Pope’s visit a chance to see American Catholic “treasures”


The Canadian Press has published an outline of historic Catholic locations in New York City and Washington, D.C. to provide background for Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit.

One of the most prominent Catholic buildings is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a gothic-style church near Rockefeller Center, is the central church of the Archdiocese of New York.  Its bronze doors bear the carved images of New Yorkers who have been canonized.  Its website is at http://www.saintpatrickscathedral.org/

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the successor to Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Little Italy neighborhood.  The building was completed in 1815, and old tombstones fill its nearby graveyard.  http://www.oldstpatricks.com

According to the Canadian Press, New York City’s oldest Catholic church, St. Peter’s, dates back to 1785 when there were only 200 Catholics and one priest in the city.  It is located one block from the site of the World Trade Center.

“This church was damaged by parts of the plane on 9/11, and is the church where they brought the body of Father (Mychal) Judge," said Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, according to the Canadian Press.  Father Judge was killed by falling debris while ministering to those at the World Trade Center the day of the attack.  A cross-shaped piece of debris from Ground Zero, the ruins of the destroyed World Trade Center, stand outside the church.

St. Elizabeth Bayley Seton, the first canonized saint born in the United States, converted to Catholicism at St. Peter’s in 1805.  A widow with five children, she founded both the U.S. order of the Sisters of Charity and the nation’s first parochial school.  Canonized in 1975, her former living address on State Street is now the home of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, which houses the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine.  http://www.setonshrine.com

The first American to be canonized was Frances Xavier Cabrini, an Italian immigrant whose remains are preserved at St. Frances Cabrini shrine in New York City.  Devotees visit to pray for healing and other intercessions.  As a patroness of immigrants, some ask St. Frances Cabrini for help obtaining green cards.  The shrine’s website is at http://www.mothercabrini.com/ministries/shrine-ny.asp.

Other Catholic sites include The Cloisters, an art house containing illuminated manuscripts, saints’ relics, paintings, and the famous Unicorn Tapestries.  St. Malachy’s Church, known as the “Actor’s Chapel,” has an 11 pm Saturday Mass that attracts theatergoers and cast members from Broadway shows. 

Pope Benedict will meet with Protestant and Orthodox Christian leaders at New York City’s St. Joseph’s Church, historically a German-speaking church.

The Canadian Press also noted the influential Catholics who lived in New York City, including writer Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement.  A “hospitality house” she lived in still provides services to the poor in the area.  The Catholic Worker maintains a website at http://www.catholicworker.org

Notable Catholic sites in the Washington, D.C. area include St. Clement’s Island State Park, where the first Mass in English-speaking America was celebrated in 1634.  Nearby is the Newtown parish, which dates to 1640, and the St. Ignatius Church which was built in 1798 but includes an older chapel from the 1600s.   The church has a website at www.chapelpoint.org

The city of Washington includes the Basilica Shrine of the National Conception, www.nationalshrine.com.  One of the largest churches in the world, the basilica’s chapels include different representations of Mary from cultures around the world.  It is adjacent to Catholic University of America.

The city’s Cathedral of Matthew the Apostle was the site of the funeral of assassinated president John F. Kennedy.  It is the location where the famous photograph of John Kennedy, Jr. saluting his father’s casket was taken. 

An annual Mass is held at the cathedral the Sunday before the opening session of the United States Supreme Court "to pray for the justices and others in the administration of justice," according to Archdiocese of Washington spokeswoman Susan Gibbs.  The cathedral’s website is at www.stmatthewscathedral.org.

Washington’s St. Augustine Church, founded by emancipated black Catholics 150 years ago, is known for its gospel choir.  Its website is at www.saintaugustine-dc.org/

According to the Canadian Press, Gibbs said that the Franciscan Monastery in Washington “is one of the hidden treasures of Washington and is particularly beautiful in the spring.”  It contains replicas of the shrines of the Holy Land and offers free tours.  See http://www.myfranciscan.org

Gibbs said that Catholics depicted in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection include Bl. Junipero Serra, the missionary priest in California who has been beatified; Esther Pariseau, known as Mother Joseph, a pioneer missionary in the 1800s who founded schools and hospitals in the American Northwest; and Joseph Damien de Veuster, “Father Damien,” a priest who cared for lepers in 19th century Hawaii and was later canonized.

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