Slideshow: Last Mass at Mary Help of Christians Church

Photos: Alberto Reyes

Parishioners at Mary Help of Christians celebrated mass there for the last time yesterday, many weeping over the closure of a church that some had been attending for nearly 60 years.

“It was Kleenex heaven. Everybody was crying,” Margaret Hearn, a parishioner, told The Local. About 200 people packed into the church, which is being sold by the Archdiocese. “People who had been going there for years came, people who got married there and came back with their adult children, and others who were sorry to hear of its closing. The church was packed.”

Janet Bonica, another parishioner, said, “It was like attending a funeral and being happy to see family and old friends, but then being devastated by the loss.”

The mass, which is normally offered in Spanish, was bilingual for the special but sad occasion. “Beams of sunlight were streaming down on the statue of Mary Help of Christians and on the altar. It was breathtaking,” said Ms. Hearn. At the end of the mass, each parishioner was invited to take home one of the roses scattered around the church.

Ms. Bonica, who attended the Mary Help of Christians school and graduated in 1967, sat with two of her classmates. A former first grade teacher, Sister Domenica DiPeri, who later served as principal, was also there. “I kept looking around and trying to wrap my mind around the idea that this beautiful church would be demolished,” said Ms. Bonica. “For what purpose? For another condominium? For another NYU dorm? For another CVS or Rite Aid? For another bank?”

Relics from the church will be moved to Immaculate Conception this week.

“There was just a flood of memories of times gone by,” said Ms. Bonica. “No one can understand what we had. If they could, they never would have closed this church.”