BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A rare Mass will be held at St. Veronica Church for the saint’s feast day on Wed., July 12, at noon.
The Save St. Veronica’s Committee, a core group of committed worshipers, are trying to keep the church, at 149 Christopher St., alive. They have been pushing the local parish to hold at least two annual, public Masses at the landmarked church, and also to allow the house of worship to be open for daily prayer and meditation hours.
Meanwhile, the New York Archdiocese has been trying to close down St. Veronica permanently and, the committee alleges, to sell it. The committee has waged a legal effort to keep open the historic structure, taking their fight all the way to the Vatican, which has sided with them.
In June 2017, the last official services were held at St. Veronica.
In 2020, following an appeal by the activists’ attorneys, St. Veronica was re-sanctified as an active church by the Vatican court.
Then COVID hit and public Masses were suspended inside churches. When things opened up again, a Mass was held at the storied Village church in 2021.
However, the committee says, “the flouting” of the requirement to hold two annual public Masses started last year, when they requested the pair of services but only one was held — and held in private, without letting the committee members or the public know. Only the sisters from the St. Veronica’s nunnery were invited.
In fact, simply to make this current public Mass happen reportedly took some prodding by committee members, who wanted to avert a repeat of last year’s hush-hush, private event. They peppered Father Jesus Ledezma, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe/St. Bernard Church, at 328 W. 14th St., with e-mails, urging him to fulfill the two-Masses-a-year mandate.
“The current status of St. Veronica’s dictates, by canon law, that Mass be held on the anniversary of the consecration of the church, June 7, and on the saint’s name day, July 12,” Cindy Boyle, one of the committee members, wrote the father.
Earlier this year, in January, Boyle also urged Ledezma — who is the local parish’s priest — to allow St. Veronica to be open daily.
“I also am requesting once again that, as per canon law, daily access to St. Veronica’s for private prayer and meditation be instituted,” Boyle wrote. “Volunteers are readily available to open and close the church, and to keep an eye on things.”
Vincent Orgo, another committee member, pointed out, “St. Veronica’s is required by the Vatican court’s ruling to reopen the church and to celebrate public Masses for at least several commemorative occasions throughout the year and to be open regularly for silent prayer — including visitation to the AIDS memorial within the church. But the memorial was secretly moved to St. Francis Xavier Church and dedicated this past December. The Vatican ruled that St. Veronica’s was unjustly closed in 2017.”
Indeed, the AIDS memorial formerly in the balcony at St. Veronica was moved to St. Xavier, at 46 W. 16th St., where it was consecrated this past World AIDS Day, last Dec. 1. Whereas the memorial was displayed in one long row along the balcony’s edge at St. Veronica, at St. Xavier the board has been cut up into three sections that are stacked vertically. It sits next to a far smaller AIDS memorial of St. Xavier’s own, which also commemorates poor or unknown persons who died from COVID and were buried on Hart Island during the pandemic.
“I’m very glad that we have it here. I think it’s an important piece of history,” Kel Karpinski, a St. Xavier congregant, said of the transplanted AIDS memorial, at the Dec. 1 service.
“It would have been a shame if that were in a closet somewhere,” added John Weber, another St. Xavier parishioner.
“I’m 67. I lived through it,” Weber said, recalling the AIDS health crisis. “I remember doing the candlelight processions [down Christopher Street to the river] with them.”
Sister Mary, one of the St. Veronica nuns, attended the memorial’s dedication at the Chelsea church.
“We are very happy somebody can continue to pray [at the AIDS memorial],” she said.
Asked about the status of St. Veronica Church, she said, “Hopefully, someday it will reopen.”