitation, and parlays it into a boon to himself and others. Short of stature and stocky, Mr. Buzzutto does not resist his natural resemblance to a leprechaun and started playing into type, bringing joy to himself and others.

In my world of dreams, Our Lady of Vilnius would sit on top of his corner lot in Yonkers like the Parthenon and Jess Buzzutto would be sitting at a table in the basement, joshing with Father Eugene and the Knights (of Columbus) Council 12.

God bless you, Mr. Buzzutto, and Erin go Bragh! Now when I admire your garden, I can admire you, too.

photo by Richard Perry/The New York Times

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Help Build A Wikipedia Article About Our Lady of Vilnius!

Much to my dismay, I found that a Wikipedia article on Demolished Churches in New York City includes Our Lady of Vilnius! I don't think that it is very good public relations to prematurely number us among the dead, aside from not being true.

Today I followed the link from that page to a stub of an article about our beloved church. At present, it seems to be a venue for publicizing the recent travail of the parish, but with the help of all, it could become a rich, accurate, factual, living, growing biography of our community, from inception to present to future.

Please consolidate your info and help this little stub grow to its full potential.

Friday, March 12, 2010

AmericaLTV airs video of 3rd anniversary candlelight vigil

Hillary Clinton congratulates Lithuania on the 20th anniversary of re-establishing independence

"And while we celebrate this two-decades old rebirth, we must look to the future with the same strength and unity. These are trying times, with an uncertain future, but the United States remains your steadfast partner and your loyal friend, and we will face the challenges of the 21st century together.

Once again, congratulations Lithuania."

Click here to read text and view video.

Click here to go directly to video

Say it again, Saulius

Saulius' comment following "The Villager's" online coverage of our candlelight vigil is reprised in the current Edition as a letter to the editor.

"Lithuanians built church

To The Editor:

Re “Keeping faith, Lithuanians pray church will reopen” (news article, March 3):

Our Lady of Vilnius Church is a cherished monument to Lithuanian immigrants and an adornment to Manhattan. The hierarchs did not build the church and should not be allowed to sell it for financial gain.

Saulius Simoliunas"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stella Marcinauskas has passed away

Word has come from Shelton, CT via North Carolina to Pat Sidas at Apreiskimo that Stella Marcinauskas passed away at the age of 85. She was born in New York City to Our Lady of Vilnius parishioners and was a member of our Council 12 Knights of Lithuania.

I am proud to be part of this community that, despite time, space and the closing of our parish, binds us to Stella Marcinauskas. Let us keep Stella and her family in our hearts and prayers.

Click here to read her obituary in the CT Post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Religious and Ethnic Monument Belonging to All People

March 9th, 2010 at 1:12 PM - Saulius Says:

"The church is a religious ethnic monument belonging to all people and can not be sold for profit to anyone. Lithuanians have two monuments in NYC consisting of Darius and Girenas monument in Brooklyn and the Statue of Jagiello donated by Polish Government in Exile. Our Lady of Vilnius Church will be the third monument preserved by the loyal parishioners and friends. "

Among our defenders from far afield is Saulius from Detroit, by far the most vigorous. He has charged into every internet forum in both English and Lithuanian to declaim our cause. He posted the above as a comment on "The Villager" website in response to their coverage of the candlelight vigil held in front of the church on the third anniversary of its closure on February 26, 2007. I have put it here so more people can see it and so that it can be a springboard for discussion about our future efforts to save the church.

What do you think? Please let us know. Comment below, or e-mail us at

Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Church Too Loved to Have Been Closed

In today's New York Times, Not Your Banks’ Bailouts: Stores Too Loved to Fail by Jim Dwyer documents the ongoing saga of a Lower East Side neighborhood coming to the rescue of Ray's, a 24-hour establishment that apparently anchors the neighborhood over there. Ray's story has been chronicled in real time on a daily basis in Bob Arihood's blog Neither More Nor Less.

Salient quotes:

"His friends see injustice, not debt, and will fight. As the menu for the new delivery project says: “How could we sit idly while Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks slowly killed everything we cherished about our community?”

And there is a matter of loyalty to someone who was willing to cut kids a break on a plate of fries, said Arianna Gil: “He’s an icon of our childhood.”

In February of 2007, Bob Arihood came to our candlelight vigil on the evening of our closure and posted some fine photos in which the faces say it all.

On the East side there is a store too loved to fail. On the West side there is a church that did not fail, a church too loved to close which, nonetheless remains closed. May our friends see injustice and continue to fight and pray for the restoration of our parish to the west side community,

Saturday, March 06, 2010

St. Stanislaus Kostka Update

According to a browse of the Houlihan & O'Malley website, St. Stanislaus Kostka church is "Under Contract". Click here to view multiple listing service fact sheet for my former parish church.

Third Anniversary Video from AmericaLTV

AmericaLTV features a chilling video shot in the interior of our shuttered and pillaged church

How did he get in there?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"The Villager" reports on our anniversary vigil

This week's edition of "The Villager" once again provides coverage of our situation in Lincoln Anderson's piece, "Keeping faith, Lithuanians pray church will reopen". Thanks to The Villager for keeping an eye on us and keeping us informed about the wider context of our neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Third Anniversary of Our Closing

And still praying for a miracle...

On February 26th, 2007, I went down to Our Lady of Vilnius for noon Mass. I suspected that it might be the last Mass I would attend there. I knew Father Sawicki was scheduled for a meeting with Cardinal Egan at 9:00 AM that morning. When I got there, people were arriving for Mass and standing, stunned, in front of the locked church as Joy, Father's assistant, repeated the story of how the locksmith and church officials came to the rectory and locked the church and the parish hall.

This past Friday evening, as the city began to dig out of a big nor'easter, we gathered in front of the church and we had to dig, too.

Due to the weather, we were small in number. We prayed. One by one we spoke about how we felt at the three year mark. Lincoln Anderson of The Villager took notes and Mindaugas filmed.

Three years out: more about heritage, less about parish. We prayed for the dead of our parish, Danute Strout, Dalia Bulgaris and some that were not familar to me.

I interjected the name of Frankie Pretzels, of "Pretzels and Provolone" fame.

Carmen Villegas was there with her unique blend of faith and humor. Carmen had been arrested 3 years ago for declining to leave Our Lady Queen of Angels when the archdiocese came to lock its doors. It was a gift to have her with us, praying and encouraging us to keep the faith.

Lately there is talk of a different goal, of preserving the building, saving it for an "alternate use," perhaps a Lithuanian cultural center. I still hope for a parish. St. Brigid's was revived long past the 11th hour as a court date loomed on the horizon. I pray for a similar outcome. It will only be impossible if we choose to abandon that vision.