Diocesan News

Block Party: St. Joseph’s Marks 10th Anniversary as a Co-Cathedral

Martine Michel (third from left) who lives down the street from the co-cathedral, invited her family to join her at the block party. Picture (left to right) with her are: Christina Michel, Laury Ann Michel, Claudette Michel, Array Lubin, Lillian Jean, Janelle Elome and Wilson Michel.

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — On most weekends, Martine Michel can usually be found at the lectern at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, where she has served as a lector for four years. But on Saturday, May 11, she was on the street outside the co-cathedral manning a basketball hoop.

Michel was one of several volunteers making visitors feel welcome at the block party celebrating the 10th anniversary of St. Joseph’s dedication as the co-cathedral of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which was a major elevation in status for the church.

St. Joseph Church became the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in 2013 when Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree. Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio, who was the Bishop of Brooklyn at the time, had requested the papal designation. 

On May 13, 2014, a year after the designation was made, the co-cathedral was officially dedicated and its altar was consecrated.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the dedication, Father Christopher Heanue, the rector of the co-cathedral, decided to throw a block party for parishioners and for the larger community of Prospect Heights, where the co-cathedral is located.

The block where the co-cathedral is located, Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues, was closed to vehicular traffic, open only to pedestrians, as families walked with babies in strollers and dogs on leashes.

The day was filled with fun for all ages. For kids, there were rides, games, and face painting. The front steps of the co-cathedral were turned into a stage so that the air could be pulsating with hip-hop music for a DJ, a mariachi band, and a guitarist. 

Michel was standing in front of a small basketball hoop and invited children to channel their inner LeBron James.

“This is a wonderful moment for our church, to celebrate 10 years as a co-cathedral. And it’s a wonderful moment for us, the people of the church. We’re so proud!” Michel said.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. James, located in downtown Brooklyn, is still the seat of the bishop. But the co-cathedral’s larger capacity — it seats 1,500 — means that the diocese can host large-scale Masses and other events there. For example, the co-cathedral is now the site of priestly ordinations and the chrism Mass. 

But even with its lofty status, the co-cathedral remains a parish, Father Heanue said. “When this parish was selected to be a co-cathedral, there’s a great amount of pride that comes with that. It changes the dynamic of a parish,” he explained. 

“We run a lot of diocesan events. However, I’m responsible, as the pastor, for the spiritual needs of the people who are here Monday to Friday, Saturday and Sunday — not just for the big events,” he added. 

For parishioners like Norma Rodriguez, the elevation in the church’s status was a turning point for the whole neighborhood. 

“I’ve been coming here for 30 years. Years ago, the neighborhood wasn’t so great. But it’s getting better and our church is a lot of the reason,” she said, as she sold freshly made popcorn.

St. Joseph parish is older than the Diocese of Brooklyn. It was  established as a parish by Archbishop John Hughes of New York in 1850 — three years before the Diocese of Brooklyn was created.

The original church was constructed and dedicated by Bishop John Loughlin, Brooklyn’s first bishop, in 1861. The current church building, the third church at the site, was dedicated in 1914.

Visitors to the block party had the chance to see the co-cathedral’s majestic beauty, thanks to Father Heanue, who led tours of the building.

Stephanie Vega, who married her husband Joseph in the co-cathedral and came back for the block party, said, “It’s one of the most beautiful churches in Brooklyn.”