NEW YORK – New York Cardinal Edward Egan and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were on hand earlier this month for the dedication of the new St. Francis Friary and Provincial Office building at 129 West 31st Street. Approximately 200 people attended the Sept. 13 event that included scripture readings, enthusiastic singing, and a rite of blessing and dedication, followed by a festive reception including visits to the offices by some guests.
Jerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church and guardian of the friary, offered a cheery welcome to guests, which was followed by an opening prayer by John Felice, OFM, president of St. Francis Friends of the Poor and Provincial Minister from 1996 to 2005.
In his remarks, Provincial Minster John O’Connor, OFM, welcomed the guests including those from Prince William County, Va., where John had ministered for many years; the American Cancer Society; the 34th Street Partnership; New York’s Finest; Fr. Melvin Jurisich, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, president of the OFM English-speaking Conference; a representative of Senator Hillary Clinton’s office; First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris, Archbishop Celestino Migliere, apostolic delegate to the United Nations; and others.” John described the building project as both challenging and very worthwhile.
“We Franciscans have had a long history with the people of New York,” John said. “We believe in New York, especially this neighborhood. We’re proud of this project – a building of hope and a building of opportunity.”
“In the end, after all the challenges, it was all worth it,” he added, offering special thanks to attorneys Ken Lore and David Tiger, who had served as a tutors to John, and acknowledging these partners of the Province’s in the building.
Speakers Praise Franciscans
Mayor Bloomberg, who had just returned from Boston, began his presentation saying that his mother sent a New Year greeting in honor of Rosh Hashana, and mentioned that John Felice had offered prayers at the mayor’s first inauguration.
“I am pleased and honored to congratulate the Franciscans on their new building,” he said.
“I think the Franciscans are a group that shows how we can all live together,” he said. “The fact that the building contains Hope Lodge (the American Cancer Society’s first residence in New York City) says something about the Franciscans. They really do make a difference.”
The mayor complimented the friars on the green features of the building, including some humor in the context of recent New York City government discussions.
“St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology,” Mayor Bloomberg said. ”He would probably give his blessing to congestion pricing.”
Cardinal Egan followed some light-hearted introductory remarks by telling listeners that he “wanted to be sure we know the heritage of the Franciscans here in New York. They came as immigrants who were not allowed freedom in their own home. They served the poorest of the poor. “
The cardinal told the audience that the friars have four churches in Manhattan, one in the Bronx, and four in Sullivan County. He described his June visit to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Yulan for the celebration of the parish’s 100th anniversary, and how the rain stopped in time for Mass.
Cardinal Egan thanked the friars for “all their Franciscan good work. We admire you in history, including the printers Mass and the breadline that was the first in New York. You‘ve done more to help the poor than any other group.”
“May the Franciscans grow in this building and may they grow in their compassion,” he said.
Symbols Presented of Hospitality and the Franciscans
Others participating in the service were Sr. Mary Petrosky, FMM, of the church’s Center for Franciscan Spirituality and Spiritual Direction; two representatives of the Provincial Office, Theresa Bartha and Michael Harlan, OFM, who presented the seal of Holy Name Province; and representatives of the St. Francis of Assisi Church who presented a loaf of bread as a symbol of the parish hall and of the hospitality that will be offered. In addition, Robert Gavin, OFM, and Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, presented a copy of the Rule of St. Francis to the cardinal and the provincial minister for blessing.
Holy water was sprinkled upon the symbols, the participants and the walls of the building. During the sprinkling, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” was sung.
Cardinal Egan gave the final blessing: “May the Lord bless this holy place, the parish, the provincial offices and the friary, that the Holy Spirit may abide within these walls. May the Lord bless all who are gathered here to dedicate this edifice, that we will always walk in the presence of the Lord as instruments of his peace.”
Four people were recognized by a “special thanks” section in the event’s program. They were Meredith Augustin, interim director of music; Raymond Childs, director of food services; Joseph Nuzzi, pastoral associate; and Timothy Shreenan, OFM, director of liturgy and communications for St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
The dedication concluded several months of settling in by the friars and several years of construction. The building project evolved from a suggestion by Ronald Stark, OFM, former guardian and pastor of St. Francis Parish, in 2000 from meetings and analyses by the Provincial Council and its finance committee, and feasibility studies done by consultants.
Holy Name’s friars moved into their new friary residence this May, and staff members of the Provincial Office moved to their quarters in July.
—Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.