Friday, April 27, 2012

Paying Respects to the Space Shuttle, Too

I happened to be in the right place at the right time today, the top tier of a parking structure near the GW bridge.  I was joined by 5 other excited spectators who braved the chill temperatures to watch the shuttle pass in review.  It was so moving that I waited for it to turn and come back down river.  It brought a tear to my eye, but I am not sure why.  I was happy to see that I was not alone in that among my rooftop companions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RIP Florence Perkosky D'Urso

Being of a certain age, I am a reader of obituaries and death notices.  Sadly, a notice in today's New York Times announced the passing of Catholic philanthropist Florence D'Urso.  In my world she was a constant presence at archdiocesan events where she was usually seated front and center aisle, well dressed and perfectly coiffed.  On the few occasions that I had the opportunity to greet her she was gracious.

My Italian American friend always asked if Florence was one of the Gun Hill Road D'Urso's of the Bronx.  Today I learned that her maiden name was Perkosky.  In 2005 her alma mater, Marywood, honored her with their humanitarian award.  The bio on their site  describes the stunning scope and magnitude of her philanthropy.  We will pray for the repose of her soul and the consolation of her family and we will be grateful for the legacy of good that she has left for us.

Gannett Westchester newspapers obituary, April 27, 2012,  Church benefactor Florence D'Urso dies; Pelham Manor woman, 79, restored art for Vatican

New York Post, April 26, 2012, Loss of a Saint

Catholic New York obituary, Florence B. D'Urso

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Our Lady of Vilnius stained glass windows are located!

On December 13, in the wake of the NYS Court of Appeals ruling against Our Lady of Vilnius, the New York Times published Sharon Otterman's piece, "Archdiocese can demolish Soho Church, Court Rules." One of the points raised in the article was the whereabouts of the parish patrimony, especially the stained glass windows designed by Vytautas Jonynas:
"The parishioners of Our Lady of Vilnius are also concerned about what will become of the church’s stained-glass windows and other treasured objects that were removed by the archdiocese. Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the objects might be at a warehouse on Staten Island where such items were kept pending their placement in other churches."

Well, Mr. Zwilling's hypothesis regarding where they might be has been confirmed in a brief item in an Australian Lithuanian-language newspaper, TËVISKËS AIDAI. Yes, they are in a Staten Island warehouse, but they will be bound for Lithuania when the shipping issues are ironed out. CLICK HERE to download first 2 pages of the April 17th edition. The article is on page 2.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

History Repeating: St. Vincent de Paul

I am dipping into a treasure trove of recent news that went unblogged due to Holy Week and Easter. Today, I am bringing back David Dunlap's Aprit 5th piece about the future closing of the Francophone parish of St. Vincent de Paul, A French Church Nears Its End, but Not Without a Contretemps. The piece puts the closing in the context of its history and its value to the living stones that comprise the parish. It is hard for me not to substitute "Lithuanian" for "French" or "Francophone" and not relive the effort to save Our Lady of Vilnius, church and parish. I hope and pray that the archdiocese does right by this community.

Please follow the link to the online version of this article, which features a lovely slideshow of the interior and is followed by reader comments.

Meanwhile, for your viewing pleasure I am reprising Shirley Bassey's rendition of "History Repeating:"

St. Stanislaus Kostka: Ode to A Defunct Church That People Hardly Noticed

52 Main Street in Hastings-on-Hudson was constructed as a Baptist church in 1864. In 1914, it was acquired by the Polish community of Hastings-on-Hudson and consecrated as a Roman Catholic Church. It housed a lively and beloved parish until 2005, when a roof leak led to the closing of the building. In 2009 the former church was sold and now is one year into its 3rd "incarnation" as The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Social Innovation. The Center acknowledged this anniversary in their Spring Newsletter saying, "Well, it's been a year. Almost.
A year since this space was transformed from a defunct church the people barely noticed [my bolding] to a vibrant purple structure that livens up Hastings' Main Street. "

I thank God that the church is still standing, and I like the structural improvements and aesthetic blandishments as well. I just hope that the Center's "social innovation" will include respect for those who have fond memories of St. Stanislaus, a sense of place and a sense of their place in history as time continues in its inexorable march .

One Hastings artist not only noticed St. Stanislaus, but celebrated it. I cannot read this poem too often.


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.

Friday, April 06, 2012


Who would believe what we have heard?*

To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye,
no beauty to draw us to him.

He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God* and afflicted,

But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,
all following our own way;
But the LORD laid upon him*
the guilt of us all.

Though harshly treated, he submitted
and did not open his mouth;
Like a lamb led to slaughter
or a sheep silent before shearers,
he did not open his mouth.

Seized and condemned, he was taken away.
Who would have thought any more of his destiny?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
struck for the sins of his people.

He was given a grave among the wicked,
a burial place with evildoers,
Though he had done no wrong,
nor was deceit found in his mouth.

But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain.
By making his life as a reparation offering,*
he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days,
and the LORD’s will shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his anguish he shall see the light;
because of his knowledge he shall be content;
My servant, the just one, shall justify the many,
their iniquity he shall bear.

Therefore I will give him his portion among the many,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
Because he surrendered himself to death,
was counted among the transgressors,
Bore the sins of many,
and interceded for the transgressors.

-Isaiah 53

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's Chrism Mass Homily

At yesterday's Chrism Mass, the Mass wherein the holy oils are blessed and priests renew their vows, Cardinal Dolan delivered a wonderful homily in which he called upon us, all of us, to "anoint the anointed," to bless the Church (the Mystical Body of Christ) as the women are described as anointing the body of Christ. In developing this theme he recited a poem by Carlo Carretto:
How much I must criticize you, my church,
and yet how much I love you!

You have made me suffer more than anyone
and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.

I should like to see you destroyed
and yet I need your presence.

You have given me much scandal
and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.

Never in this world have I seen anything
more compromised, more false,
yet never have I touched anything
more pure, more generous or more beautiful.

Countless times
I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face
-- and yet, every night,
I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!

No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you,
even if not completely.

Then too--where would I go? To build another church?
But I could not build one without the same defects,
for they are my defects.

And again, if I were to build another church,
it would be my church, not Christ's church.

No, I am old enough, I know better."
- Carlo Carretto

The most comprehensive article on the author appears in Italian Wikipedia, which I pushed through Google translator. Even though it changes his name into "Charles Wagon," it is comprehensive and readable enough to convey this man's life and accomplishments. I am so sorry that he did not come to my attention sooner. Thank you, Cardinal Dolan, for your homily and for introducing me to Carlo Carretto.