More about Holy Innocents in Manhattan (videos)

Many media outlets (e.g. NYT, NRO, Rod Dreher), are noticing the plight of the people of Holy Innocents Church in midtown Manhattan’s reviving Garment District.

There is now a good article at the National Catholic Register about Holy Innocents, though I strongly disagree with the first line:

NEW YORK — Every weekday, several [?] traditional Catholics in New York City gather for a 6pm Traditional Latin Mass at the Church of the Holy Innocents, a Gothic Revival structure in Manhattan’s Garment District.

“Several”?  Several dozens!  And they are of every color and shape and economic level.

Masses are celebrated every day at the ideally situated Holy Innocents Church in both the Ordinary Form and, more importantly, in the Extraordinary Form.

The attendance at the Extraordinary Form evening Mass, well-timed for people getting off work, has been steadily growing.  For Low Masses on Monday and Thursdays there is an average of 55 people.  For Sung Masses – every Wednesday – about 75.  On Fridays the number climbs to over 100.  On Saturday morning, it varies between 80-100.  On Sundays the average has been 170 and that number is climbing to around 200 these days. There are about 40 men who are in the server corps and about 20 in the choir rotation.  Lay people gather and at least one cleric on Sunday afternoons to sing Vespers (as the Second Vatican Council asked) and have Benediction.  There aren’t Sung Vespers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but there are at Holy Innocents.  More people are at Sunday Vespers than at the Novus Ordo Mass at 12:30.

I don’t usually go for the “empower” buzz word stuff, but it is the lay people who are seriously empowered here.  A liberal’s dream, right?  Lay people have, with the benign nod of the pastor, turned this place around in 5 years.

Since the now infamous sermon given by Fr. Wylie and the way Holy Innocents has been in the news, I am told that there are many new faces in the congregation.  I was told, “there are so many new faces for the coffee hour that we are running out of food extremely quickly.”  They have coffee and doughnuts after the Sunday Extraordinary Form Mass and quite a few people hang out, as is typical of the traditional Mass goers whom I have seen around these USA and abroad.

Traditional Catholics tend to form a close and warm community.  That’s also what is at stake.  These are people, not numbers.

But speaking of numbers, last year the parish exceeded the quota for the “Cardinal’s Annual Appeal”.

Holy Innocents is on 37th between Broadway and 7th, near Herald Square, not far from Penn Station, so it is ideally situated near many public transportation options.  The Garment District is experiencing a revival.  The New York Post wrote that it is becoming another Silicon Valley.  Even now, there is a steady stream of people all day long in an out of the church. People come to light candles, to pray briefly, and then go on their way. There is a thrift clothing store in the basement which is a help to low income people.  I wrote about watching people during the day HERE.

If you are in New York sometime, and go to nearby Times Square or Macy’s, stop in at Holy Innocents even if you can’t be there for Mass. Say a prayer, and then watch the people come and go.  It is amazing.

Animi caussa… just for kicks… just to give you a taste of what happens there… here are filmettes of the choir practicing one of the ethnic Christmas pieces for the concert before Midnight Mass and then the Gloria at the Holy Thursday Mass, which was done rather simplex this year, for various reasons.   And, yes, the boy was playing the organ.  Talented kid!  He also composed the Gloria!  And, yes, the music is generally that good.


I say again:

  • Do not give up.
  • Make your desires known in charity but clearly.
  • Put aside minor differences and band together.
  • Excel in works of mercy.
  • Be willing to work and sacrifice and give of time and talent and treasure.

Step up.  Don’t whine.  Think it through.  Set goals.  Make it happen.  You can do it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Glorious, Father, thank you for sharing. If I’m ever in the NY area I’ll stop by – assuming it’s still there.

  2. lsclerkin says:

    I say again:

    Do not give up.
    Make your desires known in charity but clearly.
    Put aside minor differences and band together.
    Excel in works of mercy.
    Be willing to work and sacrifice and give of time and talent and treasure.
    Step up. Don’t whine. Think it through. Set goals. Make it happen. You can do it.

    Yes, we can.
    To use and reclaim a good expression that’s been so abused these past few years.

  3. Robbie says:

    I think it’s important someone gets Cardinal Dolan on the record about this situation. And more importantly, it’s important Cardinal Dolan is put on the record as to why he thinks it would be a good idea to merge traditional Catholics into the particular parish being considred.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    Also–don’t just come to the TLM. Be a parish, be warmly committed to the parish where you attend Sunday Mass. Be a parish family together with non-TLM goers, not just a separate group of “traditionalists” within the parish. Actively foster the unity of the parish and integration of the TLM goers in the parish. In my local area, the availability of the TLM is threatened in part because the TLM attendees are seen, both by the pastor and by too many of them, as just being hosted at the parish without being rooted in it. Like an outside group. Therefore they are seen as moveable. Only a minority live within the parish territory, but at this parish that is true of non-TLM parishioners too, and everyone who comes to Sunday Mass there regularly can sign up to be on the parish mailing list, get envelopes etc, and contribute as much of time, talent and treasure within the parish as they are able.

