Sunday, February 14, 2010

86. Our Lady of Vilnius (CLOSED)

(church info last updated 03/31/2016)
Address: 568-570 Broome St. (@ Varick)
Church Constructed: 1905
Church Closed: February 26, 2007
Wikipedia: Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

Alone in a seemingly abandoned city this morning, I trekked out early in the cold, snow still sticking to various areas of streets and sidewalks. I was headed towards two churches I wasn't sure existed any longer, and Our Lady Of Vilnius was one of them. Arriving at 32 Dominick street (the former site of the OLV rectory) I found the doors shut, the area lifeless, the building abandoned.

I needed further proof. Heading around the corner (and over the Holland Tunnel) to locate more of a church, I saw the steeples and was relieved to have found something.

There it was. A lonely church building. Desolate in the cold. A police officer stood watch by his patrol car near the entrance of the Tunnel as I walked up to the dead doors of Our Lady of Vilnius, and I felt watched, suspicious.

I tried the old wooden doors. No go. The old cracked red paint should have been enough of a giveaway, but I continued. All three double doors were locked, shutting out the city and any parishioners from entrance.

As far as I could tell, this was a closed church. Closed by the diocese because of money - its sanctuary and mystery lost to us forever. I feel the need to post about it here, because it was one of the original churches on my list of 96. Had I visited it sooner, perhaps back at the latter part of 2007, I would have found it still open, fighting against its own closure. Now, it is dead to us, its light shut off, a beacon no more. Gone.

Following are a few links relating the news about the closing (should have read these a little closer before my visit:)
Information About the Closing
Save Our Lady of Vilnius NYC Online Petition
"Our Lady of Vilnius, NYC" Blog (a blog about OLV and other church closings)
Jeremiah's Vanishing New York
New York Times
The Villager
The New York Observer - "Cardinal Egan Paints Himself an Unhappy Ending"


  1. I think it's good that you paid this visit.

    As much as your visits to vital parishes, this closed Church is also part of the Catholic story in Manhattan.

    These situations call for creative thinking and deep pockets. But, I don't think either was present here.

  2. Andrew, what time did you go there? On most Sundays some us gather on the steps, arriving some time between 12 PM and 1 PM. We pray and then have refreshments. Rita, one of the parishioners, is a good cook and often brings a hearty soup or, on special occasions, something more substantial. It is a pale echo of Sundays when the parish was open and we had refreshments after the Mass. Thank you for visiting and documenting your experience.

  3. I was there around 9am or so. At the time I had no idea anyone still gathered there. Perhaps I shall return some Sunday around 12 or 1pm. A hearty soup sounds nice...

    Good luck to you and the rest of the parish as you continue to gather. God bless.

  4. P.S. Was the owl statue always sitting on the precipice of the rose window? What is its meaning?

  5. Andrew, the owl may be symbolic, but only incidentally. He was put there to intimidate the pigeons that had been roosting there. Now the pigeons and the plastic owl co-exist happily in their peaceable kingdom.

    Paul, I agree. Closure is sufficient. We do not need to be expunged from history as well.

  6. Dear Andrew -
    Nice posting, thank you very much. The owl I believe was put up to scare the pigeons.... This year on Friday evening Feb. 26th at 7PM we will be holding a candlelight vigil to mark the 3 year anniversary of the 2.26.07 closing of Our Lady of Vilnius Church. If you come on a Sunday, try to come after 1PM. Before then the "group" of former parishioners, friends, Lithuanian community members and other sympathizers trying to re-open the Church and to prevent it from being demolished meet on Fifth Avenue across from St. Patrick's Cathedral from about 11:00 to 12:00 or later, before coming down to Broome Street.
    Ramute Zukas

  7. The owl was put there to intimidate the pigeons, but it doesn't work.

  8. Thank you so much for creating such a great summary of Manhattan churches.

    My Sundays were so special when I used to go hear Fr. Eugene Sawicki transform (through his humor and his sincerity) a dissimilar group of area Catholics (and Atheists), Lithuanians, and tourists into a real tight knit group of loving people for mass and our celebration afterwards. The mornings turned into afternoons, sometimes we’d be together for a couple of hours and then some – all of us, 2 – 92, English speaking and not, celebrating life with coffee or something stronger in the basement of the forgotten church. When they closed the church, we lost this little special sanctuary and community. Thank you for paying homage to this little neglected orphan in the loneliest corner of Soho. RIP