Sunday, 26 October 2014

About the Church of Our Lady of the Scapular of Mount Carmel

The church of Our Lady of the Scapular and St Stephen, Manhattan

The Church of Our Lady of the Scapular of Mount Carmel was a former Roman Catholic parish church that was demolished. The church was located at 341 East 28th Street between First and Second Avenues in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The parish was established in 1889. The building is believed to have been erected that year, designed in the Country Gothic style. It was previously staffed by the Carmelite Fathers and was the original location of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which had been established in 1941 and was moved to Middletown, New York.

The parish was merged with that of the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr in the 1980s, with the newly combined parish named Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen. The sanctuary at 341 West 28th Street was torn down. In January 2007, it was announced by the Archdiocese of New York that the Church of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus, located at 307 East 33rd Street, was to be merged into Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen Church.

An article online posted in April 2011 by Bill Bence provides further information about the history of the church and of the Carmelite order of priests known as the White Friars:
Our Lady holding the infant Jesus
and in her right hand, the scapular

'   The April 15, 1946 New York Times noted the 57th anniversary of the Carmelite priests in New York. Known as the White Friars, the order was best known for ministering to patients at Bellevue Hospital, which lay in their East Side parish. The order had ten priests in Manhattan then, who lived in a priory at East 28th Street. While their actual anniversary was this week, it would be celebrated with a fundraiser featuring Irish folklore and music at the Manhattan Center on May 3. Mayor O'Dwyer was the honorary chairman.

The Irish order of the Carmelites came to the city in 1889. According to a story that appeared in The Times in 2007, the New York archdiocese had invited the Carmelites to the city at least in part to help quiet an uproar among Irish working class immigrants after a popular priest, Dr. Edward McGlynn, was excommunicated. He had been admonished for openly supporting Henry George, the Socialist candidate for mayor, and then excommunicated for failing to obey Vatican orders. He would later be reinstated to the priesthood.

McGlynn was well-known in the city in the decades after the Civil War for his charitable work, his large and prosperous congregation and, at a time of religious hostilities, for his cordial relationships with the city's Protestant clergy. His church, St. Stephen's, a Romanesque Revival edifice on 29th Street near Lexington, had been designed by James Renwick Jr., architect of St. Patrick's Cathedral and was in the mid-19th century, before the cathedral was opened, the most prominent Catholic church in Manhattan with a mostly Irish congregation that included both affluent and working class members.

The Carmelites held their first mass in a tobacco factory near 28th Street and First Avenue but soon were given a church in the Country Gothic style, Our Lady of the Scapular, at 338 East 28th Street between First and Second Avenue, not far from St. Stephen's. The Carmelite parish ran from 24th to 32nd Streets and from Second Avenue to the East River, while St. Stephen's retained the more prosperous neighbourhood to the west. Second Avenue long was the dividing line between the working and middle class on the East Side of Manhattan. According to The Times, in 1946 Our Lady of the Scapular was one of the smallest and poorest parishes in the city but it also encompassed Bellevue Hospital, which became the order's primary mission. Our Lady of the Scapular was also the only Carmelite church in Manhattan.
The men who built New York: a famous shot of Irish
construction workers taken in Manhattan in the 1930s.
The Times story in 2007 noted the active role the Carmelites in New York took in sheltering Irish revolutionaries, including Eamon de Valera, early in the 20th century. They also stored a cache of submachine guns in the priory. The weapons, wrapped in burlap bags, were seized by federal authorities after being smuggled to a steamship in Hoboken in 1921 for shipment to Ireland.

Our Lady of the Scapular was torn down in the 1980s when the parish was merged with St. Stephen's. The Carmelites were put in charge of the merged parish. In 2007, Cardinal Egan evicted them from their church and priory, which meant the loss of their chaplaincy at Bellevue. It was not an entirely amicable parting  At the same time, the Archdiocese also closed the nearby Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary church on East 33rd Street, merging it with St. Stephen's, maintaining a chapel at the 33rd Street site. Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary had been established in 1915 to minister to the largely Italian neighbourhood above 32nd Street on the East Side.

