Diocesan News

Oratorians Are New Guys On Block in B’klyn Heights

Two of the Brooklyn Oratorians, Father Anthony D. Andreassi, c.o, and Father Joel Warden, c.o., stand in front of their new home at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Brooklyn Heights on moving day.

The members of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, who have ministered in Brooklyn since 1990, have moved into a new home – Assumption rectory in Brooklyn Heights.

The religious community will continue their work of outreach to young professionals, college students and the people of the two parishes assigned to them.

The five priests and two brothers have been serving at St. Boniface, to which they will now commute from Assumption, exactly one mile away.

The Oratorians use beauty, especially sacred music, to help people unite with God and often get together for informal gatherings to strengthen community. The men live in community and take vows of obedience and chastity.

Upon entering, each man commits himself to his specific Oratory House for life, where he lives with his brothers as family. Although not unprecedented, it is uncommon for a whole Oratory House to move its dwelling.

In 2016 the Brooklyn Oratorians found themselves facing a happy, but nonetheless worrisome problem. They were outgrowing their living quarters at St. Boniface. The six had become seven and space was getting tight.

The diocese was facing two entirely unrelated problems. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary needed a pastor and students from St. Francis College and St. Joseph’s College needed dorms.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio asked the Oratorians to take Assumption parish under their spiritual guidance and move into the rectory. This way Assumption would have the leadership of a religious community and the diocese could work with the two colleges to build housing for students at the old St. Boniface rectory.

Father Anthony D. Andreassi, c.o., said the proposal helped solve worries for the Oratory and the Diocese and so the two entered a 24-year ministerial agreement approved by the Vatican.

The Oratorians began renovation at Assumption rectory in January of this year using parish funds and dollars acquired by Oratorian fundraising. The construction work is now complete enough that all seven men were able to move into their new home.

Assumption rectory was built in 1909 after construction of the Manhattan Bridge dislocated it from its original home. It was designed for the three priests that were shepherding the community at the time. Although the building stood strong for more than 100 years, some work had to be done for the Oratorians to be able to move in. The building still had its original plumbing and electricity. Some of the bathrooms were original and the roof was leaking. Some work also had to be done to accommodate more people.

Assumption rectory now has space for nine permanent residents and two small guest bedrooms. The three-story building has a kitchen, dining room, living room, den, finished basement and chapel. The altar in the chapel is taken from an old convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Looking ahead, the Oratorians have also installed an elevator in case one or more of them needs a wheelchair.

Father Andreassi said it is difficult to leave the only home the Brooklyn Oratorians have known because of all the memories. But, he said, the future is more important.

“It’s for the greater mission of the Church,” he said.

He also said he has come to see the many positives of their new space. It is a bit more quiet in Brooklyn Heights than in Downtown Brooklyn, but it is still close to the people of the community.

Father Andreassi also said it is exciting to start something new. He has even bought himself a new mattress for the occasion. His old one was 14-years-old.

“It’s nice to have a fresh start,” he said.