By Marianna Reilly
November 10, 2011 — If you have ever paid a visit to St. Cecilia’s Parish in East Harlem, you know that it is not your typical national landmark. Far from being merely architecturally astounding, it is one of the most beautiful examples of Catholic service in our community. For more than a century, the parish has been dedicated to helping our neighbors in need in New York.
Originally the church of the Irish community in New York when it was established in 1883, St. Cecilia currently ministers to a diverse parish community from all parts of the world, including Italy, Jamaica, Philippines, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Africa, Germany and Ireland.
Parish community services include a food pantry, Narcotics Anonymous, Justicia en el Barrio, HIV Momentum Project, and more. The Parish Service Center, established in 1972 and funded by Catholic Charities New York, provides counseling, responds to health problems, and assists with family crises. At this service-driven church, the needs of the people of East Harlem are handled with compassion and respect.
A Day Nursery, which cares for the children of working mothers, is still run by the Sisters of Atonement, who first established the program at St. Cecilia’s in 1927, and a summer program, operated in partnership with Catholic Charities and the East Harlem Community Corporation, provides recreational, cultural and religious enrichment opportunities for local youth.
Recently, Catholic Charities was awarded $10,000 by the RealNetworks Foundation to support services at St. Cecilia’s, specifically emergency food and emergency relief services.
Fathers Stevens, Holland, Smith and Brinkmann serve as the current chaplains of nearby Mt. Sinai Hospital, Fifth Avenue Hospital and The Flower Free Surgical Hospital.
Members of the St. Cecilia’s parish community, together with those from Our Lady Queen of Angels, under Father Raymond Hand, O.F.M., Cap., also sponsor a narcotics treatment center called “Enter.” The program offers a soup kitchen, beds, a detoxification program and therapy to all who come for help. Constant clothing and food drives run through both parishes help support of this vast undertaking.
Are you a member of St. Cecilia’s parish and volunteer in one of their ministries? Share your experience with us.
Tell us: Which parish in the New York Archdiocese should we highlight next?