The pastors who followed Fr. Lucian Gallagher continued his efforts to respond to the needs of the people in the post- World War II era. Fathers Terence McNally, Emmanuel Duffy and Bernard Tobin were extremely conscious of the changing times in New York City.
The Provincial Chapter of 1949 appointed an equally eloquent preacher to succeed Fr. Lucian in the person of Fr. Terence McNally. He had served as pastor of St. Stephen of Hungary parish in the Yorkville section of New York for 15 years, then moved to midtown Manhattan to be the guardian and pastor of St. Francis on 31st Street. He inspired something approaching awe in the young friars during his six years at St. Francis Church, and proved to be the capable administrator such a multifaceted ministry required.
In June 1955 Fr. Emmanuel Duffy was appointed pastor of St. Francis for a brief three-year term. He began immediately to concentrate on the physical needs of the church and friary. For many decades, hundreds of friars had mounted the pulpit in the nave of St. Francis Church to preach the Word of God. Fr. Emmanuel replaced the familiar pulpit in 1956, and then removed the side- aisle benches. The space gained by both removals made the church appear much larger. At the same time, he installed marble around the bases of the pillars and along the side walls. The following year, because of the constant use of the parlors for counseling, he renovated them and added air conditioning.
Early in June 1957 the construction of a new entrance on 32nd Street was undertaken by Fr. Emmanuel. Many people were unaware of the lower church, while others did not know of the existence of the upper church! They were accustomed to one or the other. When the 32nd Street entrance was closed, it took some of the regular worshipers a while to adjust themselves to the walk around the block. The new entrance opened in June 1959. People could now walk in from 32nd Street or 31st Street to the covered vestibule which leads to both the lower and the upper churches.
A large stone crucifix over the doors marks the entrance to the church on 32nd Street, and a bronze statue of St. Francis, kneeling with his eyes cast upward to the crucifix, was designed for the newly-created courtyard by Betti Richard of Vienna, Austria. Ms. Richard’s husband was the ambassador to the United Nations from Austria, and they were living in New York City. Brother Cajetan Baumann, O.F.M, the friar architect responsible for enlarging and beautifying the 32nd Street entrance, desired to have a statue of St. Francis of Assisi for the courtyard. Ms. Richard responded to the challenge in 1957 and created one of the most popular images of St. Francis in the world, lovingly caressed by hundreds of people as they pass day after day. When she was affiliated to Holy Name Province in 1986, Ms. Richard told the friars that the St. Francis statue on 32nd Street “came from within her own heart much as a child comes forth from the womb of a mother.”
On May 9, 1961, Bishop John Maguire, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York, consecrated three new altars in the church: the main altar and two side altars dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua. The latter two featured white marble statues which were also created by Betti Richard. The dedication marked the end of five years of construction and renovations at St. Francis Church. New entrances on both 31st and 32nd Streets, three new outdoor shrines, new floors, pews and pulpit, newly designed confessionals, and the air-conditioning of the upper and and lower churches were finally accomplished.
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.
We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
Sollicitudo rei Socialis (“The Social Concern”; encyclical of Pope John Paul II, 1987): Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are really responsible for all.
Economic Justice for All (Pastoral Letter from the U.S. Bishops, 1986): We have to move from our devotion of independence through an understanding of interdependence, to a commitment of human solidarity… Love implies concern for all…
Jesus tells the story about the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel. Lazarus, covered with sores and hungry, sits outside the rich man’s house and there is no response to his condition from the rich man. Both die, but the rich man ends up in a place of torment while Lazarus is taken to the bosom of Abraham. I remember when I was in a choir in public school, we sang: “Poor man, Lazarus, sick and disabled. Put your finger in the water and come and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in the flames.” This was and is a great song about our concern for one another and the reminder to put our faith into action. Sometimes, a simple, kind action can mean much to someone. We Christians have always been people who see what needs to be done and then make it happen.
The celebration of our 175th Anniversary concludes this Friday, October 4, with Cardinal Dolan as the Principal Celebrant of the 5:30 PM Mass. The Friars will join the Cardinal and concelebrate this Mass of thanksgiving. If you haven’t yet purchased our Commemorative Anniversary Book, it is available at the reception desk for $20. It is a great book, filled with pictures of the seasons of St. Francis, the ministries here, and greetings from many people, businesses and other Franciscan ministry sites. I want to thank Fr. Timothy, Joe Nuzzi, Loida de Jesus, Keith Kemp, Meredith Augustin, and Ed Trochimczuk who have worked hard planning the Gala, the Anniversary Book and the Feastday Mass. Well done!
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M.
