Monday, June 14, 2010

The Highlight of the Weekend

Archbishop Dolan saying goodbye before heading back uptown.
The Archbishop greeting the faithful.
Archbishop Dolan greeting the faithful.
Well, there's nothing good on TV, so I really ought to stop procrastinating and do another blog entry because I'm a blogger now, and no matter how strange it feels at first, I'm going to get into the habit of bothering people with my two cents on everything if it's the last thing I do. On Saturday, I decided to take a walk downtown, along First and Second Avenues, looking into the bars along the way to see how the action was inside. All bars were packed on Saturday for the much-hyped about USA - England game, a big start to World Cup fever.
By the time I made it down to 14th Street, I started heading toward Avenue A, and I came across Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, a church I had stopped inside a few times before ... it's open most of the time. These Episcopal Churches in the the city used to all have satellite chapels. St. Paul's on Broadway and Fulton Street, across the street from Ground Zero, was and still is a satellite chapel to Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street. St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral on Twenty-Sixth Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue was another chapel for Trinity for the growing community uptown. St. Nicholas of Myra Russian Orthodox Church on Tenth Street and Avenue A was a satellite Chapel to St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery on Tenth Street and Second Avenue. And this church, purchased by the Catholics in 1943, was a chapel and conjoined hospital for Grace Church on Broadway and Tenth Street. According to the New York Songlines website, it was unusual when it was built in 1896 because it didn't charge pew rent, a common practice among the rich Protestant families at the time so that they could preserve their spot for services. A plaque on the outside of the church states that the chapel was actually built specifically for the poorer of the neighborhood.
Anyway, I walked in and saw an important mass going on to a full house. The pews were all filled, and I, being rather late, stood in the back with some families with small kids and the Knights of Columbus, dressed in their full garb. Archbishop Dolan was at the altar giving his sermon, talking about the usual stuff -- faith, community, his abundance of gratitude to the people of this parish for all their hard work, and a little of the history of Immaculate Conception Parish on their 155th anniversary. (So that's what the mass was celebrating.) He mentioned how his predecessor, Bishop Hughes, was in Rome when Pope Pius IX declared that Mary was born without original sin, and promised that when he got home to New York, the next church he consecrated would be in honor of the Immaculate Conception.
Now, I knew that this church hadn't always been Catholic, or Catholic for that long, so I was hoping I wouldn't have to correct the Archbishop after mass. I got communion from him, and when the mass ended, he led a procession down the aisle to the auditorium of the school (the former hospital). There was lots of food laid out and a big crowd. I wasn't a member of this parish, but I thought, There's plenty to eat here and I'm starving. I didn't want to walk up to the Archbishop, though, because he seemed to be surrounded by all the big-shot families of the parish, and I thought if I joined that crowd everyone would be thinking about how they never saw this guy before in their lives. The Archbishop gradually made his way around the room to different circles of people, taking pictures, giving out handshakes and hugs, as the old Hispanic and Filipino ladies bowed to him. Over and over he said things like, "It's great to be here," and "I love being with you." I shook his hand when it came my turn, and as I briefly stood next to him, I said, "Thanks for coming, Your Excellency. It's a great honor, Your Excellency". He turned to me and gave me a rather hard pat on the back and said, "Thank you." He's a great big guy, kind of burly and about six-foot-four, and I don't think he knew his own strength. Egan is a big guy, too, while O'Connor I thought was kind of small when I saw him in person. He looked bigger on TV than he did in real life. With that he continued on, and I didn't want to look like a religious nut and follow him around the room, so I never got to ask him if the Archdiocese was hiring or where the parish's original church was. I later looked on the parish's website and found that it was on Fourteenth Street east of Avenue A, and was demolished when Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were built. Luckily the Catholic Church was able to purchase Grace Chapel and Hospital from the Episcopalians, because this church was nearly demolished as well.
The Archbishop got in an SUV driven by a priest and a cop car escorted them back to his residence uptown. He stuck his hand out and waved to the crowds as they cheered him. As people walked by, a couple asked, "Is that somebody famous or something?"
I continued on as I always like to check on the progress of St. Brigid's Church on Eighth Street and Avenue B. Right now the church is so covered in scaffolding that it's unrecognizable. I guess their really redoing it from head-to-toe. It's nice that somebody cared enough to donate $20 million dollars so that it wasn't demolished. I decide to sit in Tompkins Square Park for a while and take a load off, but after seeing one rat scurry by and being pretty sure I heard others scurrying in the bushes behind me, I decided that this park still is pretty gross and I should just get out of here.
It's amazing how much energy you have when your spirits are lifted. I got up and started to walk back to the Upper East Side.

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