Parents still hope to save St. Brigid School

St. Brigid families gathered after mass on Sunday to protest the closure of the East Village school and to strategize. (Photos by Sidney Goldberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Shell-shocked parents and students at St. Brigid, a parish-run Catholic school across from Tompkins Square Park, have been doing hail Marys in the hopes of getting the Archdiocese to rethink a decision made last week to shutter the school and four others in the city.

On Sunday, parents, local elected officials and children making homemade signs gathered for a brain storming session and protest after mass, and one parent and school volunteer, Amanda Daloisio, insisted, “We’re not going down without a fight.”

Daloisio, who lives a block away from the school, said parents, on top of being heartbroken are also furious about the way the announcement was handled.

Daloisio said the principal was the first to be told on a Friday but was instructed not to tell anyone. She did share the news with teachers at an emergency meeting the following Monday, but they too were told to stay silent. Parents were then given notices in their children’s backpacks although curiously some students were told about it by the principal before their parents. Parents received an alert on their phones to be on the lookout for the letter.

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Child Victims Act finally passes

State Senator Brad Hoylman during floor debate for the Child Victims Act (Photo by State Senate Media)

By Sabina Mollot

Amidst of a flurry of progressive bill passing and signing in the state capitol, the long-denied Child Victims Act, sponsored by State Brad Hoylman, has finally passed both houses. With Governor Andrew Cuomo having already declared his support — even getting some backlash from the Archdiocese for his newly leftist leanings — the signing of the bill seems just a formality at this point.

The legislation’s language was amended this week to make it clear that secular as well as religious institutions could be held accountable for past incidents of abuse.

Last year it was passed in the Assembly, as it was the year before, but went nowhere in what was then a GOP-led State Senate. This year, however, the bill passed unanimously in the Upper House and nearly unanimously in the Assembly. Opposition to the bill, which has been around at least 13 years, largely had to do with the one-year lookback window of opportunity for starting a claim of abuse in instances where the statute of limitations has expired. The bill will also allow survivors of child sex abuse to file a civil suit against their abusers or institutions that enabled abuse until the age of 55. Currently the age limit is 23. The lookback window will apply to survivors older than 55 as well. Additionally, those abused at a public institution will no longer be required to file a notice of claim as a condition to filing a lawsuit.

Following the bill’s passage, Hoylman admitted he was not expecting to get unanimous support from his colleagues, although he did think it would pass based on the fact that a number of freshman senators had made the CVA part of their platforms. He also credited the bill’s success to new Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins as well as the activism of sex abuse survivors.

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Cardinal Dolan visits Epiphany

Cardinal Timothy Dolan led services at Church of the Epiphany on Saturday to help celebrate the parish’s 150th anniversary. (Photos by Michael Scott Studio)

By Sabina Mollot

Cardinal Timothy Dolan heaped praise upon Church of the Epiphany on Saturday, when he led a special mass and later helped celebrate the parish’s ongoing 150th-anniversary festivities.

The church’s pastor, Reverend Austin Titus later told Town & Village that in Dolan’s remarks, he acknowledged the local church’s history of “reaching out to the neighborhood and serving them in all their pastoral needs” and also commented on the affiliated school for having educated thousands of children. Another topic, Titus recalled was “Epiphany (having) a long history of bringing people together.” What wasn’t discussed, perhaps mercifully, was politics. “He steered clear of that. We were celebrating,” Titus said.

Following the hourlong mass, which began at 4 p.m. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, remained onsite for a reception and stayed until about 7 p.m.

“It was a great event. I’m still trying to come down from the clouds,” Titus said.

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Former pastor at Epiphany Church facing child pornography charges

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Monsignor Harry J. Byrne

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, a former pastor of Epiphany Church, Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, was charged with possessing dozens of images of child pornography.

The now 96-year-old retired priest of the Catholic Church allegedly had photos of girls as young as eight on his computer performing sex acts with men or posing naked. Additionally, according to an investigation conducted by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Byrne even viewed the images in front of many other people at his retirement home, the St. John Vianney Center for Retired Priests in the Bronx.

“People at his residence were subjected to it when they entered his room,” said Clark in a written statement. “Anyone who views child pornography supports horrific child exploitation.”

The monsignor was indicted on 37 counts of possession of an obscene sexual performance by a child and 37 counts of possession of a sexual performance by a child.

The investigation began five months ago after Clark’s office got a complaint about Byrne. The investigation concluded that he allegedly sought out images of young girls (aged 8-14) by using Google and Bing.

If convicted of the top charge, Byrne could face four years in prison and have to register as a sex offender.

Byrne, who worked at Epiphany from 1982-1996, where he retired from, pled not guilty to all the charges on Tuesday. He was arraigned before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary and was released. He is due back in court on January 17.

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Send-off fit for a prince-ipal

Epiphany’s James Hayes steps down after 38 years

Epiphany principal James Hayes was surprised by a flash mob of students, parents and alumni on Friday morning. He will remain with the school by heading its fundraising arm. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Epiphany principal James Hayes was surprised by a flash mob of students, parents and alumni on Friday morning. He will remain with the school by heading its fundraising arm. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, June 17, James Hayes, the principal of the Epiphany School for the past 38 years, had intended to treat his last day on the job like any other — by standing out front and greeting the students as they came in.

But this time, when he opened the door, there was a crowd of nearly 200 people outside — students, parents, alumni and neighbors. Before he was fully aware what was going on, the flash mob of fans then broke into song, belting out “I’d Do Anything” from the Broadway show “Oliver.”

They ended with, “We’d do anything for you, Jim, anything. For you mean everything to us.”

According to a parent, assembling the surprise serenade was necessary if the school wanted to give him any kind of sendoff, since he hadn’t wanted a party.

Nonetheless, Hayes seemed to appreciate the gesture, as students and alumni from decades ago lined up for photos with him in front of the school building on East 22nd Street.

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Church of St. Stephen to close

Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen Church on East 28th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen Church on East 28th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, parishioners at Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen, a Roman Catholic church on East 28th Street, learned that the church would be closed and parish merged as part of a plan by Cardinal Timothy Dolan to close and consolidate churches throughout New York State.

The plan, which the church’s own pastor, Father Robert Robbins only learned of on Friday, is designed to save money by having churches that merge share administrative and other costs.

While no plan to sell Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen has been announced, Dolan told the New York Times on Sunday, when speaking about the planned church closures in the city and upstate, that some may be sold. This church, meanwhile, is no stranger to money-saving mergers, having already been merged twice. The first time was back in the 1980s. St. Stephen’s, established in 1848, was merged with Our Lady of the Scapular in 1980s and the original Our Lady building has since been razed. Then, in 2007, the Archdiocese of New York announced that the Church of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus, which was located at 307 East 33rd Street, would be merged into Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen Church.

Once the current Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen church closes, which is expected to happen in August of 2015, services will be moved to Murray Hill’s Church of Our Savior at 59 Park Avenue and 38th Street. Robbins has already had administrative duties there for a while, bouncing back and forth between the two churches.

While his future has yet to be decided by the Archdiocese, the current shortage of clergy may work in his favor.

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