A parishioner at Our Lady of Peace, the Catholic church on East 62nd Street shuttered by the Archdiocese of New York this summer, has initiated a $500,000 fundraising effort in a bid to convince Vatican officials the church can sustain itself independent of diocesan money.
Shane Dinneen, a 33-year-old investment analyst, said he would match donations dollar for dollar up to $250,000.
Dinneen said a canon lawyer suggested parishioners could differentiate themselves as they pursue an appeal of the closure by “putting our money where our hearts are.” He said $500,000 would be enough to maintain the church for 10 years as well as pay ongoing legal expenses.
“We want to let them know we don’t think the archdiocese is upholding its duty ... and we the parishioners are willing to support that role,” said Dinneen, who had worshiped at Our Lady of Peace since he settled in New York nine years ago and was married by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Bartholomew Daly, in 2012.
Donors have the option of donating directly to a nonprofit “friends” corporation or putting money in an escrow account. In case of the latter, contributions would be returned if the appeal fails.
In a letter to parishioners last week, Dinneen wrote that the money needs to be raised quickly, since a decision by the Vatican could be made as early next month.
“It is imperative that we submit new information as part of our appeal process showing that we have raised enough money to salvage our church,” he wrote.
The Catholic parish, established in 1919 by a growing population of Italian immigrants to the city and the neighborhood, was merged with that of Saint John the Evangelist, on East 55th Street, to create an entirely new parish on Aug. 1.
Citing what he called the Archdiocese’s “boilerplate” reasoning for closing Our Lady of Peace among dozens of other parishes from Staten Island to Albany — declining membership, a shortage of priests, financial deficits, shifting demographics and other reasons — Dinneen said he was particularly dismayed by the decision to close the church.
Dinneen said he was particularly dismayed by the Archdiocese’s decision to close Out Lady since it cited the same “boilerplate” reasoning — declining membership, a shortage of priests, financial deficits, shifting demographics and other reasons — it used in closing dozens of other parishes from Staten Island to Albany this summer.
“We really believe that none of those things apply at all to Our Lady of Peace,” he said. “The stated reasons are not just wrong they’re opposite.”
Contrary to the Archdiocese’s claim, he said, membership had been increasing 7 percent a year of late as measured by collections.
He and other parishioners have also said the church had been in the black for years, with liquid assets of about $450,000. The parish was sufficiently sound financially, they said, that a $450,000 renovation of the church, completed about six years ago, was paid for entirely by the congregation. Daly, its former pastor, was being paid by Mill Hill Missionaries.
Dinneen, an architect of the hedge fund Pershing Square’s prominent $1 billion short bet against Herbalife, suggested the Archdiocese had made an elementary fiscal mistake by shuttering the parish.
“When you don’t have any expenses other than your utilities,” he said, “you’re contributing more to the diocese than you’re taking.”