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Opus Dei Assumes Control of Fulton Sheen’s Landmark Parish in New York City


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 06/09/16

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From the Opus Dei website, this press release: 

The Prelature of Opus Dei has accepted Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s invitation to assume responsibility for the pastoral care and administration of Saint Agnes, the well-known parish serving the area around Grand Central Terminal. Founded in 1873, and located at 143 East 43rd Street, Saint Agnes is perhaps best known as the Church where the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen would often celebrate Mass. The original church was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1992, and the current church building was constructed on the same site and opened in 1998. Father Michael J. Barrett will serve as pastor of the parish, beginning on July 1. He will be joined by other Opus Dei priests who will offer Mass and the sacraments to the parishioners, who include, in addition to the residents of the area, those who work in the area as well as many commuters who use Grand Central as their transportation hub each day. As pastor, Father Barrett will also be responsible for the temporal administration of the parish…. …Opus Dei is an international Catholic organization – technically, a “personal prelature” – that helps people come closer to God in their work and everyday activities. St. John Paul II canonized its founder, St. Josemaria Escriva in 2002, calling him “the saint of everyday life.” Pope Francis described St. Josemaria as a “precursor of the Second Vatican Council” for placing emphasis on the universal call to holiness – the idea that holiness is not something just for priests and religious but for lay men and women as well. Opus Dei provides a variety of activities to help people in their efforts to live out their faith in their everyday lives. These activities include weekend retreats, classes in Catholic teaching and spirituality, and opportunity for spiritual direction and sacramental confession. Opus Dei is headed internationally by its prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarria, who resides in Rome. Opus Dei opened its first center in New York City in 1964, with the authorization of Cardinal Francis Spellman. Members of Opus Dei, along with others, run the Rosedale Achievement Center (for girls) and Crotona Achievement Center (for boys), two educational programs for youth in the Bronx. The national offices of Opus Dei are in Manhattan, on 34th Street and Lexington Avenue. Monsignor Thomas G. Bohlin, the U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, said, “We are grateful that the Cardinal has asked us to carry out this pastoral work, and we look forward to serving the faithful of the parish of Saint Agnes and the archdiocese of New York.” Cardinal Dolan said, “I warmly welcome the Prelature of Opus Dei as a partner in serving the people of God of this archdiocese. The parishioners of Saint Agnes, I am sure, will quickly come to know and appreciate their apostolic zeal in preaching the Gospel, and serving the religious and sacramental needs of the people entrusted to their care.”

Read more. 

More about this historic church:

Established in 1873, the parish was intended to serve Italian laborers of Grand Central Terminal and Depot.The church hosted Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen‘s radio and television broadcasts on behalf of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith for over half a century. The broadcasts, including the famous “Death of Stalin,” were some of the most important influences in reshaping mainstream twentieth-century American attitudes on Catholicism. As an important venue for media, and with its proximity to the center of New York City, the church often played hosts to rallies, such as the starting point for John Cardinal O’Connor‘s anti-abortion march from this church.

Archbishop Sheen’s connection to the church was immortalized by New York Mayor Ed Koch:

On October 7th, 1980, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, Saint Agnes Church received…“the singular honor”…which will forever become part of recorded history…East 43rd Street was proclaimed…“Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Place.” Mayor Edward L. Koch in his proclamation address said: “East 43rd had been selected, because it is the busiest pedestrian street in the world!…Thus befitting the most famous churchman of our century…And it was at Saint Agnes Church that his sermons were carried throughout the world.”

Photo: Wikipedia

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