New York, April 14, 2016
Yesterday parishioners of Our Lady of Peace commemorated the 97th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church, which occurred on Palm Sunday, April 13, 1919. On that day, there was a procession from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on East 61st Street, where the parishioners were relegated to worship in the basement, to the new church on East 62nd Street. Archbishop Hayes consecrated this church as a sacred place. The church's titular name was Madonna della Pace, Italian for "Our Lady of Peace," and for the peace that followed the First World War. The church was bought and paid for by its founders and benefactors, who were primarily Italian and Irish immigrants friends of the pastor. With their generous contributions, Father Filippo Leone purchased the church. Last evening, parishioners honored the memory, the generosity, and the sacrifice of their ancestors and the community of the faithful that preceded them. Once again, they were denied the ability to do so inside the church.
The Glorious Mysteries of the 54-Day Rosary Novena were attended by more than 30 people. Prayers began promptly at 6 p.m. with the Angelus, and concluded with the Litany of Lorreto and the Prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace. Each rosary leader read one of the mysteries and led the recitation of the decades of Hail Marys.
At the conclusion of the rosary, more people arrived, until there were more than 50 men, women, teenagers and children. They joined together in a procession around the Treadwell Farms neighborhood, led by a 4-part brass choir. The musicians of The Patriot Brass Ensemble played Immaculate Mary and Salve Regina, as the parishioners walked two-by two. They carried votive candles, posters, and sang as they walked.
The anniversary of the dedication of a church is a solemnity. Thomas G. Simons, author of Holy People, Holy Place: Rites for the Church’s House (LTP: 1998), writes:
“The celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the parish church building is an often forgotten opportunity to celebrate the life of the local church and re-emphasize to the people the importance of the gathering place for God’s holy people. It is an occasion in which sacred identity and local history become tangible. The continuity of the faith from generation to generation is celebrated” (68).
After the procession, parishioners took seats around the brass and along the curb. Many stood on the other side of the steps. Bound programs, with the artwork of Joseph Leone on the cover, reminded everyone of the posters from the Founders Day Mass, celebrated in April 2015 with more than 400 in attendance. Shane Dinneen, president of Friends of Our Lady of Peace, read the welcome and invocation. The opening hymn was Veni Creator, a frequent choice for the dedication of a church or anniversary celebration. Psalm 24 was the first reading and the responsorial psalm was, "How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place." Other readings included an excerpt from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel according to John. The complete program can be downloaded from the link below.
At the reading of the names of the founders and benefactors, descendants and other parishioners brought forward their votive candles and placed them on the steps. The closing hymn, "I Am the Bread of Life," which was sung at the communion on the day the church was locked, brought many parishioners to tears. The sound of the brass swelled and voices rang out with the moving lyrics, "And I will raise you up, and I will raise you up, and I will raised you up on the last day." Toward the back of the program were two color photographs of the marble tablets on either side of the vestibule of the church, engraved with the names of the original founders and benefactors and the amounts they gave.
Descendants of the founders, rosary leaders, and friends ended the evening sitting on the church steps, reminiscing about last year's Founders Day, being inside the church, and discussing the Vatican appeal.
The artwork on the cover of the program was cropped from an original poster created by Joseph Leone for Founders Day, April 26, 2015. The 2015 celebration was held in case a centennial did not take place, although the parish had already started planning for the occasion. The parish had previously held huge celebrations on the 50th and 75th Anniversaries. To read more about last year's event, click here.
This year, although the church was shuttered, parishioners sent a request to open the church of Our Lady of Peace for its 97th anniversary to Monsignor Douglas Mathers, pastor of the merged Saint John the Evangelist-Our Lady of Peace parishes. Confidence in his positive response was based on the fact that other merged and closed churches had received decrees with relevant information from the Vatican earlier in March. These decrees, issued by the Congregation for the Clergy, quoted specific canons (1167 and 1168.2) still in effect from the 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law and the jurisprudence of the Holy See regarding parishioners "minimum right of entry." The Congregation for the Clergy specified that the patronal feast and the anniversary of the dedication of the church were the "minimum right of entry" and should be celebrated in the church. Monsignor Mathers, who is himself a canon lawyer and vice-chancellor to the Archdiocese of New York, and who has been integral to the parish realignment process since the term of Cardinal Egan, rejected the request. A copy of his letter addressed can be found below.
[Photos by Steven Moy and TE McLaughlin]