NEW YORK – Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, presided at a Jan. 28 Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street, celebrating the bicentennial for the Archdiocese of New York.
Each of the 19 vicariates of the archdiocese is holding a similar celebration honoring the 200th anniversary of the founding of the archdiocese. St. Francis of Assisi Church was chosen as the site for the West Manhattan Vicariate.
Prior to April 8, 1808, the territory that is now the Archdiocese of New York was part of the Diocese of Baltimore. Reflecting the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States, Baltimore was raised to the status of Archdiocese with four suffragan dioceses — Boston, Philadelphia, Bardstown (today Louisville) and New York. Each of these four dioceses would eventually grow and become archdioceses.
Cardinal Egan presided at the liturgy with Msgr. Thomas Leonard, vicar for West Manhattan, and Jerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of St. Francis, as principal concelebrants. Forty priests serving in the 21 parishes of the West Manhattan Vicariate concelebrated.
Before the Mass, the cardinal and priests from the vicariate joined the friars for dinner in the friary. Jerome welcomed guests to the adjacent friary and invited Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, to lead prayers before the meal. In his remarks, Cardinal Egan spoke kindly of the steady, sensible and unselfish service rendered to the people of New York by archdiocesan clergy, religious leaders and priests from other parts of the world. The cardinal thanked the friars and priests gathered for “your deep, quiet goodness.”
In his homily to a capacity congregation in St. Francis of Assisi Church, the cardinal praised the generous gifts given by countless men and women in their lives of service. He described how he discovered dozens of holy cards commemorating occasions such as religious professions, jubilees, and funerals tucked into the breviary that once belonged to Cardinal Spellman. No doubt the late archbishop kept these mementos out of respect to the holy women and men whose lives the cards honored. Cardinal Egan’s cited outstanding lay people, such as Pierre Toussaint and Dorothy Day, whose lives left indelible marks on the archdiocese.
Following the Mass, all were invited to a reception in San Damiano Hall on the first floor of the friary/provincialate, where two books — a history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Gospel of Matthew — were distributed as gifts from the cardinal.
“We were delighted to have a standing-room-only crowd representing the diversity of the West Side,” said Jerome. “The liturgy reflected many cultures, nationalities and traditions. In my remarks after Communion, I enjoyed commenting to the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, what you have probably thought for a long while is now confirmed by your experience tonight — the West Side is the best side.”
Priest, parishioners and musicians from other parishes of the West Manhattan Vicariate joined in the celebration. Among those participating was the Province’s Holy Name of Jesus Church.
– Br. Stephen, who is in the Province’s formation program, is serving an intership at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan.