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Disabled seniors 'put aside' after Archdiocese ends mass at Manhattan apt bldg
EXCLUSIVE: Disabled seniors 'put aside' after Archdiocese ends mass at Manhattan apartment building
BY Rich Schapiro
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, August 2, 2015, 2:30 AM
The Catholic mass celebrated every Sunday inside the Southbridge Towers in lower Manhattan was small and informal — but it was like a godsend to the Perrone sisters.
The service was started nearby 25 years ago to accommodate disabled seniors like Helen and Mollie Perrone, who could no longer make it to church.
“It was like manna from heaven,” said Helen Perrone, 89, who uses a cane to get around the apartment she shares with her sister.
But the mass at 90 Beekman St. is no more — a casualty of the Archdiocese of New York’s sweeping church reorganization.
Most parishioners whose churches have been shuttered have the luxury of attending another house of worship. Not the Perrone sisters.
They’re among some two dozen disabled seniors who are suddenly facing an agonizing prospect — that they will never get to celebrate another Mass.
“We’re being put aside,” said Mollie Perrone, 91, who needs a walker to move around. “You feel like nobody cares.”
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said the plan to discontinue the Mass was in the works long before the recent church reorganization. “A Mass in an apartment building was not appropriate,” Zwilling said. “Except for rare occasions, Masses are supposed to be celebrated in sacred spaces.”
Parishioners belonging to 31 New York churches selected for closure bade farewell to their parishes this weekend. As part of the huge restructuring, 112 out of 368 churches are being merged with a neighboring congregation.
But nearly a quarter of those who attended the Mass at the Southbridge Towers are unable to make it to church.
“It’s really sad,” said Paula Murphy, whose mother, Sadie Polizano, 85, uses a wheelchair and attended the service. “These are people who really don’t have much else to look forward to in their lives.”
The Mass was originally offered at St. Margaret’s House on Fulton St. to serve the needs of the disabled residents who couldn’t walk to St. Andrew’s Church. It was moved to the Southbridge Towers about five years ago after a construction project began at St. Margaret’s.
Pastors from St. Andrew’s presided over the Southbridge Towers Mass, which was offered at no cost to the church in a community space on the ground floor.
But last month, the archdiocese sent the church a letter saying the Southbridge Mass “must cease” by July 31. The letter goes on to encourage parishioners to join the newly formed parish of Our Lady of Victory-St. Andrew.
In a subsequent letter to the flock, Msgr. Marc Filacchione acknowledged that a “small number of parishioners” cannot make it to church.
Filacchione said officials hope to provide Eucharistic ministers to visit the sick and distribute Communion — and “perhaps even have a first Friday Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation at Southbridge.”
In the meantime, the Perrone sisters are planning to watch Mass on TV. “It’s like going to the opera or watching the opera on TV,” said Mollie Perrone, a retired investment accountant.
The Perrone sisters volunteered at their church for years. Catholic statues fill their home. And they are quick to point visitors to one of their most prized possessions — a 1960 citation written by Pope John XXIII and addressed to their mother. It hangs proudly on the wall of the hallway leading to their bedroom.
Helen Perrone, unable to walk the third of a mile to the church, lamented the closing. “I wish that I could go to church. I would go not just every Sunday. I’d probably go every day. That’s the greatest joy for people like us.”