  5. jhayes says:

    Robbie, the Cardinal hasn’t yet taken a position on Holy Innocents. He. Has just feceived the recommendation of the group charged with studying all 368 parishes, forming 75 clusters. The status of things is:

    Cardinal Dolan will review the final recommendations with the archdiocesan priest council and the archdiocesan consultors, before making final decisions. The final recommendations will be presented to the Cardinal in June, with final decisions scheduled for late August or early September.

    While admitting that some of the forthcoming recommendations and decisions will be painful, the Cardinal stressed that failure to act will only weaken the Church in New York. “Change is hard, and it can be especially difficult to let go of buildings and places we’ve become attached to, but the Church must be about people,” he stated. “Making All Things New is our attempt, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to carefully study our parishes, asking how they can be faithful to their sacred task of teaching, serving and sanctifying, according to the mind and heart of Christ.”

    Possible actions are:

    1) collaboration, where parishes in a given cluster area will be renewed and strengthened by avoiding duplication and sharing in ministries, pastoral programs and community outreach;
    2) consolidation, where several parishes will come together to form a new parish community, with the financial assets of the former parishes going to the new consolidated parish;
    3) closings, where the remaining parishioners from parishes that close will be invited to join surrounding parishes, with the financial assets being distributed equally among those surrounding parishes.
    In addition, the planning process will likely result in the expansion of existing parishes, and even the possible establishment of new parishes, to better meet the needs of the people in currently under-served areas of the Archdiocese.

    No doubt, the Cardinal will hear from groups at many parishes that are unhappy with the recommendations sent to the Cardinal regarding their parish. The question will be whether Holy Innocents can make a more convincing argument than other parishes.

  6. DisturbedMary says:

    Cardinal Dolan recently blogged that Sunday Mass is the most significant event in the life of the parish. Really? Is this not a terrific moment to ask about the inclusion of the TLM? Will anyone ask him about his thoughts on traditional Church liturgy and devotions. Does anyone really know what he thinks? Will he address the questions raised by traditional Catholics in regard to HI including is there a war on tradition being waged in the Archdiocese. I’m under the impression he will remain stubbornly quiet , approve most of the recommendations presented to him by the consultants including closing HI and selling the real estate, and claim that he was guided by the Holy Spirit. I expect an I-feel-your-pain stance of Clintonian proportions.

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    This parish and church are true gems! A shepherd who cares for souls will allow it to grow and flourish. I am glad there has been so much media attention because that surely will make it more difficult to close it down or merge with a ‘gay friendly’ parish. Yes, it would be a very unpopular move to close or merge it and that counts for something.

  8. sunnyside says:

    Please pray for cardinal Dolan. He has a tough call to make. Especially when there are at least two parishes, one run by the Franciscans and one by the Jesuits within walking distance

  9. Scott Woltze says:

    The use of “several” was an unfortunate word choice, but I doubt the author was trying to slant the coverage a certain way. He wrote a piece on my conversion back to the faith for Our Sunday Visitor, and that journey included the Traditional Latin Mass (which he just called the ‘Latin Mass’). He’s a good guy and crunched for time: family, work and free-lancing his behind off..

  10. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    “Please pray for cardinal Dolan. He has a tough call to make. Especially when there are at least two parishes, one run by the Franciscans and one by the Jesuits within walking distance”

    The question, surely, isn’t about the proximity of another parish. I sincerely hope that the Cardinal will see the index of leading Catholic indicators and ask – in a pinch – which he would rather have: two parishes not known for their fidelity to Catholic doctrine or one known for upholding the teachings of the Church both in word and deed.

  11. Gratias says:

    Elizabeth D raises once again an excellent point. If you are lucky enough to be at driving distance from an EF mass, even if you can go infrequently, please request donation envelopes. This counts as a registered family for the parish and you can get a tax deduction at the end of the year. Envelopes are essential to help the EF grow. The TLM makes a difference.

  12. Salvelinus says:

    That looks like a really cool place! I would be proud to call it “my parish”. I must say I’m a bit envious that New Yorkers have such a beautiful place to call home.

    I totally agree that we need to put aside out minor squabbles, put on big smiling, welcoming faces and get to work!

