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.
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.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan with Epiphany students during a 125th anniversary event for the school (Photos by Mollie O’Mara)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, made a special appearance at Epiphany Church last weekend to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of the parish’s school.
During a mass held on Saturday night, Dolan showered praise on the school, which has been doing well financially, unlike so many other Catholic institutions in New York City, which have seen attendance and interest dwindle.
“For the last three years we have been going through the painful but necessary process of making painful decisions to close and merge schools,” Dolan said.
“As we’re getting somber news, we’re here now talking about a school that works. (Epiphany) not only works but flourishes and prospers as a light in the world. It does my heart good to come here. I needed this.”
After the mass was a reception in which Dolan spent time greeting and hugging the students, parents and parishioners that wanted to meet him, while holding a beer in his hand. He also put his red skullcap on students’ heads when posing for pictures.
“He’s a very warm and caring individual,” said Jim Hayes, who’s been the Epiphany School’s principal for more than 30 years. “He made sure that everyone who wanted to meet him got a chance to talk to him.”
He also called the service by Dolan “beautiful,” adding that it had always been part of plan to have the cardinal be part of the 125th anniversary celebration.
“It was one of the nicest liturgies we’ve had here in a number of years,” said Hayes. “The church was packed and it was a wonderful experience for everybody.”
Monsignor Leslie Ivers with Cardinal Dolan at Epiphany Church
Hayes has known the cardinal for about four years but the principal said that this is the first time the archbishop has lead mass at the church.
Following the service, parishioners and parents attending a reception expressed their appreciation for the school and for Dolan.
“He could open for Bruce Springsteen,” said Michael Gargiulo, who has been a parishioner at the church
for more than 50 years and whose now-grown children went to Epiphany School.
“He’s got a common touch; he’s relatable to people.”
Gargiulo, who moved to the neighborhood when he got married, said he and his wife had initially planned to move again to the suburbs. They never made it out of the city though and both of their kids ended up at Epiphany.
“This was the foundation to build on for a good education,” Gargiulo said. “The best aspect of this school is the involvement of parents and families with the school. That’s what makes it great.”
Ed Maher, who lives in the Lower East Side and currently has a daughter attending the school, said that he comes to Epiphany events for the sense of community.
“We don’t really have a community in our neighborhood downtown so we come up here for that,” he said.
Chris McCartin, who also currently has a child enrolled and lives farther downtown, agreed that the school offers a more small-town experience within New York.
“Coming here (to school events) reminds me of my little town on Long Island,” he said. “It’s a no-nonsense education with a lot of great people.”
Epiphany School’s principal of 35 years, Jim Hayes, at a 125th anniversary event for alumni in November (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)
By Sabina Mollot
In a day and age when many Catholic institutions, in particular churches and schools are disappearing, one has managed to not only remain financially secure but thrive, and is now celebrating its 125th anniversary.
That institution would be the Epiphany School, where enrollment recently increased by 5 percent and
Cardinal Dolan, pictured during a visit to Immaculate Conception Church in 2010, will be visiting Epiphany. (Photo by Andrew Park)
where Cardinal Timothy Dolan will help celebrate the landmark anniversary with a special mass and reception later this month.
Jim Hayes, the school’s principal of 35 years, told Town & Village that he credits the school’s continued growth to a few factors.
One is a foundation that holds frequent fundraisers for parents and alumni. Another has been a steady level of support, financially and otherwise from parents, in part possible due to the school’s lower than average tuition for a parochial school — $7,000. Then there’s the recent launch of a program for three and four-year-olds at the school’s 28th Street building, which also houses grades 4-8. Students in grades K-3 learn at the 22nd Street facility near the church. The new program, meanwhile, has attracted more students, so much so that there’s a waiting list. In total, Epiphany has around 600 students, up from 250 in 1980.
This has meant, said Hayes, that the school is financially independent from the church, other than the fact that the church owns the school’s buildings.
