By Jessica Easthope
On a dead-end street in Bushwick there’s a hidden treasure trove of history and faith. This warehouse isn’t sacred, but all of the things that make a church holy are housed in this building.
“You’re talking history here. All of these objects were devotional donations from people of generations ago, I feel like a custodian of the heritage of the diocese,” said Monsignor John Bracken. the former Vicar General and current Director of the Office of Patrimony. He oversees it all.
Whenever a church in the Diocese of Brooklyn closes, undergoes a renovation or makes a change, whatever the church doesn’t need goes to the warehouse. The warehouse, which used to be an auto repair shop, is now home to everything from the functional to the sacred. Among the statues, pews, stained glass windows and doors are some truly special items.
But that’s how the statues get there, but how they go is more complicated. All of the items are photographed, documented and appraised. Churches can take what they want in exchange for donations. Some are bigger than others, there are even items that make their way across the world.
“To deal with the effects of the earthquake in Haiti, we were able to send pews. We recently donated some bells to Haiti, and we used to have a statue of Our Lady of the Skies, and it is now in Costa Rica,” Monsignor Bracken said.
When there’s no longer a need for them, churches give everything from their most precious statues to even the collection baskets, but not anyone can take them — they stay within the church community.
“We don’t want things that were given as devotional items by people of generations ago to wind up in the wrong places. That would be sacrilegious to see some of our beautiful artwork in places that are inappropriate,” said Monsignor Bracken.
Though the items are removed from their original sacred places, for Monsignor Bracken their holiness remains. Some objects date back decades, others even longer, but each holds a special piece of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“Being able to take something that was so meaningful to people who lived 100 years ago, to place it in the home of a church, where it will be venerated again, means that the history continues. The river of faith continues to flow here richly in Brooklyn,” said Monsignor Bracken.
Monsignor Bracken is confident every item will find a home someday. Until then, they sit in the place where history and faith collide.