Some City Islanders are concerned about a plan that could see the island’s Catholic parish turned into a “worship site.”
The St. Mary Star of the Sea parish has been recommended for a merger with Pelham Bay’s Our Lady of Assumption Church. The recommendation was initiated by an Arcdiocese-wide pastoral planning commission, “Making All Things New.”
The recommendation still has to be approved by Timothy Cardinal Dolan when he makes his decisions about the “Making All Things New” recommendations. This is expected in September.
This would mean that a priest would not be stationed at all the times on City Island.
Members of a “core group” that represented St. Mary’s, as well as parishioners who wrote letters to the committees part of “Making All Things New,” expressed their desire to see St. Mary’s remain a full-fledged parish.
“It would be very unfortunate for our community of City Island not to have the Catholic Church, said Deacon Bill Mueller, who was representing the parish. “Whether you are Catholic or not it, is an institution.”
St. Mary’s is important for property values because some people like to live near a Catholic Church, said Mueller.
If the parish became an alternate worship site, as proposed, a priest would come on Sundays and possibly Saturday evenings to say Mass, and if requested on special occasions, like weddings and funerals, he added.
Concerns would arise if a priest from Pelham Bay tried to reach City Island to give last rites, known to Catholic’s as Anointing of the Sick, and got stuck in the summer traffic, according to a letter from the City Island Civic Association to Cardinal Dolan and Father John O’Hara, who is leading Making All Things New.
“St. Mary’s represents the largest religious congregation on City Island and serves many important functions to those of and beyond the Catholic faith,” read the CICA letter. “This includes food and clothing donations, youth programming, athletics, and group therapy for those suffering from addiction. All of these programs are invaluable and have historically been administered under the direction of a full-time resident pastor.”
John Steine, who organized a letter writing campaign to save St. Mary’s, said that St. Mary’s was needed because of City Island’s isolation.
“Cardinal Dolan has received the recommendations from the Archdiocesan Advisory Group and the material prepared by the parish clusters,” stated Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling in an e-mail. “He will be spending the summer reviewing all the material before making his decisions, which will be announced sometime in September. There hasn’t been a decision reached and/or announced for any parish at this time.”
Father Michael Challinor, of St. Mary’s did not respond and Monsignor Anthony Marchitelli of Our Lady of the Assumption Church is away on vacation and could not be reached.