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Statement on Our Lady of Vilnius

February 27, 2007

STATEMENT OF JOSEPH ZWILLING, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS ON THE CLOSING OF OUR LADY OF VILNIUS CHURCH

The parish of Our Lady of Vilnius was closed today.  Father Eugene Sawicki, Administrator of the parish, was informed at a meeting that the closure is effective immediately.  Although not a part of the recent Archdiocesan realignment process, the decision to close Our Lady of Vilnius was announced on January 19, 2007.

Our Lady of Vilnius, located at 32 Dominick Street across from the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, was a "national parish" founded in 1905 to serve Lithuanian Catholics then living in the New York metropolitan area.  National parishes were originally established to serve large numbers of immigrants from a particular country, for instance Germany or Italy, by providing services in their native language and preserving their cultural and religious celebrations.

Sunday and Holy Day Masses were regularly attended by six to thirty persons.  They were in English, inasmuch as the priest serving the parish for many years does not understand, read, or speak Lithuanian.  There have been virtually no weddings or funerals in the church for years.  Moreover, persons wishing to participate in Mass and parish activities in Lithuanian are informed of Lithuanian parishes in the neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn and Archdiocese of Newark. 

Monsignor Edmond Putrimas, Delegate for the Apostolate for Lithuanian Catholics living outside of Lithuania, was informed months ago of the situation of the parish and agreed that it should be closed.  Similarly, the priest who has been serving the parish for many years was informed of the decision to close the parish also months ago and did not object until recently.

Appropriate steps have been taken to secure and safeguard the church and other parish buildings.  All items of liturgical or historical value will be removed and stored for future use in other churches.