Making all things new: how a Manhattan church was saved

A heartening story from this morning’s New York Times: 

For more than 160 years, St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church has borne witness as transformation after transformation has cascaded through the Lower East Side.

Yet conflict, drama and wrenching change occurred within its walls, too: In the church founded by Irish immigrants who fled the famine of the 1840s, the pews were in turn occupied by Poles, Ukrainians and Puerto Ricans. The church played a role in the clashes in nearby Tompkins Square Park in the late 1980s and in this century was nearly demolished itself before a mystery donor stepped forward with millions of dollars to rescue it.

On Sunday, worshipers, including descendants of some of the original Irish parishioners, gathered as Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan consecrated and dedicated the newly renovated building. After 12 years and nearly $15 million, the church, on Avenue B and Eighth Street, was once again a parish church.

“You don’t believe in miracles, and then something like that happens,” said Peter Quinn, an author whose grandparents were married at St. Brigid’s in 1899. “It seemed so hopeless.”

From the altar, Cardinal Dolan praised his predecessor, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who also took part in the Mass, for making the decision to restore the church.

“It was your dream, your trust, your daring at a time when so many dioceses were cutting back and closing,” he said. “You wanted something brand-spanking new.”

 Read how it all happened.  

Photo: Ruth Fremson/New York Times

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