Upper East Side church, nearly a century-old, holds final mass

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Tim Fleischer has more (WABC)

A nearly century old Catholic church on the Upper East Side held its final mass Friday afternoon.

Our Lady of Peace on East 62nd Street is one of 112 churches closing as part of a cost-cutting consolidation by the Archdiocese of New York.

There are nearly 3 million Catholics in New York, but just 12 percent attend Sunday mass, according to the Archdiocese.

They prayed this day would not come. They now prayed, during the last mass at Our Lady of Peace, for a miracle.

"God is here. His presence is felt," said the priest, Father Bartholomew Daly.

The landmark church, Father Daly said, was formed 97 years ago by new Italian and Irish immigrants.

"This place is special," he said. "This place is blessed. This place is sacred because of the prayers that have been said down through the generations."

Now, descendants struggle to understand the Archdiocese decision to shutter Our Lady of Peace.

"Why close a landmark building like this that is self-sustaining, that doesn't really cost them anything and take it away?", said parisioner Angela Giaimo.

In the still of the night before, a candlelight vigil was held. Many votives were lit and placed on the front steps. Some prayed, some stood in silence.

The melted wax, later this day, as one parishioner observed, appeared like tears.

"A lot of these people, their faith is shaken by it," said parishioner Gene O'Donnell.

Parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Mount Vernon are also seeing their 140-year old sanctuary close.

"There are so many people who need the help that this church has given," said parishioner Pamela DeMont-Sims.

They are worried too that the church's soup kitchen will also have to close.

Like other churches closing, there are close family ties to the parish.

"I was an altar boy here. My brothers were altar boys also. We knew all the priests here, the priests here were the greatest," said parishioner Todd McGowan.

Back at Our Lady of Peace, as Father Daly offered the sacrament, others are now hoping an appeal made to the Vatican will allow their church to remain open.

"They are going to give it a careful examination, and with the help of God, will make the right decision for us," said parishioner Janice Dooner Lynch.

They are not expecting to hear anything until September, so as they left the sanctuary many lingered on the sidewalk, finding comfort now in their friends and their faith.

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religioncatholic churchreligionUpper East Side
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