Volume 74, Number 16 | August 18 - 24 , 2004

Archdiocese to close St. Brigid’s due to attrition, cracked wall

By Albert Amateau

The parish of St. Brigid, founded 156 years ago when Irish shipwrights built the church on Avenue B at E. Eighth St., will be disbanded on Sept. 15, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Parishioners at the Sun., Aug. 15 Masses at the school building on E. Seventh St. where they have been worshiping since June 2001 when the church was declared unsafe, heard the sad news from Bishop Robert Brucato of the Archdiocese staff.

A declining Catholic population in the neighborhood, a shortage of priests and the crack in the east wall of the church building completed in 1849 are factors in the decision, according to Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the Archdiocese.

The school is expected to continue operating in the E. Seventh St. building, however, no decision has been made about the disposition of the church and the rectory, Zwilling said.

The Trinitarian Order, which has been running the parish and the school for the past seven years, is reviewing its organization and has decided not to continue providing priests for the parish when its contract with the Archdiocese expires next month, Zwilling said. “The Archdiocese is looking at an alternative administration for the school,” he added.

Because St. Brigid is closing rather than merging with another parish, worshippers will have to find other churches in the neighborhood. Mary Help of Christians on E. 12th St. at First Ave. is one possibility. Also nearby are St. Emeric’s Church on E. 13th St. at Avenue C, Most Holy Redeemer on E. Third St. near Avenue A and Immaculate Conception on E. 14th St. at First Ave.

About 470 worshippers attend services at St. Brigid’s, compared to an attendance of more than 1,000 at many other churches, Zwilling said.

The church, designed by Patrick C. Keely in 1848, has had structural problems since a crack in the east wall developed about 14 years ago. The crack was stabilized with concrete block buttresses in 1991 but more structural flaws developed and in 2000, engineers estimated it would cost about $500,000 to underpin the entire east wall.

In June 2001, after a visit by Cardinal Egan, the church building was deemed unsafe and closed.

In September 2003, the Department of Buildings issued a permit to convert the vacant church into a five-story residence. The Archdiocese said the converted property might serve as a new home for Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, located in a rented building on E. Fifth St. and Avenue B.

The building permit was renewed recently but Zwilling said that no decision has been made yet on whether the property will be used for the Cabrini Center or for any other purpose.

Zwilling said the closing of the parish was decided in the context of a general reassessment of all the parishes in the Archdiocese begun more than a year ago by Bishop Timothy McDonald. The reassessment was delayed because McDonald was appointed head of the Springfield, Mass., dioceses last year, but is back on track, said Zwilling.

The closing early this year of Our Lady of Guadalupe church on W. 14th St. between Seventh and Eighth Aves. and the merging of its parish into St. Bernard’s larger church building one block west, was a realignment similar to the one taking place in the East Village.

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