October 6, 2005
A Parish Renewed
(What follows is a translation of the remarks in Spanish of Cardinal Egan on Sunday, Oct. 2, on the occasion of the rededication of the Church of St. Jerome in the Bronx at the conclusion of the complete restoration of the building.)
My dear friends in the Lord,
Permit me to begin with an expression of heartfelt congratulations to the clergy, religious and laity of the Parish of St. Jerome. Your splendidly renovated church is a testimony to your deep faith, your courage and your dedication to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, His Church.
The history of your parish is a history of heroes. The parish was established in 1869, when anti-Catholicism was rife throughout New York and the entire East Coast of our nation.
Nonetheless, Archbishop John McCloskey, who was later to become the first cardinal of the United States of America, appointed a priest to found a parish family in the Bronx, in the area of Canal Place and 138th Street. Thirty years after the establishment of the parish, the cornerstone was laid for this magnificent house of the Lord. At the time, one of New York City's newspapers described it as "a cathedral of wondrous beauty, a grand piece of architecture, and a beautiful work of art." Thus, within a short time, it came to be known as "The Cathedral of the Bronx."
All of this was achieved thanks to the faith and generosity of the parish community, which at the time was largely of Irish background. They were people who had come to the United States to escape poverty and religious persecution in their homeland. They suffered from discrimination of all kinds but worked hard in the lowliest of occupations and stayed close to their Church. In due course, they were accepted for what they were in this city and nation of ours-hardworking, law-abiding citizens who loved their God, their families and the land to which they had come.
In the Parish of St. Jerome, they established a school for girls under the direction of the Ursuline Sisters and a school for boys under the direction of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Their priests cared for the sick in the Hospital for Contagious Diseases and in St. Joseph's Hospital as well. They and their parish leaders assisted individuals and families that had lost their jobs and their homes in the Depression of the 1930s and 1940s, and by the 1950s they were welcoming to their parish a new wave of immigrants who were filling the tenements of Mott Haven.
All of this the People of God of St. Jerome's Parish achieved because of the commitment and enthusiasm that mark this very special parish family today. There was no challenge they could not handle, whether it was the tragedy of poorly conceived urban renewal, the plague of drugs on the streets, the flight to the suburbs of literally thousands of former parishioners and neighbors, or even the horrendous riots of the 1960s.
The Parish of St. Jerome has been the spiritual home of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Honduras, Ecuador, various African nations, and now-in largest numbers-from Mexico. For all it has sought to be a haven against discrimination, a sure source of assistance in times of suffering and need, and-above all-a focus of authentic faith in Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Church he established for all who seek to follow Him.
Today, at this moment in its long and splendid history, the Parish of St. Jerome is, of course, especially honored to be called to serve so many men, women and children from South and Central America and from Mexico and the Caribbean Islands as well. In 2003, I traveled to Mexico City, as did your pastor, for the ceremony in which Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego, the young Mexican to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531. On that occasion, I especially thanked the Lord for the gift of so many thousands of Hispanics to the Parish of St. Jerome and the Archdiocese of New York. Their presence, their devotion and their noble culture are an immense blessing for us all.
This morning, once again, I wish to congratulate the parish family of St. Jerome for a magnificently restored and renovated church and for the great example you give to the entire Archdiocese of New York as a strong, faith-filled community. I am particularly grateful to your pastor, Reverend John Grange, for his 29 years of service in this parish as a parochial vicar and, since 1982, as a warm and enthusiastic pastor. At the same time, we all thank the Lord for the priests who have served and are serving here, for the dear Ursuline Sisters, for the dedicated De La Salle Christian Brothers, and-most importantly-for the hundreds of thousands of loyal, generous parishioners who for almost a century and a half have made the Parish of St. Jerome a priceless treasure for the Archdiocese of New York and, indeed, for the entire South Bronx community.
As I celebrate Mass this morning in this year which Pope John Paul named "The Year of the Eucharist," my prayer for the Parish of St. Jerome is not at all complicated. May the People of God of this parish be drawn ever closer to the Triune God in virtue of their love for the Savior in the Eucharist. May they be a Eucharistic people who come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week to hear the Word of the Lord with joy and receive the Word Made Flesh with fervor. Thus, may they continue to be a community of believers, committed without conditions or limits to justice, compassion and genuine holiness of life.
Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York