2 excess Bronx church buildings desanctified

The Church of St. John, 321 Kingsbridge Avenue, absorbed former parishioners from the Visitation Church, 160 Van Cortlandt Park South, shown above.
Community News Group/Arthur Cusano

As Catholic parishes in the Bronx continue to merge, some parishioners have had to choose another location to worship.

Four such parishes— St. Brendan/St. Ann, St. John/Visitation — merged into two and resulted in the churches of St. Ann and Visitation being ‘deconsecrated,’ according to an Archidiocese of New York spokesman.

The church of St. Brendan, 333 E. 206th Street, absorbed former St. Ann parishioners; and the church of St. John, 321 Kingsbridge Avenue, absorbed former Visitation parishioners.

“Several years ago we went through a lengthly parish planning process called ‘Making All Things New,’” said Joseph Zwilling, director of the office of communications for the archdiocese.

“We looked at all parishes in all parts of the archdiocese, what our needs and resources were, needs of the people were, and how best to use our resources to meet those needs; and how we can use them to build vibrant communities of faith,” Zwilling said

At first, with the mergers of certain parishes, both church buildings continued to be used for Masses and sacraments.

In other cases, only one of the church buildings would be used on a regular basis, and the other would be returned to service on special occasions.

Then, parishes requested permission to reduce one of their church buildings ‘to profane but not sordid use —called deconsecrated,’ according to Zwilling.

As no longer a consecrated space, such church buildings would no longer be appropriate to offer Masses and sacraments.

When a church is closed in this fashion, a team goes in and reviews what is of sacramental and liturgical importance and what has monetary, historical and artistic value, according to Zwilling.

Such items are preserved in a warehouse on Staten Island.

If a church is looking for an altar, a statue of Saint Ann or a set of stained glass windows, for example, they have a resource at that warehouse, where they can find such items and use them in the new church.

Should a parish decide it wants to do something else with the building that has been reduced to a deconsecrated state, it may want to convert it to something for Catholic charities, or to lease it to another religious group, or sell it outright.

The Catholic church restricts reuse of a church building for ‘profane but not sordid purposes.’

This means the building cannot be used for anything that would violate church teachings, according to Zwilling.

For example, housing working class families on the site would be considered a secular, non-church purpose.

But selling a church to Planned Parenthood to be used as an abortion clinic would not be allowed because the building cannot serve purposes contrary to the Catholic faith.

Reach Reporter Bob Guiliano at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at bguiliano@cnglocal.com.

More from Around NYC