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St. Dominic’s Church Set To Recieve Bell Repairs

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The historic bells at a local church are down for repairs.

On Thursday, May 12, cranes removed two of the three bronze bells at St. Dominic’s Church on Morris Park Avenue because of water damage to the wooden structure that supports them.

The bells will be down for an indefinite period while the parish secures the funds to fix the supports and have them properly replaced.

The bells have special historic significance for Van Nest residents. They were first erected in the early 1920s by Italian and Irish immigrants who established St. Dominic’s Church. The bells are inscribed with the names of the original builders.

St. Dominic’s School is slated for closure by the Archdiocese of New York at the end of the current school year, so when parishioners saw the bells being removed without any prior notice, they feared the worst.

“Two people called me that morning and said, ‘What’s going on? There’s a crane here and they’re taking the bells down,” said Bernadette Ferrara, St. Dominic’s parishioner and vice president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance. “I had no idea what was happening.”

The saga of the bells is what makes them so important to parishioners, as well as the Van Nest community.

“We descended from the poor immigrants that helped build this church,” Ferrara said. “Everything was built around that. That’s why everybody was so upset when we saw the bells come down.”

The bells, which were originally cast in Brest, France, are currently being stored on the grounds of St. Dominic’s Church.

The timetable for their restoration depends on how and when money is raised to repair the towers.

“Father Robert Badillo of St. Dominic’s needs to work that out,” said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York. “Whether they’ll be able to find a benefactor to foot the bill or whether he’ll raise the money from his parishioners is something they’re working through at the moment.”

The bells and the bell towers are actually being upgraded. For as long as most Van Nest residents can remember, only one bell actually rang. Once they are refurbished all three will be fully functioning.

Zwilling gave $30,000 as a rough estimate for the cost of the restoration.

Updated 5:12 pm, October 21, 2011
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