Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

A Sign of Hope in a Changing Neighborhood

At the end of the Migration Day Mass last Sunday at St. Joseph’s Church on Pacific St. in Prospect Heights, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced that he has petitioned the Vatican to name the church as a Co-Cathedral for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

In addition, he also challenged the various ethnic apostolates of Brooklyn and Queens to raise money to fund a mural of the Blessed Mother as the national patroness of each group, to be displayed in the church’s ceiling.  Depictions of the different titles of the Mary were exhibited in the church hall during the reception.

St. Joseph’s Church, which will be 100 years old this year, was built by Irish immigrants.  It is an impressive structure located in the Atlantic Terminal area of Brooklyn, only blocks from the soon-to-be-completed Barclay’s Arena, home of the Brooklyn Nets.  There are also additional high-risers planned that would bring merchants and homeowners into the neighborhood.

“We have asked the Holy See to name this a co-cathedral,” said Bishop DiMarzio.  “Because of its size, it will enable us to hold these kinds of large celebrations here.”

The exterior of the church already has undergone extensive renovations with a new roof having been installed.  All the stained glass windows were removed, cleaned and re-installed.   Modified towers have replaced the once-larger steeples that were removed in the 1970s.  And the bell that once announced the hours of the day to the neighborhood has been cleaned and returned to working order.

But there is still a lot of work to be done on the interior of the church.  Despite those projects looming in the future, the present church is still very impressive.  Visitors last weekend admired the size of the structure, the high vaulted ceiling, and the space available below the church for social gatherings.

Joe Gonzalez, an attendee at the Migration Mass who attends Our Lady of Victory Church, Bedford-Stuyvesant, was amazed at what he saw.

“It has everything a cathedral church should have,” said Gonzalez, who also pointed to the convenience of mass transit that comes into the area and the close proximity to the new arena and development.

The church already has a significant spot in diocesan history.  In 1957, it was the site of the public wake and funeral Mass for Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy.

On a personal note, the church is familiar because it was used many times by Cathedral Prep Seminary, Brooklyn, which was located only three blocks away.  There was such an overflow of students at the schools on Washington and Atlantic Aves., that the freshman class used the top floor of St. Joseph’s School as its annex and

St. Joseph’s Church for its liturgical functions.

Father Patrick Keating, CEO of Diocesan Migration Services, noted that this was the first major use of St. Joseph’s since renovations had begun there.

“This is a sign of rebirth in the diocese and as we can see from today’s liturgy the doors of this church are open to all the immigrants of Brooklyn and Queens,” said Father Keating.

As the immigrant peoples processed out of the church, many stopped to chat with Msgr. Kieran Harrington, the proud administrator of St. Joseph’s.  They spoke with optimism about a promising future for a neighborhood and a church that continues to revive itself.

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