Last Mass looming for Christopher St.’s St. Veronica’s Church

St. Veronica’s Church on Christopher St. has an AIDS memorial inside of it. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The last regular Mass at St. Veronica’s Church was held Sun., June 25, the same day as the Gay Pride March. Responding to lobbying by  parishioners, however, a final Mass at the historic Catholic church will be held at noon on Sun., July 23.

In part, this church is known for responding to the AIDS crisis. A memorial with dozens of nameplates of parishioners or family members who died from AIDS is in the balcony of this beautifully maintained Christopher St. house of worship.

In its heyday, many of St. Veronica’s congregants were Irish dockworkers and their families.

“I feel that I’ll be lost,” said Nils Rios, a West St.  resident who has been attending church there for 25 years and is heartbroken it is closing. “I feel so comfortable here,” she said, shaking her head about where she might worship after July 23.

Admittedly, the numbers of its congregation have dwindled since St. Veronica’s heyday. But Cindy Boyle has been one of the faithful there since 1980, and like Rios and many other regulars, is also devastated.

Boyle explained that the church flourished with an Irish congregation when the Lower West Side’s former shipping piers were operating as a working waterfront, manned by Irish dockworkers. Back then, there were three or four Masses on Sundays. Since Boyle has been attending, she said, the numbers have stayed about the same.

A woman in a moment of prayer at St. Veronica’s.

The parish was established in 1887,  and the church built between 1890 and 1903.  The interior has been kept up — the last paint job was just four years ago. Decades ago, the parish’s school building was sold (today, it’s the Village Community School), and the mortgage, which recently was paid off, offset the church’s expenses.

Mother Teresa nuns bought the church’s rectory around the corner on Washington St. in 1985 and turned it into an AIDS hospice, which is still operating.

Located in the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension, designated in 2006, the church’s facade cannot be changed, nor can the building be torn down without approval by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Yet the church’s interior does not have landmark designation, a representative from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation explained.

There is no actual priest assigned to St. Veronica’s, which is a mission church of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard Church, at 328 W. 14th St.

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