Sunday, March 14, 2010

91. Our Lady of Loreto

(mass times & church info last updated 03/14/2010)
Address: 18 Bleecker St. (2nd floor)
Phone: 212.431.9840
Weekend Mass Times: Sun: 11am
Weekday Mass Times: M-F: 8am
Constructed: 
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...

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, I've wondered about this church for some time. Perhaps if they put a notice board at the entrance they might get more people.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks as always for your report. But if that's the regular homiletical style then it's no surprise to me that Sunday Mass was assisted by only four people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous(#2), care to elaborate any further on the meaning of that last comment?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love that you went to Mass there. I have been there once a long time ago. It is a bit too small community for this traditional conservative Catholic girl. You will have to come to Mass one Sunday with the prince and I and then brunch one Sunday soon. Dee

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you very much for posting this. How on earth does this church manage to survive with such a tiny congregation? I agree with the first person who said a notice board might attract more people. Or what about a statue above the door? Stella

    ReplyDelete
  6. When you consider that the Archdiocese is closing down churches with far larger congregations it's surprising this church has survived. How do they pay the bills?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I believe Holy Name Center runs the place, which the church/chapel resides in, so this parish's overhead and cost of upkeep probably isn't the same as most other churches. Holy Name Center appears to be doing some really great, really tough work, so it's probably a blessing to them to have anything, even this small chapel so nearby. It's a small, pure place of devotion.

    ReplyDelete
  8. How beautiful and inspiring, thank you so much for this.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for this beautiful insite into Our Lady of Loreto. My great aunt and uncle were married here in 1905. They were Giovanni Citrolo and Margherita Buttacavoli.I believe it was located at 309 Elizabeth Street at that time. I assume the statue of Our Lady of Loreto is from the original building.

    ReplyDelete
  11. How can I get information on the original Church of OL of Loreto

    ReplyDelete
  12. My father and uncle were baptized in the original church, in 1904 and 1906 respectivley, which was next door to the building you are describing. Italian families dominated the area at the time and there were so many births that baptisms had to take place everyday. Not the third Sunday of the month. Like many other Sicilian families, we lived on Elizabeth Street. My Paternal Grandfather came to Elizabeth Street from Sicily in 1891. Anthony

    Anthony

    ReplyDelete
  13. Would anyone happen to know if the church records included the name of the town in Italy from where the family came from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have researched parish records from the 1900-1910 period, and no, they don't have names of cities or towns in Italy. You might find that in city marriage records, since place of birth was included. In general, the population on this stretch of Elizabeth and upper Mott Streets was from towns in Palermo province. It's usually fairly easy to trace the towns using immigration records and other civil records. The last name is also a help in narrowing down the town or city.

      Delete
  14. My father Giovanni Di Chiara was baptized on August 12, 1911 in The Church of Our Lady of Loretto and his parents were Rosalia Mauro and Luciano Di Chiara. On my Dad's birth certificate it just states where my grandparents lived in New York.

    ReplyDelete
  15. According to the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny web site this church is now closed, is that true?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Is this church still open?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for this entry. My great grandparents were married at the original church in 1905.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I visited this 'church' last weekend. My grandparents were married there in 1904. It is now just a small, one-room chapel on the second floor of the Sheen Center (http://sheencenter.org/) at the corner of Elizabeth and Bleeker. The address used to be 303 Elizabeth St but is now 18 Bleeker St., there are doors on Bleeker and Elizabeth with a sign asking you to use the doors on Elizabeth. There is no sign outside or inside, but I asked the woman at the desk and she pointed me to the chapel which looks quite odd in the lobby of this cultural center. I asked if there was an office for the church that might have records and she did not know.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Write a letter to St. Patrick's Old Cathedral 263 Mulberry street. Oldcathedral.org They have records there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you. I have started research my family members again.

      Delete
  20. Thanks Anonymous, I'll try that!

    ReplyDelete
  21. If anyone is still researching this church, here is a link to a photo of Our Lady of Loreto from
    1932.....https://www.oldnyc.org/#719642f-a

    ReplyDelete
  22. THANK YOU Maria!! I'd been searching for earlier photos of the church.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you . My grandparents, immigrants from Sicily were married at Our Lady of Loreto on March 12, 1921. I have the Marriage certificate which is written in Italian.

    ReplyDelete