Yonkers City Council supports efforts to prevent closure of historic Catholic church

Councilmembers said they hoped the archdiocese would recognize the historical, cultural and religious significance the building holds in the city.

Lisa LaRocca

Jan 31, 2024, 10:29 AM

Updated 172 days ago

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The Yonkers City Council has joined the fight to prevent the closure of a Catholic church in Westchester's largest city.
The City Council passed a resolution last night throwing its support behind the parishioners of the historic 175-year-old church as they fight to keep it open.
Councilmembers said they hoped the archdiocese would recognize the historical, cultural and religious significance the building holds in the city.
"The great history that it represents is something that they do not want to lose," resolution sponsor and Yonkers City Council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy said.
Two weeks ago, parishioners found out that the 175-year-old church was in jeopardy of closing after the Archdiocese identified $10 million to repair the facade.
Parishioner Isidoro Acevedo said, "The support of the city is great, but we need money. The bottom line is that we need help."
A spokesperson for the archdiocese said "Any talks of closing the church are premature" and that the plan would be to join two parishes together to "create a new parish that will be strong and vibrant for the future."
Since then, hundreds of people have rallied to urge the archdiocese to find an alternative to permanently closing the church. Those efforts included packing the church during a meeting with the Archdiocese on Dec. 17.
St. Mary's Church was built by Irish immigrants in 1892 with a congregation dating back to 1848. It continues to serve the city's diverse community including services in English, Spanish and Arabic.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York responded to tonight's resolution with a statement.
“Saint Mary’s – Immaculate Conception Church is, indeed, an historic church not only for the City of Yonkers but also for the Archdiocese of New York. It is good to know of the high regard in which the Yonkers City Council President holds the church.
Unfortunately, the strong feelings of attachment to the church expressed by so many are not reflected in attendance at Mass, which averages about 250 parishioners each week. It is the responsibility of the parishioners of a parish to financially support it, and a congregation of that size is not sufficient to meet the expenses of running the parish, meeting its weekly expenditures, and providing for the building’s proper maintenance and upkeep.
To be clear: at this point in time, the archdiocese is looking at joining the parish with another parish, not closing it, in order to create a new parish that will be strong and vibrant for the future. That is the goal of our parish planning process, as we look at the situation of this parish and all parishes of the archdiocese. This is an ongoing process.
Any discussion about a possible closure of the church building is premature. However, as mentioned, the parishioners are responsible for the expenses of running a parish, and that includes the upkeep of the buildings. The lack of funds has resulted in extensive work needed just to repair the façade of the church, at an estimated cost of $10 million (sure to go higher once work begins, as is always the case as every homeowner knows). Neither the parish nor the archdiocese have these funds. With a building that is 175 years old, it is likely that an inspection would reveal many other badly needed basic maintenance projects that have been neglected over time due to a lack of parish funds for repairs.
If the City of Yonkers were able to guarantee the funding for any needed repairs, and provide for its ongoing upkeep, the archdiocese would certainly take that into consideration when determining the future of Saint Mary’s – Immaculate Conception, and we would be happy to hear whatever suggestions the City Council has in that regard, provided they do not violate the First Amendment.
Be assured that whatever happens with this parish and its buildings, the Archdiocese of New York will ensure that Mass and the sacraments are provided for the people of Yonkers, including in the different languages currently offered at Saint Mary’s – Immaculate Conception. Many people agree that a nearby parish would work well as a new spiritual home. Our faith and ministry are not in specific buildings, and will be carried out for the people of Yonkers whether at this church or elsewhere. It’s not only about finances, but about serving a vibrant community.”


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