Address: 18 Bleecker St. (2nd floor)
Weekend Mass Times: Sun: 11am
Weekday Mass Times: M-F: 8am
1892, (at an unknown time, the original church and school were replaced by an institutional-style building)
About the Organ
Our Lady of Loreto / Holy House of Loreto
NA Meeting info at the church
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
I finally found it. And it's the rarest of rarities.
Since my post last July, where I first attempted to visit this church, I've been wondering about Our Lady of Loreto. I could not locate it that day and stumbled luckily upon St. Michael's Russicum Church instead - on the perfect day, in the perfect mood at the perfect time (by the way, I wonder how they are all doing at St. Michael's: Ed, Augie and the rest...)
First, my thanks to Dave, who gave me a little info on this place prior to my visiting here.
Some comments left on my post that day revealed to me maybe that "...Our Lady of Loreto church is part of a school building on the corner of Elizabeth and Bleeker. Apparantly in 2003 it had the smallest Sunday Mass attendance in the Archdiocese with only 9 people attending..." and that "...OL of Loretto parish is not really a parish but is attached to Holy Name Center which has been a day and outreach program to the homeless for 70 years, so you may find information if you contact the Holy Name center....i think they kept it as a parish so that they could bury homeless me[n] from the bowery that we[re] catholic..." and "Fr. Ahern...has been there since being ordained in 1954. He knows the whole history of the church going back to 1926 there is still a chapel on site at 18 Bleecker St. The rest of the facility was torn down Fr. Ahern says Mass at 11:00am every Sunday."
This is, as stated by one of the parishioners today, the smallest parish in the archdiocese of New York. I was one of four other congegrates, the other three, Les, Teri, and Joan, being the regulars here. Since my previous (failed!) visit, I had learned the entrance was on Bleecker rather than Elizabeth and as I approached the doors at 18 Bleecker street, Fr. Ahern stood there on the steps, seemingly waiting for me, and any other passers or seekers looking for entrance.
I was told Fr. Ahern has been the pastor of this parish for the past 28 years. He has a calm, pleasant, dependable presence about him - a friendly, sharp, light of Christ sort of manner. I told him I'd tried to come once before but couldn't find the place. "We specialize in being hard to find," he laughed before Mass. He spoke with the three regulars right before and together they decided on an opening song: Blest Are They
We sang, the Mass was started, Les read both readings and the Responsorial Psalm, then Fr. Ahern read the Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal Son - all pretty uniform parts of Mass. But then something happened which made this parish stand out in my mind, made it far different than all the others churches I've visited, turning it instantly into a church that I will be sure to visit again in the future, will definitely come back to with visitors. Fr Ahern, instead of standing behind the pulpit and reciting some ten minute homily, walked a few steps, sat down in a chair, faced the four of us in the congregation and asked us what we thought of the Gospel. I was shy, reticent-but Les, Teri and Joan were all verbal and insightful. Along with the leadership and guidance of Fr. Ahern, a unique and valuable lesson formed amidst us and through us - the living Gospel. It was a religious teacher talking to us about a story of another religious teacher telling a parable. The literal and metaphorical. The father and the sons and the Father and the Son. Forgiveness. God doesn't just wait for us, but comes and gets us. Faith in our reality and the reality of our faith.
It was a refreshing way to partake of a homily - and not in one of those condescending ways I've experienced before where a priest will ask (basically rhetorical) questions to a congregation, waiting to receive the answers he is expecting. Today was an experience where we all truly reflected on the Word of God and the truth within.
Later, when it came time for the Our Father and the Eucharist, we all walked up to the altar (Les had forewarned me of this before Mass,) and we circled around it, the five of us saying the Lord's Prayer. Then, the Host was handed out, Ahern waiting himself, we all received at the same time - Communion.
It was a unique experience at Our Lady of Loreto this morning, and this goes immediately into my top ten churches in the city. I will definitely go back and definitely bring guests, and I highly highly highly suggest that if you live in the city or come for a visit, do not miss out on the experience of Sunday Mass here. So much simpler than one of those grand ornate churches I've written about previously and love so much, and yet so much more straightforward and to the point. I was really able to walk away from there with something today. And you will too.
If anyone is interested in attending Our Lady of Loreto's Easter Triduum this year, the times will be:
Holy Thursday: 7:30pm
Good Friday: 3pm
Easter Vigil: 7:30pm
Curiously, and pretty unrelated to anything else but I thought I'd include anyway, further research indicated Martin Scorcese might have attended Our Lady of Loreto when young...
The entrance on Bleecker...