GREENWICH VILLAGE — The “City That Never Sleeps” now has a new chapel for perpetual adoration — the first ever in Manhattan.
Its home is the historic St. Joseph Church at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Washington Place in Greenwich Village. The renovation brings $850,000 of designs and materials that complement the church’s ornate Greek Revival architecture.
On July 30, Cardinal Timothy Dolan consecrated the former basement below the rectory. This special Mass fulfilled his directive five years ago to create a place for adoring the Eucharist of Christ each hour of the day.
The opening comes at a critical time in New York City’s history, as the post-COVID populace witnesses rising crime, drug addiction, and people with untreated mental illnesses roaming the streets and mass transit.
“It’ll bring a sense of peace,” said Father Boniface Endorf, pastor of St. Joseph. “It’ll be a calling to people back to God — hopefully a calling to His Divine Mercy, which is the theme of this chapel.”
He said it is a “happy coincidence engineered by the Holy Spirit” that the chapel opened during the second year of the National Eucharistic Revival. In this effort, bishops, pastors, and laity pledge to reverse a trend, where only a third of U.S. Catholics believe in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
The opposite is reflected in Eucharistic adoration. It occurs when people come before the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and, in quiet prayer and reflection, worship and adore him, Father Endorf said. “They encounter Jesus Christ in a more real way,” he said. “It transforms people’s lives.”
The “perpetual” aspect is when the adoration is underway constantly, with the faithful coming in shifts. “The hope is that there’ll be at least two people here every hour of every day of the week,” the pastor said. “But we’ve got to work our way there.”
Father Endorf, a Dominican friar who has been at the helm of St. Joseph for five years, said that when Cardinal Dolan polled new pastors for a volunteer to build the new chapel, the assignment went to his church.
St. Joseph, the sixth-oldest parish in Manhattan, was founded in 1829 to serve the Greenwich Village community. Dorothy Day, a candidate for sainthood, visited the church and prayed there often prior to her conversion to Catholicism, Father Endorf said.
St. Joseph, he said, is an ideal location, in part, because Dominicans run the Catholic chaplaincy at New York University.
“We have students who love weird hours to come in and pray,” Father Endorf said, adding that Greenwich Village is one of the easiest neighborhoods to get to by train.
The renovation includes stone flooring, a raised ceiling, a rood wooden screen before the altar, and a tabernacle depicting the Divine Mercy image of Jesus, via a mosaic consistent with Greek Revival style.
A 17th-century wooden statue of the Dominican saint, Catherine of Siena, had been in the rectory but was moved into the chapel.
“We had her restored, cleaned up, and now she looks brand new,” Father Endorf said. “She works out perfectly down here because she’s motioning toward Christ in the Eucharist. When people walk through the front door, she points them in the direction of Christ.”
Jamie Jacob of the Bronx visited the new chapel on Aug. 28 and called it a beautiful space. She has participated in Eucharistic adoration since age 12, and said, “It seems to be a pretty big thing right now, which is really exciting.”
Security cameras record everything, the pastor said, to protect worshippers and the Eucharist. And visitors take comfort in the fact that the neighborhood is patrolled by officers of the NYPD’s 6th Precinct.
Precinct crime statistics show one murder so far this year, compared to two in all of 2022. That is a considerable difference from the seven murders recorded in 1990. Still, lesser crimes like petty larceny are up 8% in the precinct, year to date, this year over last. So far, that amounts to 1,393 incidents this year, as compared to 1,290 in 2022.
Longtime Greenwich Village residents say they’ve witnessed an onslaught of criminal behavior: shoplifters who brazenly grab goods from retail shelves with no care who sees them and drug dealing and using in broad daylight.
“Anyone who lives in the city can see that there’s a massive mental health and spiritual crisis,” Father Endorf said. “It has huge consequences. And it’s not good for the people themselves because no one’s intervening now to help them.”
That makes the perpetual adoration chapel, and the grace it can extend, all the more timely, he said.
“Certainly, God’s grace is very powerful,” Father Endorf said, “and it will certainly touch many lives. How that plays out is up to the Holy Spirit.”