Rorate Caeli

Holy Innocents in New York to remain open
Update: a Special Report from a Parishioner on a Very Happy Sunday

Holy Innocents in 1905
Thanks to a lot of prayer, Holy Innocents church in New York City will remain open.  In fact, it will not even be merged with another parish or put to part-time use -- which means it has overcome absolutely amazing odds.  Holy Innocents is nowhere on now-official lists affecting 112 parishes. 

From the Archdiocese of New York's news release, which contains PDF documents of all of the mergers and partial closures:

Based on the input the cardinal received from the 368 parishes and 75 parish clusters (groups of about 4-7 neighboring parishes); a 40 person advisory committee comprised of clergy, religious men and women, and the faithful from across the archdiocese; the priest council; other close advisors and key staff, he has decided that:

1. All parishes will work together more collaboratively within their clusters in providing services and ministries

2. 48 parishes will merge with a nearby parish, resulting in 24 new parishes, with Masses and sacraments celebrated at both churches. There will be an evaluation every two years of these newly merged parishes, and every parish throughout the archdiocese. To accomplish this, the archdiocese has established a parish planning office, to be directed by Eileen Mulcahy.

3. 64 parishes will merge with a nearby parish, resulting in 31 new parishes, and while this new parish will have two churches, Masses and sacraments will only be celebrated on a regular basis at one church as of August 1, 2015.

Rorate readers have no doubt been following this story since April.  It is significant because the parish is the only location in New York City where the traditional Latin Mass is offered on a daily basis.  The announcement follows months of public and media attention given the significant location of the daily TLM.

Of course this news does not change the fact that Father Justin Wylie, who offered Mass frequently at Holy Innocents, is gone.  And the news that Holy Innocents remains open and not merged does not result in a net gain of any sort, as our very public suggestion to make Holy Innocents a personal parish has not been publicly considered.

But this is still a major victory for the traditional Latin Mass and sacraments.  The active, engaged and prayerful parish of Holy Innocents ought to serve as a model for other churches under attack.

[Update - 8:00 p.m. GMT]

A Holy Innocents parishioner sends us the following special report with images of this special Sunday:

The Solemn Te Deum was sung Sunday afternoon at the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan as the church bells rang out over the Garment District.

The cause of our joy? The announcement by the Archdiocese of New York that the church would not close, nor would it be merged with any of its neighbors. Fr. George W. Rutler, the parish administrator, conveyed the decision to the faithful after the 10:30 a.m. traditional Latin Mass. The announcement was greeted with shouts of joy, tears, and—a true rarity in our parish—applause.

Word had begun to spread earlier in the morning as the news of what parishes were closing leaked out, especially through the hard work of New York Times religion metro reporter Sharon Otterman, who had long been on the Holy Innocents beat.

How was Holy Innocents preserved? The story may never be known in its entirety. Three factors, however, are worth mentioning at this time:

1.) A sincere and prolonged campaign of prayer by the parishoners of the church and our friends around the world. This included a daily Rosary novena and other special prayers.

2.) An intensive effort to inform archdiocesan leaders, other stakeholders and the general public of the true condition and value of the spiritual treasure in their midst and of the need it served. The initial pastoral planning recommendation to close Holy Innocents not only failed to mention the Latin Mass Community, but also stated boldly that

Fr. Rutler announces to the faithful
that the Parish will not close
"Holy Innocents has served as the parish for the garment district. Since a large portion of the garment district has been outsourced, the original need no longer exists."
In fact, the Garment District is rapidly adding both jobs and residential development. It has become a center of the technology and hospitality industries and an increasingly popular place to live. The virtues of Holy Innocents as a liturgical and spiritual center for the wider community as well are by now well known to Rorate readers. Many people assumed that Holy Innocents was a shrinking and financial troubled parish, when it has in fact it has been growing and recording budget surpluses for some years.

3.) It appears that the Archdiocese scaled back their general plan of consolidation from what was presented in the preliminary recommendations. Even when churches have been closed as sites for regular Sunday celebrations the Archdiocese has stated that they have no current plans to sell the properties and that the churches may be used for special celebrations. Time will tell.

Now that the parish has been "saved" there is still incredible work to be done. Holy Innocents takes seriously its role not only as a home for the traditional Latin Mass, but as a parish church: "a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church" (Can. 515) "which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory" (Can. 518). It will continue to work to reach and care for all who dwell in its borders or who seek it out as a spiritual home.

In the meantime, the continual graces of the Liturgy continue to pour forth from Holy Innocents. Not only will the All Souls' Requiem be sung tonight, but Sung Requiems will continue every night through Thursday. This weekend, the Forty Hours' Devotion will be celebrated at Holy Innocents beginning with the 6 p.m. Mass on Friday and concluding after the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. Surely gratitude to God for his blessings upon the parish will be among the chief intentions, as well as prayers of petition that the ministry of Holy Innocents will continue to strengthen and expand. [Images by Arryz Ortanez, who is not the author of this report.]