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|2353: Our Lady
Queen of Peace, Staten Island, New York, USA
Worshipper: Acton Bell.
Our Lady Queen
of Peace, Staten Island, New York, USA.
Archdiocese of New York.
Built in the early 1920s, it is a modest, red brick building
with limestone tracery around the doors and windows, in what
is essentially an Art Deco riff on Ruskinian Gothic. The interior
has several wide, pointed arches that frame the altar, giving
the illusion of a Deco peristyle, as well as some lovely stained
glass which, according to the bulletin, was recently restored.
The bulletin depicts them as being quite an active parish, with
13 masses a week, including five on Sunday. They sponsor chapters
of the Holy Name Society, Fathers Club, and Catholic Youth Organization,
as well as sports clubs and a Zumba class.
Staten Island is often called the forgotten borough, as it is
the least populous and most suburban in character of the five
boroughs that make up New York City. The church is located in
the New Dorp neighborhood, which is largely Italian-American.
The VH1 reality TV series Mob Wives is set here and
it is home to many mansions, including the so-called "White
House" built by Gambino crime-family boss Paul Castellano, modeled
on its namesake in Washington, DC.
The Revd Patrick McCarthy, parochial vicar, was the celebrant.
He was assisted by an acolyte.
The date & time:
March 4, 2012, 12.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About 60 to start, but it swelled to about 133 at the eucharist,
then quickly cleared out immediately after communion, with just
a third of the congregation remaining for the benediction. I'm
pretty confident that a significant number timed it so as to
arrive precisely at communion, and left directly after receiving.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, and I'm not sure they get many visitors, since we garnered
Was your pew comfortable?
No, not particularly. It was a pew with an open back. I always
feel with that style as though my caboose is sticking out into
the pew behind me.
How would you describe the pre-service
Pretty bustling, with people chatting and catching up, a liveliness
in stark contrast to the behavior of the congregation during
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Welcome to Our Lady Queen of Peace. The officiant today is
Father Patrick McCarthy. In place of the homily today Father
Pancrose [the Revd Pancrose Kalist, pastor] will introduce the
Stewardship Appeal from the Archdiocese."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, tambourine, and a choir of perhaps five or six in the
loft behind us. One contralto was a standout, with a horrible
sense of pitch. The way she sang off-key, especially toward
the end of each verse, was both loud and painful.
Did anything distract you?
I found myself going cross-eyed from the sheer boredom of it
all, writing a mental grocery list for much of the mass. There
were also some cute kids sitting in front of us who obviously
enjoyed giving everyone around them the sign of peace.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The blandest possible version of a novus ordo mass
imaginable. No smells or bells or any real attempt to elevate
the liturgy. The congregation sat largely stone-faced throughout
– barely audible when saying the prayers, not bothering
to sing, and passing a lukewarm peace. The hymns and mass setting
were abysmal ones of the "singing nun" variety. In
an attempt at getting jiggy with it, they broke out the tambourine
for the recessional hymn, but even that was played off-beat,
and I don't think they were aiming for syncopation.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
Instead of a sermon there was a video presentation from the
Archdiocese narrated by the newly minted Cardinal Dolan, asking
for contributions. Cardinal Dolan's famous backslapping bonhomie
seemed wildly at odds with a video designed so blatantly to
give big, emotional, yanks to the proverbial heartstrings, peppered
as it was with images of disabled children learning the Rosary
and nuns protesting abortion clinics.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The video was an appeal for money to fund Archdiocesan programs,
such as anti-abortion protests, natural family planning classes,
preparation for marriage courses, and Sunday school for disabled
children. At first, I didn't quite understand why the video
had to replace the homily. Couldn't it have played before or
after mass? But it twigged later why they did it this way. It
appeared that most folks came just for communion and left before
it was over, so other than at the homily, there was no other
place for it, if you wanted it seen. All in all, I felt more
than a little cheated.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Nothing really. It was as boring, lifeless and tedious a service as any I've ever attended. Pretty confident everyone there was strictly fulfilling a Sunday obligation.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
What the Archdiocese chose to emphasize in the video seemed a bit odd. Other than the disabled children at the beginning, the video was overwhelmingly weighted to highlight programs that police parishioners' unsanctioned sexy-time. Is that now the thrust of its charitable work? Really?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. The mad dash to the exits started right after communion,
so other than eliciting some stares, we made our way out.
How would you describe the after-service
There wasn't one, but one parishioner had set up a table selling
religious and devotional items, and many, including us, stopped
to browse on the way out. I dined at a nearby luncheonette before
the ferry ride back to Manhattan.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – I don't live on Staten Island, so this is not a realistic
option. However, if I did, I would be very glad to know that
the Staten Island Ferry isn't far and runs regularly, providing
me access to many other churches elsewhere.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
This was that rare service where I felt absolutely nothing at
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The marvelous lunch afterwards, which more than made up for the dismal service.
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