“69th NYS Memorial Mass, St. Brigid’s Church, August 14, 1861, Imagined,” a painting by Patricia Melvin.
By Peter McDermott
For Feb. 1, St. Brigid’s Day, in 2014 and 2015, Ed Torres was content to adorn walls with memorabilia and photos of the struggle that had once seemed lost.
“This year, I wanted to do more,” said Torres, who was chairman of the Save St. Brigid’s Church Committee on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. So after 1 p.m. Mass on Sunday, Jan. 31, the parish of St. Brigid-St. Emeric will have a party in the social hall to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the restored church in 2013.
“We’ve pretty much settled in and have been doing what a church should do,” Torres said. “But we want to show people what they helped save.
“We want to thank the Irish people, in particular, for all the work they did on the campaign,” he said.
He cited the importance of community figures such as the writer Peter Quinn, who had family ties to the parish.
“Peter is coming on the 31st,” Torres said.
In 2001, the Archdiocese of New York shuttered the building as unsafe. Then by mid-decade, it became apparent that the intention was to demolish it. A local committee was established to resist the move.
Some others outside the community became involved after they heard more about the church’s history. It was built by and for Famine immigrants in 1849, overseen by Patrick Keely, a Tipperary architect who went on to construct 600 churches in a 50-year career.
For many, St. Brigid’s was the precursor to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was simple as the latter was grand.
Demolition began on the church one Thursday afternoon in the summer of 2006, but it was halted by a court order the next day. Two years later, the Archdiocese got an “unexpected but very welcome gift” of $20 million from an anonymous donor to restore the church and support the parish school.
The party will take place in the Social Hall from 2 p.m. Those attending the 1 p.m. Mass can enter via the church; there is also an entrance on East 8th Street, at Avenue B. A buffet lunch and beverages will be served. The event is free, but there will a small charge for alcoholic drinks with the proceeds going to the parish. Subway: F to 2nd Avenue and 6 to Astor Place. L train service is suspended at weekends.