Saving St. Brigid

I have been meaning to write about the opening the other day of an excellent exhibit called "Catholics inNew York: 1808-1946," at the Museum of the City of New York. They had a very grand reception, and lots of people in very good form, including an expansive Cardinal Egan. (Though Ed Koch did not get a shot at the mike, to my dismay.) The exhibit marks the 200th anniversary of the diocese, and includes a book of essays looking at various aspects of the New York church.My own contribution to that book was a profile of the life cycle of the first parish for the Irish, St. Brigid's, in what is now known as the East Village. The essay was a fascinating exploration for me, as the parish exemplifies the changes and challenges facing many urban parishes--and it neatly, if poignantly, concluded with the parish's apparent demise a few years ago. Although that closing was fiercely contested, it seemed inevitable--until today, when word came down that an anonymous benefactor has given $20 million to keep it open and help it flourish again, if possible. There is much work to do, as the archdiocese had been dismantling the building with all due haste. But perhaps the place can be salvaged, and perhaps a parish resurrected. A remarkble story. And go see the exhibit if you're in town.

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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