Parish in Greenwich Village provides "a chapel that never closes for the city that never sleeps."
Yearslong plans for a perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapel in the heart of New York City have finally come to fruition – in the midst of the Eucharistic Revival spearheaded by the Catholic bishops of the United States.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Sunday dedicated the Divine Mercy Adoration Chapel at St. Joseph’s Church in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan. Already, according to the pastor of St. Joseph’s, Fr. Boniface Endorf, O.P., enough people have committed to be present and pray in the chapel for most of the daytime hours throughout the week.
Fr. Endorf announced construction of the chapel in 2020, before the U.S. bishops began to approve plans for a multi-year Eucharistic Revival program. Those plans are meant to address concerns that Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is on the decline.
It’s the only perpetual adoration chapel in Manhattan.
“People at any time can come and spend time with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” Fr. Endorf said in an interview on Monday, the first day of the chapel’s use by the public. “Our motto for this was ‘The city that never sleeps needs a chapel that never closes.’ … It will ensure that in the center of Manhattan, of New York City, there will be constant prayer, which will bring many graces to the Archdiocese of New York, the City of New York, and it’ll be transformative for many people’s lives. All the people in the neighborhood will be able to spend time with God and realize his love and mercy for them and to grow in the faith and find the graces that he wants from them.”
Perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapels have the Eucharist “on display” in a special case called a monstrance. As the name suggests, the chapels are open day and night, generally 365 days a year.
So that the Eucharistic Jesus is never left alone, chapels usually have one or more adorers signed up for one-hour time slots, reminiscent of Jesus’ request of his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Could you not stay awake with me for one hour?”
Fr. Endorf felt it was “fortuitous” that the opening took place this year.
“There’s been this great push towards the Eucharistic Revival and, as Vatican II said, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church,” he said. “So having people be able to spend time with Christ present in the Eucharist is a great way to build devotion to Christ as they encounter him through the Eucharist and adoration. It also builds a lot more of a connection to the Mass and to living the faith outside of the Mass.”
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament “plays a key role” in the lives of many Catholics, the Dominican Friar said, “and truly coming to know Jesus is not simply an abstraction but as someone present in their lives, active in their lives, calling them to greatness. And so I think it’s making the Eucharist truly real to people in their lives.”
Fr. Endorf said that interest in the chapel is “even greater” now than when the project was first announced. “For the past six months, almost every day, we’d have someone coming to the church asking, ‘When’s it gonna open? When’s it gonna open?’ … People came to the opening Mass from all over the tri-state area, and we had people coming from Cincinnati, from Rhode Island, from D.C.”
Close to 51,000 students
People who have signed up for adoration include members of the downtown parish, as well as people from other parts of New York City. Subway stations near the church, which is on the corner of Avenue of the Americas and West Washington Place, serve several lines from around the Big Apple.
In addition, St. Joseph’s is close to New York University, where Dominican Friars run the Catholic chaplaincy. The university enrolls about 51,000 students.
People who sign up to spend time in the chapel, which is separate from the church, can get in using a church-issued key card.
The chapel was formerly a 540-square-foot space used as a storage room in the building next to the church. Plans of the architect, Zeke Balan, called for a space set apart from the seating area by a traditional rood screen of carved wood. A stone altar bearing the Latin words Mysterium Fidei — the Mystery of Faith — is graced by a mosaic of Christ in the style of the Polish Divine Mercy icon.
In addition to providing security for the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, the rood screen creates a separate space for the Dominican friars, who will chant their Morning and Evening Prayer there.
The final cost of building the chapel was $850,000, funded through donations.