NEW YORK – The friars of St. Francis of Assisi Friary gathered here last week for a special celebration in honor of John O’Connor and John Felice. The evening was a thank you to the two Provincial Ministers who made the dream of a new friary on West 31st Street a reality.
The August 5 celebration began with a preprandium on the newly-decorated terrace. No matter the how hot it is at street level, the terrace enjoys a steady breeze, the source of which is routinely discussed among the friars. Meteorological discussions aside, the terrace is a wonderful gathering space that gets much use throughout the day.
In his toast to the current and past Provincials, Jerome Massimino said, “Thank you for giving us such a beautiful home.” John Felice commented that the need for a new friary dates back to the later years of Ronald Stark’s term as pastor and guardian (from 1996 to 2000). Maintenance to the old building had become cost prohibitive. John O’Connor, serving on the Provincial Council at the time as director of finance, then initiated the development studies which turned what was envisioned as a new friary into a much larger initiative.
John O’Connor said that both he and John Felice spent many sleepless nights during the protracted negotiation phase. In fact, John O’Connor recalled a phone conversation shortly before the deal was finalized in which one of the attorneys said that it looked as though the deal would not go forward. Happily, that prediction did not come true.
In his remarks, John O’Connor recognized the talent and hard work of Fred Dilger, a post-novitiate friar, who since May had worked tirelessly to pull things together. Fred’s years of experience in architectural and interior design were invaluable. The friars echoed the Provincial’s sentiments with a prolonged round of applause. The following morning, Fred departed for a well-earned vacation and his new ministry at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia.
Before retiring to the terrace for dessert and coffee, Jerome presented John O’Connor, seated in photo, with a bronze Franciscan coat of arms modeled after one that hangs in the lobby of St. Francis House, the parish office on West 31st Street between the friary and the church. John Felice, in yellow shirt, was given a generous assortment of restaurant gift certificates for his dining pleasure. Rumor has it that none of these fine establishments is outside of Manhattan, and upon seeing one for the Olive Garden, John asked, “What’s that?” Jerome presented Fred and Raymond Childs, the head chef, with custom-made, sterling Tau cross pendants. Raymond oversaw a complicated move from the old friary kitchen to the new friary kitchen while ensuring the friars never went hungry.
The building, home to both the friary and the Provincial Office, is part of a new 58-story structure that introduced state-of the art “green,” or environmentally-friendly housing to lower midtown Manhattan. Holy Name’s section of the building is laid out as follows:
• On floor one: auditorium and conference room
• On floor two: Provincial Office
• Floor three: chapel library, terrace and dining room
• Floors four and five: friar residences and guest rooms
More information on the building, named The Epic, its amenities, and its green features together with panoramic views of Manhattan and interior photos of apartments (which include 20% low-income housing) can be found on the building’s Web site (below).
— Br. Stephen, a student at Holy Name College in Maryland, is serving a year-long internship at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street where he works in the Center for Franciscan Spirituality and Spiritual Direction team.