On Tuesday, January 30, the Yonkers City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Archdiocese of New York to “find alternatives” to save the historic St. Mary’s Church.
St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church was built in 1892 by Irish immigrants, with congregations dating back to 1848. As the community grew, it established itself as a haven of worship by including services in English, Spanish, and Arabic. As the oldest church in Yonkers, it has become a historic landmark. But now, parishioners fear its closure.
The Archdiocese reported its main financial concerns are two-fold: immediate repairs and maintenance. They estimate cost of repairs to the 175-year-old building climbs upwards of $10 million. Aside from these costs, there is a vast expense for basic maintenance such as electricity.
They calculate roughly 250 parishioners attend mass on a weekly basis. Though, this attendance does not generate nearly enough funding to maintain the church. Rather than closing its doors permanently, the Archdiocese proposed a joint parish to boost parishioner attendance.
The Council’s resolution
During this week’s City Council Meeting, legislators and community members discussed possible solutions to save St. Mary’s. Through a resolution brought by City Council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy, they call on the Archdiocese of New York to “study, explore, identify and implement alternatives to closure […] of the historic St. Mary’s […] as a vibrant and valued institution in our Yonkers community.“
While church leaders are grateful for the community rallying behind saving this church, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese delivered sobering comments to News12. “Unfortunately, the strong feelings of attachment to the church expressed by so many are not reflected in attendance at Mass, which averages about 250 parishioners each week,” said the Archdiocese. “It is the responsibility of the parishioners of a parish to financially support it, and a congregation of that size is not sufficient to meet the expenses of running the parish. “
While the realities of maintaining St. Mary’s Church as-is appear bleak, the current interest and broad support the effort recently received provides hope. Through fundraising and other other outreach, members of this parish continue to seek solutions.
The great history that it represents is something that they do not want to lose.Lakisha Collins-Bellamy – City Council President