    If we don’t welcome newcomers, they might never come back with their friends or families.
    Recently, I read somewhere that a woman hassled a another woman that stopped by to see an extraordinary form mass because she was wearing blue jeans (as apposed to a long skirt, I guess?) .
    If this is even true, which is doubtful, just the idea is enough to scare a newcomer off and is welcome fodder for “anti-traditional” professional catholic bloggers. The bloggers will of course share it as “proof” that we are reactionary, legalist, pharisee, “radtrad”, frozen chosen, (name your pejorative)
    Long story short, as our local (and only) priest that celebrates the EF often tells us guys attempting a schola… “smile, help any newcomers with a hand missal if they need, smile, stay away from clique mentality, and shake the hands when new faces show up, all the while giving a big smile! ”

    Pope Benedict XVI truly gave us all a gift with Summorum pontificum. The worst thing we can do is ruin it by being snobby, or even letting someone think we might be.

  13. tioedong says:

    You might want to check in on Mrs. Gay Caswell’s blog, about a priest from Stockbridge MA who came to her isolated mission in Canada to say mass for Corpus Christi.

    Having worked with Native Americans in the USA, I know a lot of the PC Church etc. stuff she runs into is present in Minnesota and other area (but not in the Oklahoma city areas thanks to the Bishop of Tulsa).

  14. jhayes says:

    According to today’s bulletin from Holy Innocents, the four churches that make up Cluster 20 have made a counter-proposal.

    As opposed to the planning group’s proposal that three churches, including Holy Innocents, be merged into St. Francis, they have proposed that two of the three parishes remain as independent parishes and Holy Innocents be merged into St. Michael’s – none would be merged into St. Francis.

    St. Michael is Fr. Rutler’s church

    Cluster 20 is Holy Innocents, St. Michael, St. John the Baptist and St. Francis. The problem for the Archdiocese, I suppose, will be that the planning commission has recommended closing three churches while the counter-proposal closes only one.

  15. Stephen McMullen says:

    Hi. The Cardinal will have no reason to shut down any place that is supported financially by the people. As long as it is not a drain on diocesan resources it will be allowed to be. Every dollar given by the people is as good as a vote!

  16. sunnyside says:

    Not necessarily true….holy innocents is located on what may very we’ll be the most valuable parcel of land owned by any diocese in the nation…that plus the very very close proximity of other parishes is why despite good finances the church may be closed

  17. St. Epaphras says:

    Salvelinus, you are so right about being friendly to newcomers and any you don’t know at the EF Masses. Yes, traditionally-minded Catholics tend to form tight groups, but that can be a problem, too. The groups are very tight. Adherents of the old Mass and lovers of tradition need to be obviously welcoming to those who show up for the Masses or other events. Speak to them (shock!) Try to get to know them. Remember them if they do come back. Good grief, just notice they are there and that they are people, not part of the scenery. You never know what assets some of those “strangers” could be to “your group”. And it can be very awkward for some to come to a different environment; plus, some are just shy. We should act as if we care about those people who aren’t in with our group for years and years. And — some may not even be Catholics… Think about that.

  18. Mike says:

    It seems to me ironic that one of the subtexts I’m detecting in this thread is that we, many of whom have been hectored by the PC Left from our pulpits and parish councils for most of not all of our lives, are being asked to . . . listen — but in a different sense than is meant by those with political agendas (who, let it be stated, are not confined to the Left).

    Yes, to listen to our Church when She guides us in worship and work, and to listen to Her faithful priests (whom we know by their fruits). But not least to listen to those who don’t feel they’ve been listened to in a long time. The “welcoming” progressive NO parish may ofttimes be an illusion, but as others here have noted, TLM parishioners must be attuned to the still small voice of the wandering exile from liturgical abuse or from the pagan desert. To fail to offer welcome (perhaps just by being present for a few minutes after Mass) could be to lose new parishioners, and perhaps souls; and we who bolt for our cars or trains for no good reason will be held accountable at the Judgment.

    I am blessed to be able to participate in a number of TLM communities and activities. Would that any of them was in my home parish, but that doesn’t excuse me from responsibility for laying the bricks.

  19. mo7 says:

    Sunnyside: St. Patrick is also located on an extremely valuable piece of land as are many in Manhattan. I say that because that argument really doesn’t work with Manhattan properties, not because I think we should pit one church against another.

  20. my kidz mom says:

    Might we ask the intercession of Fr. Kenneth Walker, FSSP?

  21. HyacinthClare says:

    My kidz mom, I think that’s a very good idea. A person praying at one of our local abortion clinics saw a mother driving in and asked Fr. Walker to intercede, according to a report I heard this morning, and the mother stopped, turned the car around, and drove away.

  22. donato2 says:

    Above is a link to a page of the website of the parish, St. Francis of Assisi, into which Holy Innocents would be merged. It advertises, with the rainbow flag as background, a “Pre-Pride Mass.” Apparently the Gay Pride Parade takes precedence over the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. No wonder the Holy Innocents parishioners are upset.

