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Floating Roosevelt Island Church Finds Permanent Home on Main Street

By Shaye Weaver | August 6, 2015 4:54pm | Updated on August 7, 2015 6:33pm
 The Archdiocese of New York signed a lease for the church at 504 Main Street last month.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church Finds a Main Street Home
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ROOSEVELT ISLAND — When the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Roman Catholic Church first began, it held its mass services in the homes of its parishioners. Now, 35 years later, it is finally getting its own, permanent space on Main Street.

In July — a year after the church began searching for a home in earnest — the New York Archdiocese signed a 35-year agreement with Related/Hudson, the landlord of 504 Main St. to take over the building’s second floor, according to parishioner and church secretary Sue Pirard.

“We’re very excited to bring our family together to one location, to a location where we can worship and have religious education for our children, and have our parish’s monthly coffee events together,” she said. “It will be nice to have our own home.”

For decades, the church has rented space by the hour from the Church of the Good Shepherd's community center on Main Street, where they would hold their mass each Sunday. The center also hosts Hope Church and many community organizations, including dance groups, according to the church's new priest Father Richard Baker.

Father Thomas Kallumady, who served as pastor of the Catholic church last year, made it his mission to find a permanent home for his parishioners, according to Pirard. He now serves as pastor to St. John the Evangelist in White Plains.

The parish’s plans for its new 7,300-square-foot space include the construction of a chapel and parish center, where its 100 members can worship and hold meetings, and the return of its thrift store, which was a community favorite, Pirard said.

The church ran a thrift shop out of a storefront on Main Street until it closed last August when the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a state-run agency, decided to lease the space to an urgent care facility.

“That ministry was the social hub of the island,” she added. “People would go in there every day, meet people in there and buy something.”

The church will still share the building with the New York Public Library’s Roosevelt Island branch, which will move into the first floor of the building by 2017, according to a spokeswoman for the library.

The Archdiocese of New York did not immediately return a request for comment about the plans, which are still under consideration, according to Pirard. Though a move-in date hasn't been set yet, the parishioners are still excited, she said.

From its very beginning in 1975, the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church has been without a church building of its own, and at first held mass in different parishioner’s homes. And for at least two decades, the parish has worshipped at the community center, Pirard said.

The Archdiocese assigned Baker to the church on Aug. 1. Previously, Baker had served as priest of the St. Malachy's-The Actor's Chapel in the Theater District for 12 years.

“I hope we can reach the entire island, not only with holy mass, but by ministering to those in need, especially the children of the island,” Baker said, adding he’d like to open an after-school program once the church moves into its new home.

“I have big dreams," he continued. "I shoot for the stars and see what planet God lands me on."