Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Protests protests everywhere, and not a drop to drink... ah.... well....


Here we are trying to save St. Bridget's church where Genie and I were married, as seen on Out of Ireland - PBS...



At 5:52 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Here is the story from the New York Times...

A Prayer for a Church Unsaved

Dan Barry

New York Times, July 30, 2005

WHEN Edwin Torres joined St. Brigid's more than 30 years ago, it seemed a good fit, like dry lips to a brimming chalice. Here was a young man from Puerto Rico, hungering. And here was an old Catholic church, born of hunger.

Irish shipwrights built St. Brigid's in 1848 as spiritual shelter for those brothers and sisters who survived steerage on famine ships. Its twin steeples rose over Tompkins Square in proud declaration to nativist New York: we Irish - we Catholics - are here to stay.

By the early 1970's, when Mr. Torres first knelt in its coolness, the church was like a creaking ship that had willed its way through many storms, its twin masts of steeples long since removed. But if you lifted your eyes toward the ceiling, you would see small sculptured faces looking back - the images, it was said, of shipwrights who had built the church and who now could be imagined saying: steady as she goes.

Mr. Torres devoted himself to St. Brigid's. He served as a catechist, sang in the choir, worked as an usher, volunteered as handyman, available whenever the boiler gave out. He witnessed the baptisms of his children and grandchildren at the church. He and his wife, Migdalia, renewed their marriage vows at its altar.

About 15 years ago, the east wall started pulling away from the rest of the structure, so the church built three concrete buttresses, but the work was sloppily done by a contractor and never corrected. Meanwhile, a worrisome crack on the north wall grew larger, signaling the risk of collapse. His Eminence, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, visited the church to see it himself, and in June 2001, he ordered the church closed.

The pastor, the Rev. Michael Conway, began celebrating Mass in the parish school's cafeteria. He also established a restoration fund, appealing to parishioners and to others, especially Irish-Americans, who might appreciate the historical significance of St. Brigid's. But he did so without the approval of the archdiocese, according to its spokesman, Joseph Zwilling.

Still, every week the parish bulletin published the amount raised. Little by little, the number grew.

Mr. Torres continued as Mr. Everything - soliciting bids for the restoration work, for example - because he believed the church's reopening was a matter of when, not if. His faith was misplaced.

In September 2003, the archdiocese quietly filed an application with the city to convert St. Brigid's into apartments. Mr. Zwilling said that despite what the application indicates, the archdiocese never planned a conversion, but instead was protecting its options in the event that people - wounded parishioners, say - blocked the more-favored option: demolition. "By this stage," he said, "there was general consensus within the archdiocese that St. Brigid's would not reopen as a church, and would probably be demolished."

The 200 or so parishioners of St. Brigid's did not know this. Every third week they continued to put money in envelopes labeled "My Donation to Rebuild St. Brigid." They eventually raised more than $100,000.

The archdiocese closed just one parish in 2004: St. Brigid's. Given that, Cardinal Egan could have made the announcement himself to Mr. Torres and the other parishioners. He could have explained the prohibitive cost of repairs and the risk of collapse. He could have answered questions, offered counseling, been a shepherd to his flock.

Instead, Bishop Robert Brucato, vicar general for the archdiocese, came to a Sunday Mass in the school cafeteria last August. He told the people of St. Brigid's that in two weeks there would be no St. Brigid's. They cried; they had questions. But the bishop left quickly, Mr. Torres recalls. "He was obviously in a rush to get out."

FATHER CONWAY left soon afterward, but not before entrusting some parish records to Mr. Torres - including a copy of the year-old application to convert St. Brigid's to apartments. Seeing that document for the first time, he recalled, "really crushed me."

After four years of neglect, St. Brigid's Church has so deteriorated that the archdiocese says that full restoration would cost at least $6.9 million. As for the $100,000 raised through that "unauthorized" fund, it says that it would refund the money to those who provide proof of their donations.

If you are so inclined, pray for these parishioners without a parish. They have formed the Committee to Save St. Brigid's Church. They have solicited bids that they say suggest the wall could be repaired for less than $500,000. They have filed suit against the archdiocese and obtained a court order blocking it from demolishing the church, for now at least.

Pray too for this tone-deaf archdiocese, as its agents remove the valuables from an empty, echoing church. The organ. The crucifix. The statues. And all those sculptured faces of proud Irish shipwrights.


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