    I was in Manhattan on a weekend several years ago and looked into where to go to Mass. I knew about Fr. Rutler and accordingly picked Holy Innocents. I remember looking at the alternatives in the area and my reaction to the St. Francis of Assisi parish was, well, not favorable. The Mass at Holy Innocents was memorably beautiful. Fr. Rutler celebrated it ad orientem and gave a remarkable homily. There was no sign of peace, I recall. (I wondered, and still wonder, if it is permitted to omit it.)

  23. Athelstan says:


    Not necessarily true….holy innocents is located on what may very we’ll be the most valuable parcel of land owned by any diocese in the nation…that plus the very very close proximity of other parishes is why despite good finances the church may be closed.

    But this is not sufficient reason to close a parish – especially a healthy one. The final determinant cannot be what solution makes the diocesan financial books look the best.

  24. @ jhayes,

    The response of Cluster 20 that you link to DOES NOT mean that the cluster recommended the closing of Holy Innocents (otherwise, it would have said so). It simply offered merging the Parish of Holy Innocents (the territorial boundaries of the parish) into St. Michael’s Church instead of into St. Francis of Assisi.

    I would imagine that no member of Cluster 20 (especially the members who belong to Holy Innocents) would have actually signed a proposal/response in which it was recommended that they shut down the entire building.

  25. DisturbedMary says:

    I can’t help but think of Cardinal Dolan when I consider the example of Mayor DeBlasio who openly tried to shut down the Central Park horse carriage trade. While DeBlasio was claiming sympathy with the poor overworked horses, the real story came out viz. his biggest campaign contributor was a real estate mogul interested in buying and developing the parcel of land used for the horse stables.

    I wonder if there is some deal in the works to sell HI to wealthy individuals who in turn will offer financial support to the work at st.patricks. I think it is well known that homosexuals are a very wealthy group compared to other groups. That could also explain why the pro-pride churches appear to be encouraged and preserved from closing.

    carriage horse stable
    Looper and

  26. Gratias says:

    Dear Cardinal Dolan,

    New York City is in a way the capital of the world. You have a wider, highly symbolic responsibility. Please keep this in mind before closing off the only daily traditional Latin Mass under your watch.

  27. Pingback: Holy Innocents and Tolerance | The American Catholic

  28. Paliakas1 says:

    I travel for work to NYC a lot. I love going to Holy Innocents after my meetings to go to mass. It is an amazing place. I wish Chicago had a daily Latin Mass in the central business district. It seems to be a vibrant parish, anyone advocating closing it is simply crusading against the Tridentine Mass.

  29. The question will be whether Holy Innocents can make a more convincing argument than other parishes.

    That shouldn’t be the question. That accepts the Archdiocese’s premise that some Churches have to close. But the Vatican through the Congregation of Clergy has given very clear instructions that a very grave reason is needed to close a Church and give it over for secular use. Wanting to sell the land and use the money for some other purpose (even if that purpose is in itself excellent) cannot be a reason for closing a Church. The parish is self-supporting and there is no very grave reason to close it.

  30. kimberley jean says:

    Holy Innocents is doomed. The land is worth a fortune. The cardinal has been annoyed by the mild protest and that will not be allowed to go unpunished. The parishioners can either be scattered to the wind, fight a hopeless battle, or try to survive at St. Francis. The options aren’t great but that’s it.

  31. The other issue here is staffing. St. Francis is safe because it is well-staffed by Franciscans. The archdiocese doesn’t have to worry about putting even one priest there. St. John the Baptist is staffed by Capuchin Franciscans. Again, not a staffing problem for the archdiocese. St. Michael and Holy Innocents are the responsibility of the archdiocese– I think that is a major reason why they were recommended for closure. Someone suggested that Holy Innocents be given to the FSSP. That actually is an idea that makes sense if the FSSP would be willing to assume responsibility for it. I’d love to know if an inquiry was even made on either side and what the FSSP would think of the idea. I went to an FSSP parish in Security-Widefield, Colorado Tuesday night and it is doing great, and the diocese of Colorado Springs is probably thrilled not to have had to close it or some other parish on account of lack of priests (the diocese is growing far faster than vocations). But perhaps this is one of those ideas that makes so much sense that no one will consider it.

    Staffing is one of those things where the chancery not only is concerned about today, but also five years or more up the road. They pretty much already know how many priests they can expect to be available up the road, and short of a miracle they know how many parishes can be sustained with the number of priests that will be available, so much of this is a matter of facing the inevitable sooner rather than later.

    I will keep Holy Innocents in my prayers.

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