Two of the five Carmelites who lived at the 28th Street priory were reassigned in 2007 to St. John the Martyr parish on East 72nd Street. That congregation had moved into a former Presbyterian church in 1904 and served a predominantly Bohemian congregation until the post-war period. In 1946, this neighbourhood still was mostly tenement buildings and part of the ethnic melange of Yorkville.   '

In his comprehensive history of the Carmelite community in Manhattan The Carmelites, The Province of St Elias By: Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm. provides even more insight into the role of the Carmelites of Our Lady of the Scapular in sheltering Irish revolutionaries:

'   We have already seen that John Cardinal Farley allowed the New York Carmelites to make a city wide collection in 1914 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of their coming to New York. He did this because, as he stated, the Carmelites’ parish at Our Lady of the Scapular had the trappings of an Irish national parish.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was an Irish attempt to overthrow British rule. Shortly afterwards, Denis O’Connor was in Ireland for his holidays and the Irish Provincial Chapter. What he saw of British revenge for the Rising, the scarcity of food and the punishment of the people changed him. Though there is no proof of this, I feel that all this caused him to become, while in Ireland, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood whose counterpart was the Clan na Gael in the United States. This was a secret and clandestine organization whose members were totally devoted to attaining the freedom of Ireland. Certainly, from 1916 onwards, O’Connor’s actions were indicative of such membership.

When Ireland was under the British Crown, the Carmelites were anti-royalists; at the time of the treaty, they were anti treaty; in the Commonwealth era, they were for independence; once the republic was established, they were for the union of all Ireland, north and south. By attributing these positions to the Carmelites, it means that these were the stance of those in charge. The superiors had the opportunity to be free to speak to various groups and to present their position. Since many times, it was the only one presented, it was taken as the Carmelite position.

The last stand at the Post Office in Dublin during the 1916 Rising
During the 1916 Easter Rising, Robert Albert Metcalf was the unofficial chaplain for the rebels holed up in Jacobs Biscuit factory and Louis McCabe assisted him in this ministry. Denis O’Connor, McCabe, Metcalf and Peter Elias Magennis, all spoke to Irish groups in New York City of what they had seen or learned from their time in Ireland.

When Donal O’Callaghan was a graduate student, he planned to do his thesis on the Carmelite involvement in the Irish Freedom Movement. He prepared a series of questions, which in the 1940's, he asked of the older Irish born Carmelites. As a result, he was able to say that Peter Elias Magennis was a member of the Clan na Gael and that the Carmelite, Hugh Devlin, carried messages to the United States for the Clan. Magennis and Christopher Slattery also were couriers for the Republicans. During World War I, the 28th Street priory’s phones were tapped by the federal government and Magennis was under government surveillance. 

During the period of Denis O’Connor’s pastorate, 1916-1924, the Irish activity at the Carmelite parish was at its height. O’Connor and Peter Elias Magennis were very close friends. They had originally met at the Carmelites’ Dublin school, Terenure College, and had served together in Australia. O’Connor encouraged Irish activities in the parish by making his school auditorium available to any and all Irish groups requesting its use. In the school children’s curriculum were Irish music and dance as well as Irish history and culture. The same classes were available after school hours for adults. 

In his years at the 28th Street parish, Gerard O’Farrell regretted that his work in the parish and Bellevue Hospital prevented him from doing more for the Irish cause. His interest was Irish literature, music and art. He gave a number of lectures in these areas and authored a small book on Patrick Pearse, the first president of the Irish Republic.
De Valera - fellow student of Rev.
Lawrence Flanagan

Lawrence D. Flanagan was stationed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown and its mission parishes until he came to the Manhattan parish in 1924. He was a tall man of serious mien whose role among the Irish was that of a trusted advisor. Besides his birth in Westmeath, Ireland, his connection to the Irish Freedom Movement was rooted in his long and close friendship with Eamon De Valera, his fellow student at Dublin’s Blackrock College.

The Carmelite priory was open to Irish Republicans. One example of this hospitality was Liam Mellows. He had participated in the Easter Rising and had escaped to the United States in 1916. He stayed for periods of time at the Carmelite Priory and taught Irish music and dance in the parish school. When he contracted the flu, he recuperated at Saint Albert’s in Middletown where he also spent some vacation time. He had returned to Ireland in 1920 and was captured among the anti treatyites at the Four Courts in 1922.

