Parishioners in Harlem, Roosevelt Island Prepare for Changes

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The final decision to merge All Saints with St. Charles Borromeo parish in Harlem has the Catholic community there working on a plan to welcome parishioners.

And, in another Manhattan parish, parishioners on Roosevelt Island received news that a final decision on St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parish means that their long wait for a permanent church is over.

Cardinal Dolan’s final decision regarding the two parishes was announced earlier this month as part of an update to the archdiocese-wide parish reorganization plan Making All Things New.

In Harlem, Father Gregory Chisholm, S.J., pastor of St. Charles Borromeo and administrator at All Saints, acknowledged the pain that All Saints parishioners would feel at the closure of their beautiful Venetian Gothic building to regular liturgical activities. But he said it was important that they find a welcome at St. Charles Borromeo or whatever other Catholic parish they choose in Harlem.

“More than anything I want to be assured that the people who worship at All Saints understand that they are a part of the Catholic Church in Harlem,” he said. “The Church in Harlem is still quite robust and vibrant and thriving, so they continue to have a home. We have a long history of working together.”

He said all of the pastors in Harlem will attend a service at All Saints and will, as a group, extend a welcome.

“I’m optimistic that everyone who worships at All Saints will find a home at a church in Harlem,” he said, adding that since he’s already the administrator at All Saints he believes the actual merger, effective Aug. 1, will be seamless.

“The part that is more challenging,” he said, “is shepherding people through this period where they’re saying goodbye to their physical home and to try to position them in such a way that they would be welcoming of new homes.”

On Roosevelt Island, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioners were welcoming the chance to finally have a home to call their own. After worshipping Sundays at a converted public community center they will move into a new expanded church facility that will allow all parish services to be consolidated in one place. The parish has been renting the community center from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation on an hourly basis for Masses on Sundays and sharing it with two other faith communities.

The site the parish is looking to move into is on the second floor of a former school building at 504 Main St. The first floor would be used by the New York Public Library.

“We’re very happy,” said parishioner John Gattuso, who sings in the church choir and said that the choir does not have a place to practice under the current arrangement.

“Where we are now is the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. It’s a cultural center, but it had been an Episcopal church going back to the 1880s, the 1890s. It’s a nice building but it’s not the same as having your own church,” he said.

Gattuso gave credit to Cabrini pastor Father Thomas Kallumady, whom he said had been working hard to find the parish a permanent home.

“Father’s been very positive since he came here about doing that,” he said.

Parishioner Susan Pirard was also enthusiastic. “We’re thrilled,” she said. “It’s such a blessing to finally have our own worship space … where we can grow as a family and come together.”

She said the parish would now be able to have classes for children and other parish programs, including a monthly brunch and a thrift shop, in one place. It’s “a place to bring our family home, if you will,” she said.

Father Kallumady confirmed that the parish would now consolidate all of its ministries and activities in the new space. “I am immensely grateful to His Eminence (Cardinal Dolan) for accepting my proposal for the new church and encouraging me to go ahead with the project to rebuild our parish community,” he said.

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