175th Anniversary Gala Cocktail Party
September 20, 2019, 7:00 PM, San Damiano Hall
Enjoy time with friars, other parishioners and friends of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi with food, music, cocktails and dancing as we celebrate this momentous moment in the life of our beloved church.
Click here to purchase your ticket today. Tickets are limited.
All young adults in their 20’s and 30’s are welcome to join us for our annual Young Adult Retreat at the Mt. Alvernia Franciscan Retreat Center in Wappingers Falls, NY.
The retreat is from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon:
September 27-29, 2019
Join us for prayer, reflection, inspiration and sharing. This retreat is a great way to enter the fall season reconnecting with God and with other young adults in our community.
Click here for images from our 2018 retreat on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.1578791245561598&type=3
Space is limited.
Registration deadline: Monday, September 23, 2019
Cost includes retreat house cost, retreat materials, meals, Saturday evening social. Transportation not included. Transportation details will be provided.
Cost: $200.00 per person.[/tatsu_text][/tatsu_column][/tatsu_row][/tatsu_section]
On the eve of the feast of St. Francis, October 3, 1944, the Very Rev. Delegate General of the Friars Minor in this hemisphere, Fr. Mathias Faust, was celebrant of the Transitus ceremony, commemorating the death of the founder of the Franciscan Family. Following the traditional spirit of fraternity between the Franciscans and Dominicans, the Ver Rev. John B. Reese, O.P., Prior of St. Vincent Ferrer Priory on the upper Eastside, was the celebrant for the centenary Mass. The Most Rev. Bernard T. Espelage, O.F.M., Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico, presided. An eloquent sermon on Saint Francis and Saint Dominic was preached by the Rev. Robert J. Slavin, O.P. of the faculty of the Catholic University of America. The music was provided by the Men’s Choir assisted by 40 boy choristers of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, with S. Constantine Yon as organist and choirmaster.
Centenary ceremonies continued throughout the following week. A Solemn Pontifical Mass was offered for the deceased friars, parishioners, benefactors and friends of St. Francis Church. The next day a solemn Mass was offered for the living and deceased members of the Secular Franciscan Order of the church. On
October 7, a Solemn Mass for the members of the Armed Forces of our country was offered. A Solemn
Pontifical Mass was offered on Sunday, October 8, for the intentions of all friends and benefactors of
the friars. The Nightworkers’ Mass at 2:30 AM was offered by Monsignor WIlliam E. Cashin, pastor of St.
Andrew’s Church, New York. Solemn Vespers at 5:30 PM was celebrated by Bishop Bernard T. Espelage.
A supper for the laity and friars was held, and the cententary observance brought to a festive close. The tiny acorn planted in 1844 by Fr. Zachary Kunz had grown into a sturdy oak with its roots deeply embedded in the fertile soil of West 31st Street of New York City.
Fr. Mathias Faust, Delegate General of the friars in 1944, and former pastor of St. Francis Church, reflected on the one-hundred-year history of the Franciscan church in midtown Manhattan. His words reflect the spirit and joy of St. Francis Church on the eve of its 100th birthday:
“It is recorded that when, a hundred years ago, the bells of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, on Thirty-first Street, called for the first time the faithful this neighborhood to divine worship, our little belfry fairly dominated this whole area. That is no longer so. We have been caught in the rapid and mighty maelstrom of a large city’s, nay, of a nation’s enterprise. As a result, the noise of confused voices and hurried steps of a restlessly surging humanity, and of the unceasing clatter and din of their manifold tools on all sides as well as from the air above and ground below, mingles almost rhythmically with our daily monastic exercises, while all around us massive structures of steel and stone raise their gigantic heads to alpine heights, burying our little house with their might and magnitude. Meanwhile, those same bells continue fearlessly and fervently to sound their age-old refrain, ‘venite, adoremus,’ and the tiny steeple still points upwards, unbent, unswayed, and undisturbed, to the ancient dome above.
Yes, there is no other meaning to this happy Hundredth Anniversary of St. Francis Church. Let us raise our hearts to God and give thanks to His Holy Name. God does great things in simple fashion, and the very simplicity of His ways is the certain proof of His enduring Providence. ‘Some trust in chariots, and
some in horses; but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God’ (Psalm 20:7). This is God’s work, and God’s work it shall remain. Such shall be the grateful pledge of the sons of St. Francis of Assisi on this Jubilee Day.”
One year later, a photo and an article about St. Francis Church appeared in Time magazine. The opening line of the article referred to St. Francis Church on West 31st Street as “the most cosmopolitan and busiest Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.,” and depicted the edifice as “small and sandwiched off among office buildings in a crowded section near Pennsylvania Station.”
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.
From Pope Francis in Laudato Sí:
Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today’s global society, it is essential that “we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone,” no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replaces human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and fulfillment.
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