BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Hallelujah!
St. Veronica’s Church has reportedly been removed from the Catholic Archdiocese of New York’s sale list — at least for now.
The St. Veronica Moving Forward Committee announced the news on Wednesday.
A commemorative Mass will be held at the church, at 149 Christopher St., between Greenwich and Washington Sts., on Mon., June 7, at 6 p.m. It will be a celebration of St. Veronica’s official sanctuary dedication that was held June 7, 1903, and also of the church’s new pastor, Reverend Jesus Ledezma.
St. Veronica’s will share Ledezma with St. Bernard’s/Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, at 328 W. 14th St., between Eighth Ave. and Hudson Sts.
The archdiocese closed St. Veronica’s as a sanctuary in 2017. Its interior has been stripped of many of its artifacts, including the organ. But the St. Veronica Moving Forward Committee has been working to keep the church part of the Greenwich Village community.
With their canon lawyer, the group petitioned the Vatican and won a favorable decision to celebrate Mass on St. Veronica’s official dedication day, as well as on St. Veronica’s February feast day. This has forced the local archdiocese to take the property off its sale list.
The Christopher St. sanctuary will also be opened during the week for meditation and quiet prayer. Meanwhile, the committee is awaiting to hear further details from the archdiocese on a long-term plan for St. Veronica’s.
St. Veronica’s interior is filled with mementoes of American and New York City history. Past congregations and pastors offered space to longshoremen to meet and organize; they placed plaques on the church’s back walls to remember those who served in America’s wars since WWI; they made the church’s lower balcony an AIDS memorial, a comforting space to mourn and remember; and they welcomed World Trade Center-dust-covered workers on 9/11 who streamed up the West Side seeking a safe place of refuge.
Terri Cook of the St. Veronica Moving Forward Committee said, “We have no idea what the interior of the church looks like and we are hoping the AIDS Memorial is intact. We will know more about the church when we see it and try to plan its future.”
St. Veronica’s parish, founded in 1887 in a local warehouse, laid the church’s cornerstone in 1890 at the present site and first opened a lower church for the neighborhood. On June 7, 1903, the longshoremen and their families, who had made great financial sacrifices to finish the 13-year construction project, celebrated St. Veronica’s opening with a boat trip up the Hudson River.
Valerio Orselli was a leader in the effort to convert the decommissioned Church of the Nativity, on Second Ave. between Second and Third Sts., into affordable housing. That campaign failed, though, with all 87 units of the new development project there being market rate. But he hailed the St. Veronica’s victory — and highlighted another pending struggle.
“We lost Nativity Church but have not given up the fight to redirect religious properties to their original purpose or to a purpose beneficial to our low- and working-class communities: affordable housing,” Orselli said. “Deeply dedicated folks led by Terri Cook were able to do it [at St. Veronica’s]. Now we must follow their example to ensure that St. Emeric’s, on E. 13th St. [between Avenues C and D], is redeveloped for 100 percent deeply affordable housing.”
Local Lithuanians campaigned to save Our Lady of Vilnius Church, on Broome St., off of Varick St., which was closed in 2007 due to structural damage and a shrinking congregation. They, too, reached out to the Vatican. But the church was demolished in 2015 and a new residential tower now stands on the site. Luxury condos there sell for more than $3 million.