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Limerick priest bids to save famous New York church

By Sean Ryan - 01 August, 2015

112 parishes in the Archdiocese of New York to be merged with a neighbouring parish due to declining finances and falling church attendances.

Fr Bartholomew Daly

Fr Bartholomew Daly

A Limerick-born priest is leading a campaign to save a New York church which is scheduled to close this month.

Fr Bartholomew Daly has made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic for his efforts in trying to save the Church of Our Lady of Peace in New York’s Manhattan district.

The historic church is one of 112 parishes run by the Archdiocese of New York which is to be merged with a neighbouring parish due to declining finances and falling church attendances.

The move to close the church comes on foot of a review in 2011 when the Archdiocese of New York initiated its restructuring effort entitled ‘Making All Things New’.

Now four years later, when the decision was announced to close more than 30 churches and merge more than 100 parishes, including the financially robust Our Lady of Peace, many of its parishioners claim that rather than having their needs served they are being sold out.

An online petition also saw nearly 3,000 signatures from the community pledging their support for the Church.

Speaking this week Fr Daly said, “The prospect of losing a church as vibrant as this one has been very hard on everyone.”

While he accepts the Archbishop’s decision, his community on the Upper East Side, five blocks from Central Park, has vowed to fight to the end to keep the church open.

The historic church was founded in 1918 by a group of Irish and Italian immigrants. The church’s ceiling contains famous Italian-style paintings and Venetian glass chandeliers imported from Italy during World War I.

The planned closure of the church was reported in The New York Times last January, and the community has since rallied around Fr Daly for over a year since it was first mooted.

He said at that time ”We dread any kind of change, but maybe God has something marvellous for us, something we cannot see now. God is a God of surprises, and he gives us what we don’t always expect”.

Fr Bartholomew Daly was born in Limerick. He studied in Ireland, the Netherlands and England. He was ordained a priest at St Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, London, on 8 July 1962.

After his ordination he was appointed to the United States, to the Mill Hill Fathers Headquarters in Albany, New York.

In 1965, he was appointed to Kenya, to the Diocese of Kisumu, where he worked in Misikhu Mission and later in Kaplong Mission.

After 5 years in Kenya, he was reassigned to the United States, this time to the Bronx. There, with the help of several Irish groups, he was engaged in raising money for the missions.

After 14 years in administrative work he became pastor of St Francis Xavier parish in the Bronx in 1988.

When the Mill Hill Fathers withdrew from St Francis Xavier, he was briefly assigned to St Mary’s parish in Poughkeepsie.

In July 1992, he was appointed Administrator of Our Lady of Peace parish. At the same time he was appointed Co-Vicar for Religious in the Archdiocese of New York. He worked in that office for 17 years.

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