St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street “isn’t just about the past, it’s about the present and it’s about a future,” Cardinal Dolan said at the Vigil Mass he celebrated there Sept. 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“You are a living, vibrant, hopeful, welcoming church and parish, and I congratulate you for that,” he told the faithful of St. Peter and Our Lady of the Rosary parish, and their pastor, Father Jarlath Quinn.
He explained how the parish’s future is evident in the catechetical center he blessed before the liturgy where more than 300 youngsters are enrolled in the parish religious education program. “That’s progress. That’s hope,” the cardinal said. “That’s the promise and confidence that we have in the future as we take very seriously the sacred mandate to pass on the faith to our kids.”
Before the Mass, the cardinal also blessed four bronze statues, relocated during the summer to the top of the church steps of St. Peter’s, from St. Joseph’s Chapel in Battery Park City, which closed in January. The statues honor all who perished on 9/11 and those who took part in the rescue and recovery effort.
The outdoor statues are part of the parish’s 9/11 Catholic Memorial. Also relocated to the St. Peter’s Church from St. Joseph’s Chapel were indoor statues and artifacts.
The cardinal, in his homily, acknowledged a “beautiful, reverent, proper use of the statues that used to adorn the old Chapel of St. Joseph, and the sacred furnishings there that are now at a parish in Ghana. What a sense of the family of the Church, that when we move from one house to another, we often share memories and we share furnishings.”
St. Peter’s, at 22 Barclay St., was established in 1785 on the site it now occupies and carries the distinction of reportedly being the first Roman Catholic parish in New York state. It is located near the 9/11 Memorial.
Our Lady of the Rosary, site of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine, is at 7 State Street. (The parishes merged in conjunction with the archdiocesan Making All Things New pastoral planning initiative.)
The cardinal, in his homily, cited the numerous dignitaries who have worshiped at St. Peter’s: “George Washington prayed here, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton entered the Church here; Dorothy Day was here; Pierre Toussaint was here.”
Additionally, he acknowledged after 9/11, “the number of people who came here not only for the solace and prayer and comfort,” but also “for a first aid station and, sadly, a mortuary.” It was also where the body of Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M., an FDNY chaplain, was brought after he died in the line of duty at the World Trade Center.
“Nobody can come here without thinking about 9/11,” the cardinal said. “This is really a Catholic monument, not only to the suffering and sorrow of 9/11, not only to those who lost their lives, but also for the hope and the healing and recovery that occurred afterward.”
The processional cross located inside the church has a steel cross from the 9/11 site embedded in the back.
“What a great home of worship, what a great Catholic place of worship this has been, welcoming so many venerable people,” the cardinal said. “I thank you for being a good shepherd,” Father,” he said to Father Quinn.
After Mass, a reception showcasing the colorful, contemporary catechetical center, where classes have been held for the past year-and-a-half, was held. The parish center, which serves as a multi-purpose space, was completed in December 2016.
Among the families there were Andrew and Erin McElduff, and their 10-week-old son Gannon. The baby, who will be baptized Sept. 30, attended his first Mass Sept. 8.
“Teaching here has been wonderful,” said Erin McElduff, 31, who is a catechist. “To have really top-notch technology is a game-changer. It’s stunningly beautiful. All of the kids are really excited to come, at least in my experience. It’s light and vibrant.”
“Your son’s first Mass with the cardinal is pretty special,” added Andrew McElduff, 34. Father Quinn, he said, is a welcoming pastor at the “family-oriented” parish.
Maiwenn Jaffres, parish manager and coordinator of religious education, said, “If we don’t have this down here, we have nobody up there,” she noted of the catechetical center, located below the church.
Luke Conboy, 8, an incoming third-grader, said he finds it to fun to learn about Jesus in the religious education program and enjoys sharing the time with his friends there. Highlights include making his First Holy Communion last year, learning about the Stations of the Cross and values such as the importance of treating others nicely.
The four statues by artist John Collier located outside St. Peter’s Church are:
• St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of police officers, in remembrance of the NYPD and PANY/NJ police offers, and those who participated in the rescue and recovery effort.
• St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters and EMS workers, in remembrance of the FDNY firefighters and EMS workers, and those who took part in the rescue and recovery effort.
• St. Mary Magdalene, first witness to the resurrection, in remembrance of those who perished in the airplanes that crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center: the passengers and pilots and flight attendants, and the volunteers who came to serve at Ground Zero afterward.
• St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, in remembrance of those working in the World Trade Center and the construction workers who took part in the recovery and rebuilding effort.