Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown Heights Jan. 11, a week after the parish’s old stone church was vandalized.
“It was a blessed surprise,” Nora Bianco, a longtime parishioner, told CNY after the 5:15 p.m. Mass.She was one of many attendees unaware Cardinal Dolan would be visiting the parish.
Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass after he and Msgr. Joseph Giandurco, pastor of St. Patrick’s, looked at the damage done at St. Patrick’s Stone Church where seven windows, including five stained glass windows, were broken in an act of vandalism Jan. 4.
Cardinal Dolan, in his homily, expressed gratitude to parish priests, staff members and parishioners for the good things happening at St. Patrick before addressing the damage done at the stone church, a handsome edifice popular for weddings and baptisms, as well as 9:45 a.m. Sunday liturgies.
“What seems to be more troubling folks is that it seems be part of a pattern,” the cardinal said. “We’re used to it in the city. Sadly, when you see it happen at a place like Yorktown Heights that has such a sterling reputation, friendship and amity, and religious concord and unity, and people getting along, good community spirit, it almost seems a bit more disturbing.
“So to see what they did to your beautiful old church, it almost seems purposeful that the faces of Jesus, Mary and Joseph were destroyed and disfigured.”
Cardinal Dolan added that evil people look to bring darkness to communities and target places that make a community “wholesome, ennobling and enlightening.”
“Evil people that want the darkness to reign will strike at institutions that are part of the light,” he said. “That means churches. That means synagogues. That means libraries and community centers. They want the darkness to prevail and churches want light to come in.
“So, we are under attack. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that religion, the faith, is under attack in our community.”
Cardinal Dolan concluded his homily by recalling the second reading from The Acts of the Apostles where St. Peter offered the reminder that darkness will ultimately be conquered by light.
“It’s so great to be with people who believe in this parish,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Light will have the last word. Life will have the last word. Goodness will have the last word. That’s our faith. That’s our goal. That’s why we’re here.”
St. Patrick’s Stone Church, located a quarter-mile from the current church, was one location in the Town of Yorktown vandalized on the first weekend of the New Year. Windows also were broken at Yorktown Stage, First Presbyterian Church and the John C. Hart Memorial Library. Menorahs were damaged at Veterans Field in Yorktown Heights and at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Mohegan Lake.
The illegal acts are being investigated as hate crimes because houses of worship were vandalized. A reward up to $2,500 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandal(s).
Msgr. Giandurco told CNY the windows will be restored close to the original look at the church built in 1932.
“It is very sad,” said Msgr. Giandurco. “Hopefully this kind of thing will stop. I think we have to be thankful no one was hurt.”
Joseph Mazzarella, 51, said Cardinal Dolan’s visit would help the parish heal.
“It was very sad. (The stone church is) a tradition here in Yorktown, and it’s a very close-knit parish so we’re very thankful to have the Cardinal Dolan here to celebrate Mass and help us heal,” said the parishioner, who is the father of three St. Patrick School students.
“I thought (his homily) was wonderful as all his homilies are. He’s very animated and he brings joy to all the services he’s involved in.”
Jennifer Borella, a 41-year-old parishioner who is the mother of two students at St. Patrick School, said she believes the parish will come together to overcome the act of vandalism.
“I think it’s important for (Cardinal Dolan) to show support and for the parishioners to see that,” she said as she held her nine-month-old son Michael.
“We need to have faith and know when things are bad, we come together. I think it’s important to know that there is evil but that good will overcome that.”