Where Have All the Convents Gone?
This is the second in a series on how former convents are being used in Brooklyn and Queens.
One parish in Flushing has the wealth of two convent buildings.
St. Mary’s Nativity and St. Ann combined to form one parish in 2012. The merger not only left the parish with two worship sites, but also with two convent buildings.
One is leased, the other fills its original purpose of housing nuns.
The St. Mary’s Nativity convent is leased to Global Leadership Foundation, that uses the facility to provide dorms for adult Korean students, providing the parish with needed revenue.
Father Edward Kachurka, pastor, said it is crucial for the parish to think of not only its current well-being, but also its future. He said the lease at St. Mary’s allows the possibility of bringing nuns back into the parish or using the building for other purposes as future demographic changes may dictate.
“It’s an open situation where we see where time and the Lord takes us,” he said.
He said that it would be a mistake to sell the building and lose possibilities in the future.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.
So for now, he is holding it for future generations by renting it out.
What brings him great joy, he said, is that the parish is still able to offer a home for the Sisters of St. Joseph at the St. Ann convent.
“It shows that the Church is still alive,” he said.
Although the Sisters no longer have a specific task at the parish, such as educating children as they have in the past, they provide strong support for the parish with prayer and presence. They bring Holy Communion to the sick and make themselves available and present to the parishioners. Some of the Sisters work at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, and The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates, and some are fully retired.
Among the Sisters at St. Ann was Sister Geraldine Cregg, C.S.J., who died earlier this year. She had been a staple figure in Flushing, having been there for nearly 50 years, almost from when the convent was built in 1964. She taught first grade and introduced girls’ baseball to the parish. When The Tablet published a sports profile on her last year, messages and letters flowed in from former students expressing their continued gratitude and amazement. Father Kachurka said he could not go anywhere around Flushing without being asked about Sister Gerry.
Five other sisters currently live at the convent. That’s about half the number it was built for. Some Sisters spent many years living there and now have retired to other facilities. The convent also was home to visiting sisters from around the world who came to study at Queens College.
The convent has stood as a place of refuge for all who came to its doors. Grade school students used to come to the convent regularly when they found trouble or were in distress.
The convent welcomes all who need help. Aside from housing about half a dozen sisters, St. Ann Convent also provides meeting spaces for the parish in the basement. Groups come together for prayer and fellowship beneath the sisters’ home. There is a separate entrance to give the sisters privacy.