Memorial Weekend Dinner Welcomes Residents to New Friary

HNP Communications In the Headlines

NEW YORK — The 23 residents of the Province’s newly-built friary on West 31st Street moved into their new home last month in an atmosphere of excitement and accomplishment. Photo Gallery

Many participated in a social on May 27 in the recreation room of the new St. Francis of Assisi Friary, arranged by guardian Jerome Massimino, to formally welcome the friars and to thank some of the many people involved in designing and furnishing the new facility. Afterward, the group went to the former friary, now used completely as parish office space, to enjoy a festive meal; the new friary’s kitchen and dining room will be opening in mid-June.

The friary comprises three floors of Holy Name’s new five-story building adjacent to St. Francis of Assisi Church.  The other two floors contain the Provincial offices as well as a church hall that will be used for both parish and provincial functions.

In addition to its 29 bedrooms (24 for permanent residents plus five guest rooms), the friary has –

  • a chapel
  • dining area with both an informal alcove for breakfast/lunch and a large dinner section
  • a kitchen
  • a library
  • recreation room
  • a terrace on the third floor
  • storage and laundry rooms on each of the residence floors

The layout of the common area is very versatile, said Jerome, adding, ”We can mix and match the space for various-sized groups.”

“Jerome had the task of making the space work for both intimate gatherings and large formal functions which he accomplished,” said Fred Dilger, who has been working for more than a year on finalizing the décor of the building.

Fred, a student at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., joined the Province in 2000 with extensive related experience.  He had owned an architectural interior design firm with offices in Manhattan and Atlanta, Ga., before deciding to become a Franciscan friar.

“Jerome is very good at details,” Fred said, which is important since “this is the Province’s motherhouse.”

Furnishings Carefully Selected
Much thought went into the choice of furnishings, Jerome said adding,  “We have a wonderful painting of Jesus before the Sanhedrin that has been the Province’s for a while and a lovely grandfather clock.” A fireplace, flanked by two large bookcases, is in the library.

The friars chose dressers, beds, desks and other personal items for their rooms after Jerome and the project’s furnishings committee chose mission prairie as the style for the friary’s furniture.

The committee for the interior design of the new friary included Fred, vicars Alan Thomas and Vincent Laviano,former Provincial Minister John Felice, Michael Carnivale, and Jerome.

“Seeing the furniture made us feel as if this were really our own,” said Michael, who went with committee members to upstate New York to review furniture options.

The committee members worked for several months to be sure the details in the friars’ living space were as suitable as possible.

Also incorporated into the new building are artifacts from the old friary, a turn-of-the-century structure, including a statue of Jesus with two disciples on the road to Emmaus breaking bread, a Della Robia relief of the nativity, and a statue of Francis, Man of Peace.”  The friary also displays three Miguel Loredo paintings and two by John Murphy, former vice president for academic affairs at Siena College, who died in 2005.

Though construction on the new friary did not begin until 2005, the friars who had lived on 31st Street moved out of their rooms in 2004 so that the old loft building which had housed most of the friars’ bedrooms, and a number of adjoining structures could be demolished. After living in temporary residences for three years, the friars say they are very pleased to return to 31st Street and to a building planned to meet both their needs and those of the Province.

“Though I liked my temporary home – the 96thstreet friary was a wonderful community – coming back here is making me very happy,” said Michael. “This is my third time living on 31st Street and it is one of my favorite places in the Province.

“When we’re not here, friars miss the flavor,” he said.

Alan said that “it is nice to be back in one building. This feels like coming back to a community.”

Most of the friars moved into their new friary rooms on the same day, May 23, which gave the friary an atmosphere of excitement. It was a little like a freshman dorm experience, some observers said.

Anthony Carrozzo, former provincial minister, said that the well-planned gathering space on the third floor is his favorite aspect of the new friary.

“This will bring the community together even more,” he said, commending Jerome on how he managed the planning process.

“Jerome handled this extraordinarily well.This was not an easy process,” Anthony said. “He is very magnanimous.”

Alcuin Coyle, who has lived at 31st Street since 1985, praised Fred’s working style saying, “He was very accommodating to our needs and requests.”

Positive Transition for Friars
To some friars, the relocation is a personal transition, while to others it is symbolic of a step by the Province toward the future.

Anthony said, “I have been in a lot of transitions in my life so this is just one more, though I do appreciate the amenities here.”

This is the first time the friars have private bathrooms, Jerome said.

The noise level from the street is much more pleasant than at the nearby hotel, where many of the friars had been living. They had been located between a firehouse and a police station.

Artist Miguel Loredo said that he appreciates the bright light in the rooms.

The previous rooms of many of the friars looked out on walls and alleys, said Provincial Minister John O’Connor.

Timothy Shreenan, who has lived on 31st Street for 21 years, said he appreciates the new space.

“I now have plenty of room for my books,” he said. “It’s great to be here after all of the planning that went into the contstruction, the design, and the move.”

The planning of this building, aimed to meet both the personal needs of the friars and the needs of the Province, took many years.  The idea of constructing on the property owned by Holy Name Province was talked about by the friars as far back as the 1970s, according to John Felice, who led the province from 1996 to 2005.

A consistent participant in planning the building was John O’Connor who, before he was elected provincial minister in 2005, was Holy Name’s director of properties. The idea to finally move to develop the property was John O’Connor’s, and it was he who respresented the Province for four and one-half years in negotiations to make possible the construction of the building.

“It is nice, after six years of negotiations and construction, to be able to celebrate the finished product,” he said. “I am gratified to see that the friars are pleased.

“I want to thank Br. Fred for the many hours of hard work in designing the interior. I also thank the friars for their patience as we all go through the final phase of waiting all our services to be up and running.”

John Felice speaks with pride of how the project evolved: through changes in provincial leaders, through the gathering of financial partners, and through many meetings and negotiations.

“I think this project shows the strength of the future of our Province,” John said.  “It’s a visible sign of longevity. We invested in a way that will both bring us financial security and will provide housing for many friars for years to come.  I watched carefully what Jerome accomplished at our church in Hartford and at 96th Street. It was obvious to me that he would be the appropriate guardian for this house to supervise the design of the friary. I am proud of Jerome for proving me right.”

Holiday Weekend Dinner Celebrates Completion
“This is a happy time — seeing the beginning of the end of this project,” John Felice added, smiling as he looked around his room. “It’s spendid.”

The dinner on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend enabled friars to celebrate together the completion of their new friary.  The gathering included a few of the many people who helped with the success of the project.   Among them was Marilyn Linton of Evenson Best, LLC, the furniture resources and management firm, who listened well to the needs and  requests of the friars, according to Jerome.

Next month, the staff members of the Provincial Office will move to the new building, whose official address is129West 31st Street, completing the process that has been in the minds and hearts of friars for many years. This summer, the friars and their guests will enjoy meals and gatherings on the outdoor terrace which can be seen from the windows of both the friary and the dining room.

—  Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.