Previously, the school’s student population had mostly come from Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village but at this time, kids from the ST/PCV community make up only about 40 percent of the student body. A small percentage of the students come from the outer boroughs, but most are still walking distance from school, and the new program for younger kids has attracted more families from the Murray Hill, Kips Bay and Turtle Bay neighborhoods.
“There are more and more kids from the East Side up to the 40s and 50s,” said Hayes. As for those in ST/PCV, the dwindling enrollment from there has mainly to do with rising rents, a pattern school officials first noticed a decade ago. “The writing on the wall has been there for a while,” said Hayes. “Those guys are getting priced out.”
Meanwhile, being situated near Gramercy Park, the school has always had a steady stream of Gramercy students. Gramercy Park itself hasn’t changed much though all the recent development of condo buildings in Gramercy has brought more families to the area.
For them, despite the crowding and other challenges faced by local public schools, the biggest draw to Epiphany is still the religious curriculum, said Hayes.
“We haven’t given up our Catholic identity,” he said. “We teach religion every day.”
Interestingly, at this time, ten percent of the school’s students aren’t even Catholic, but are, among other faiths, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist. Those students, said Hayes, “learn about the Catholic faith as a subject the same way they’d learn about literature. We’re not trying to convert them.”
And the diversity hasn’t seemed to hurt the school’s fundraising efforts.
A recent walkathon raised over $100,000 for the school’s foundation. A 125th anniversary reception for alumni in November attracted 350 people with many tickets priced at $125. For the past few years, there’s also been a car raffle. For this revenue earner, the foundation has managed to get a Mercedes at cost and then make money through the sale of $100 raffle tickets. Last time, 700 tickets were sold. Through these and other various fundraising efforts, which include golf games and basketball games, the school’s foundation has been pulling in $750,000-$900,000 a year.
Guests, mainly alumni, pack a reception for the 125th anniversary of the school, held in November. (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)
John Link is the director of development for Epiphany’s foundation, which was launched in 1999. Since then, he said the foundation has held different types of fundraisers in the hopes of attracting supporters who are newer to Epiphany and the area and tend to give more as well as the more longterm supporters like parents and alumni who have less money but tend to give small amounts consistently. The latter group also tends to be helpful in the volunteering department, noted Link.
“They want to volunteer and they’re just very passionate individuals,” he said.
As for the money that gets raised, Hayes said Epiphany’s been able to provide educational tools for students, like iPads to do their work on as well as Smartboards in every classroom — items that are normally reserved for much pricier private schools. At Epiphany, all sixth, seventh and eighth graders get their own iPads to use, while for those in the younger grades, it’s one iPad for every two kids.
“So we’re really pushing the envelope with technology,” said Hayes.
The only challenge the school is currently facing, he said, is that more space is needed for more would-be students. For parents looking to get their kids to the top of the waiting list, it helps, said Hayes, to have some ties with the parish, or if they’re new to the area, ties to the parish where they’re from.
Epiphany kids, noted Hayes, tend to be involved in programs beyond their classes, like basketball on Saturdays or mass on Sundays.
“It’s a seven day week with basketball and mass,” he said, explaining what he feels the school’s identity has to separate it from other religious schools. “Other schools might not be so community based. Maybe they’re more transient-based. We’re like a suburban school in Manhattan.”
Epiphany students at a food drop event (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)
Anyone interested in attending the mass and reception to be attended by Cardinal Dolan, which will be held on January 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Church of the Epiphany at 375 Second Avenue and 22nd Street, should call the school’s Office of Development at (212) 473-6158. Tickets are $60. Those looking to attend the mass only with Dolan should contact the church at (212) 475-1966 ahead of time.
This will be the last of the school’s 125th anniversary events, with the main one being the alumni reception in November, held at the Yale Club. (The Church of the Epiphany this year is celebrating its 146th anniversary.)
Epiphany School first opened its doors on September 10 of 1888 by principal Sister Mary Verena Fitzpatrick. On that first day of school, there were 84 girls and 60 boys.