Imprisoned at Kilmainham, he was executed on December 8, 1922 by the Cosgrave government in retaliation for the killing of a Free State officer. Peter Elias Magennis tried to see him before his death, but was denied. Afterwards, he spoke out strongly against this injustice meted out to his friend. 
Liam Mellows, an Irish republican leader who
took shelter with the Carmelites at Manhattan

Sean T. O’Kelly, later the president of Ireland, told of how he had come to America in September, 1924, to represent the Republican Party and how he was warmly received at the Carmelite Priory. Harry Boland stayed there a number of times and recovered for two weeks at the priory when he contracted the flu. When Eamon De Valera escaped from prison in England in 1919, he came secretly to the United States and stayed at the priory. It was from the priory that he came for his first appearance in the United States on June 23, 1919 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

The Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF), an organization aimed at the support of the Irish cause, began in June, 1916. From the very beginning, Carmelites spoke to the different Branches established throughout the city. Surprisingly, it was not until June, 1917 that a Branch was begun at the Carmelite parish. The Carmelite Branch grew to be the largest and the most active of any of the New York Branches because it concentrated on Irish cultural and intellectual aspects as well as entertainment.
When a split developed between Eamon De Valera and both Judge Daniel F. Cohalan and John Devoy, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) was begun and wholeheartedly supported by the Carmelite parish. Their Republicanism and support of De Valera prompted them to do this. Denis O’Connor   became an officer of the AARIR in New York State.
The Irish Progressive League was formed as a result of New York City’s harassment of the street preachers whose main message was to stay out of World War I and not support England in this venture. Some enemies described it in these words, “This league was a radical organization with some distinctly dubious members.” When the Cohalan faction gained control of the FOIF, the Irish Progressive League was expelled from “associate society membership.” Liam Mellows was an active member but John Devoy would not support the group. Patrick McCartan, who was present at many of the groups’ gatherings, openly stated that the Carmelites were behind the League’s activities. He told how Magennis was usually the chairman of the police supervised meetings of the League. At a January, 1919 meeting, Norman Thomas, the perennial socialist candidate for president, was the main speaker.

Harry Boland was the senior IRA emissary sent to the United States in June 1919.He was an elected member of Dail Eireann, a clever politician and close friend of IRA Director of Intelligence Michael Collins.
There is a reference in Boland’s correspondence dated 20th July 1920 when he was arms hunting in the US to having secured “quotations from G” which is thought to refer to George Gordon Rorke, Auto-Ordnance salesman who was later indicted one year later. Boland stayed at the Carmelite Priory on a number of occasions.

The Irish Progressive League sponsored a rally at Madison Square Garden to protest the British conscription of the Irish because they would then be forced to fight for England, their oppressor who deprived them of their human rights. Before the rally took place on May 4, 1918, Mrs. William Jay and others tried to stop the gathering. She was unsuccessful. Peter Elias Magennis presided and among others spoke harshly and critically of England and her efforts to drag the United States into the war. The next day protests were made to John Cardinal Farley for Magennis’ role. After a drawn out exchange of letters, the result was that Magennis was prohibited from presiding at such events in the future. The Irish rushed to his defence and to the condemnation of Farley.

On the 18th of that same month, Magennis was elected the national president of the Friends of Irish Freedom at the Second Irish Race Convention. During his term of office, he used the network of clergy he had created through his parish missions to found new Branches and attached them to parishes and increased the group’s membership. At the Third Irish Race Convention in February, 1919, Magennis was re-elected president but had to resign when he was elected the Carmelites’ prior  general later that year.

The election of Magennis as general furnished him the opportunity to serve the Irish Freedom Movement in another role. Sean T. O’Kelly had resigned his post in Paris as the representative of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic and came to Rome for a vacation. While there he was pressed into service because it was rumored that the Vatican was about to condemn the warfare tactics of the Republicans during the Irish Civil War. Peter Elias Magennis and John Hagen, rector of the Irish College, prepared O’Kelly for his presentation to Pope Benedict XV. These efforts were successful as the condemnation was never issued.

It is no wonder that Eamon De Valera referred to the Carmelites’ Manhattan parish of Our Lady of the Scapular as that “Cradle in America of Irish Independence.”

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