St. bridgids

Historic evening

By Peter McDermott

The quiet conversations in the line outside St. Brigid’s were mainly in Spanish. Then a teenage choir member bounded towards an open side door. “If you can’t get in,” she shouted in English to a friend behind her, “call me!”

Most waiting on Sunday evening wondered if they would be in the congregation for St. Brigid’s reopening Mass. The crowd was huge around the corner on 8th Street.

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Ed Torres, an usher before the church was closed in 2001 and a prominent activist in the campaign to save it, emerged from the front door to reassure people: “You will all be let in momentarily,” he said.

When a reporter relayed this message to Sonia Maldanado on 8th Street, she said: “I hope so.” Her children were baptized in the historic church on Avenue B, and made their first communions and were confirmed there.

New Jersey-based author and academic Christine Kinealy said she came in for the opening because of its links to the Famine but also because “it’s such a great story to hear that it was rescued and restored.”

Gina Sheehan, Carmel McCarthy and Alice Sullivan were there from the LAOH, Div. 6. “The biggest question we’ve been discussing is: who is the donor?” said one of them. “I’d like to meet him and marry him,” said another.

Madeline (De Martino) De Amicis came in from Staten Island with her husband John. Her parents were married there as were her aunts and uncles, and a grandparent founded the Holy Name Society.

Mike Guedes, who was in line holding a toddler, had came down from Putnam County. His mother-in-law is a parishioner at St. Emeric’s, which was merging officially with the new St. Brigid’s. Was he confident of getting in with his family? “We’ll see what happens,” he said.

Bridget and James Cagney from Woodside started lighting candles in St. Brigid’s after they arrived in America in 1967. “I was so excited last night, I couldn’t sleep,” Bridget Cagney said. “Even if we don’t get in, just to experience this is wonderful.”

“That’s a good way to look at it,” said Guedes, who was standing in front of her.

In the end, everyone did get in, filling the 650-capacity building. They were delighted with what they saw and experienced. Those who had campaigned to save the church were so overjoyed that they weren’t too bothered by what one described as the official “Soviet-style rewriting of St. Brigid’s history.”

“It was lovely,” was the most commonly heard summation of the Mass and the evening.