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June 18, 2002

Chu-Bu vs. Sheemish
Posted by Teresa at 11:04 PM *

I meant to blog this story a while back, but lost track of it in my queue. It’s from the New York Times, about the problems at the church of St. Cecelia (RC) in Harlem. This is such a NYC story: They’re running out of wall space at the church because the different ethnic elements in their congregation all want to have their own favorite icons displayed:

It all started in the mid-1990’s, when Mexican parishioners staked out a corner for a shrine to their patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Soon, black parishioners took another corner of the church to install a shrine for St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian-Dominican ascetic who tended to the sick and unfortunate in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now, Puerto Rican and Ecuadorean devotees are lobbying for space for their own patronesses97the Virgin of Providence for Puerto Ricans, the Virgin of Cisne for Ecuadoreans.

The Rev. Francis Skelly, St. Cecilia’s pastor, can hardly keep up with so much devotion.

Last January, the priest said, he returned from a vacation to find a statue of a regal-looking baby Jesus on top of a side altar. He suspected the church’s small but powerful Filipino contingent97the Filipinos sing in the choir97so the statue of baby Jesus, with its crown, golden outfit, and wavy long wig, remains where it miraculously appeared, while the baffled priest decides how to deal with it.

“I don’t see him,” Father Skelly said, deadpanning. “I don’t want to get into it.”

Of course they want their own icons; people always do. It’s the same reason the Diocese of Brooklyn contains 217 parishes in 179 square miles. It’s probably the same reason there were so many temples in Dura-Europos.
Comments on Chu-Bu vs. Sheemish:
#1 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2002, 10:38 AM:

In the 19th century Brooklyn was known as "the City of Churches".

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2002, 11:25 AM:

"City of homes and churches," and it's still called that:

There's even a reference to it in =The Music Man=.

Someone once told me there's an intersection in my neighborhood that has a church on each corner, but if there is I can't think of where it must be. Three churches within a block of one intersection (that is, along the block-long arms of the cross formed by one intersection) is easy. I can think of two of those right off the top of my head, so there must be more.

#3 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2002, 10:39 PM:

I love the web:

"You mean you live in this town?"
"Yeah, I like it, too. I mean it's not Brooklyn, New York. It's not the City of Homes and Churches and --"
"Brooklyn? Marce, this isn't even Dubuque!"

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2002, 11:24 PM:

Yup, that's the one!

#5 ::: Prentiss Riddle ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2002, 04:26 PM:

If you want a cautionary tale on this topic, consider the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This is not a new problem, even by the standards of Jerusalem -- see my comment here.

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