Church celebrates final mass

July 5, 2009 3:54:12 PM PDT
For decades St. Augustine Church in the Bronx has been a place of great joy and sorrow. Generations have received communion here, been baptized, married and laid to rest.

But today's Sunday mass will be the last at this site. It's a hard pill for 92-year-old Janet Banks to swallow.

She's the senior member of this congregation, worshipped here since 1948.

"I'm just so emotional. It's so touching. You know, I'm seeing all these people and now I'm the mother of all these people today," Banks said.

Time has left it mark on this magnificent church. The paint is pealing, plaster falling apart, the floors sagging. So much is wrong the archdiocese has deemed the entire structure, which dates back to 1895, unsafe.

Repairs would cost roughly 5 million dollars, which is a heavy bill for the shrinking congregation. At its high point, the congregation swelled to more than 1000.

"Our hope is to take down the church and rectory and convent and put up affordable housing here and with the money from the housing put up a smaller church across the street next to the school," Rev. Thomas Fenlon said.

Until that time, the congregation will meet across the street in the gymnasium; the new windows have already arrived.

"As they say the Phoenix rises from the ashes. We have to burn down and build up and I believe go back to the roots, which is education and the church will build up mentally and physically," Yves Filius said.

A transformation also being seen in the surrounding neighborhood, which took a hard hit in the 1970's in terms of crime and poverty.

"Now that they're building a lot of houses, we're hoping folks will come back to the neighborhood," Una Lawrence said.


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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