Yesterday a magnificent liturgy was celebrated in honor of St Cecilia at the parish of which she is patron. The traditional mass already has a long-established ‘tradition” in this parish; a large congregation was present. Msgr. Mauro Cionini was the celebrant; Fr. Jean-Marie Moreau was Deacon (and homilist); Jeffrey Collins was subdeacon. Eddy Toribio was master of ceremonies while the “Una Voce New York Schola” sang under the direction of David Adam Smith.
St Cecilia’s – begun in 1891 – is one of the magnificent unrestored Victorian churches from the golden age of New York church building. Constructed of solid wood, stone and plaster, it is redolent of the past. The altar rail and reredos remain in place; the “novus ordo” altar is but a temporary affair that can be wheeled out of the way. Yet the last years have not been kind to this church. Greenpoint, once a solidly working class area, has seen an influx of new residents who generally don’t go to church, don’t have children yet fuel massive new real estate development. It is a lethal combination for the ancient parishes of the area. St Cecilia school, once one of the premier Catholic schools in Brooklyn, was closed by 2009. St. Cecilia parish itself was abolished at the beginning of this year and with two other parishes merged into a larger “Divine Mercy” parish. The diocese had hoped for a financial bonanza from the disposal of the buildings of St. Cecilia’s. Yet, just at this moment, the financial crisis put a temporary end to the real estate speculation. This church has instead developed an innovative program to use the former school buildings for artists’ studios. One shudders to think of the art created here – yet this alliance of the church and art shows imagination otherwise sadly lacking in the New York/Brooklyn Catholic scene. (“Artists find Accomodating Landlord: A Struggling Brooklyn Parish” by Tim Sohn( New York Times 3/6/2011)).
Each candle from the consecration was incensed. St. Cecilia’s is one of relatievely few churches in Brooklyn to have been formally consecrated (in 1901). At the dedication of St. Cecilia’s in 1893, Gounod’s St. Cecilia mass was performed; solemn vespers included music by Donizetti and Rossini.
The sermon alluded to the glorious history and current difficulties of this parish. The church is where God meets man – as in the vision of Jacob’s ladder. And the center of this meeting is the eucharist – as emphasized by the size and beauty of the altar. There is nothing too beautiful for God – this was the spirit of those who built this magnificent edifice. Just as the bride adorns herself for her wedding day, so does the Church seek out all that is beautiful to please her bridegroom, Christ. St Cecilia, the patroness of this church and one of the greatest martyrs of early Roman church, had the honor of having her home converted into one of the very earliest churches in Rome. May she protect this church for future generations. “Let us pray that these sacred stones may remain alive for many years to come!”
Much of the statuary and furnishings of this church are of the highest quality.