Saturday, April 9, 2016

Photo of the Day: St. Veronica’s Roman Catholic Church, Christopher St., NYC

Even amid so much else competing for your attention around Christopher Street, St. Veronica’s Roman Catholic Church imposes itself. So much of it, at least when I walked by in mid-January on the way to photograph the Hudson River waterfront a couple of blocks away, was the bright red of this neo-Gothic limestone-and-brick building designed by John J. Deery. 

As I learned a bit about the church's history, that red has come to represent for me the color of Christ, there to represent all, from whatever walk of life, very much including the marginalized, in this spiritual home.

Originally, St. Veronica’s was one of five churches carved from the original parish of St. Joseph’s in Greenwich Village. When it was completed in 1903, it served a poor waterfront neighborhood, primarily Irish and Irish-American. Tom Miller, in a fascinating post on the blog “Daytonian in Manhattan,” recounts how the pride of its impoverished parishioners in finally seeing it built 13 years after its cornerstone was dedicated, at a time when most churches were constructed from a year to 18 months. Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney grew up in the parish, graduating from its school in 1911.

At the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, St. Veronica’s rectory was remodeled to provide housing for victims of the disease. Members of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity established a hospice in these quarters, caring for 15 victims at a time.  In 1993, a memorial was dedicated in the church, commemorating AIDS victims in the Village.

A decade ago, the Archdiocese of New York retitled St. Veronica’s the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You can see, from the notice of services offered in Spanish and a mural behind glass outside, that the church serves a new community—Hispanics—but still fulfills its original function as an immigrant haven.

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