On July 23, 2017, the last mass was held at the Church of St. Veronica (149 Christopher Street, between Greenwich and Washington Streets). The church was built in the 1890s and completed in 1903 by Irish longshoremen and platform workers who labored on the nearby docks. The Gothic Revival church was built with an unusual oval shape to maximize space for up to 6,500 parishioners in its heyday (the church’s exterior is landmarked.) The church rectory has housed the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa’s order of nuns. Wearing the distinctive habit, one of the nuns is playing the organ. The church is now closed.
The AIDS Memorial was established at the church in 1991. Along the base of the first balcony are hundreds of small plaques bearing the names of those who died. At a time when many churches were insensitive to those who died of AIDS, Father Kenneth Smith, who pastored St. Veronica’s from 1990 to 2001 and is now a retired Monsignor, opened the church to interfaith services for, as he put it, “Protestants, Jews, and those without religion [for whom] we might say prayer before carrying the ashes to the river.”
There is an effort underway to save the church both as a place of worship and a concert hall in the hopes of creating a multipurpose spiritual space to further enrich community life. Text and photo by Melinda Holm.