By Tim Harfmann
After a lot of hard work, there is new life at Our Lady of Grace parish in Gravesend, Brooklyn. Parishioners celebrated the church’s rededication on Sunday, May 5th. “I’m so overjoyed. The church looks so beautiful. My whole life is here, and I’m just so happy today. [I’m] overwhelmed,” said Charles Cardone, a lifelong parishioner.
Ten months of painstaking restoration brought new beauty to Our Lady of Grace. “It looks almost as if it’s a whole new church. It’s definitely extravagant, very beautiful. It definitely took my breath away,” said Victoria Bruno, an eighth grader at the parish’s Catholic academy.
Mary Ann De Luca, a 30-year parishioner who has studied the church through her camera lens, compared the church before with what it is now; “It was really like a country, old-fashioned church. And it had a lot of wood. It just had a homely look, and now it has a whole new look.”
There are bright new marble floors and the pews have been redone. A mosaic of Christ adorns the pulpit. Special artwork in the sanctuary, and statues in the back, add to that whole new look.
Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros led the day’s celebration. He blessed the walls of Our Lady of Grace and the worshipers. “The church means so much for us. It’s a symbol of our faith. It’s a symbol of the people that worship inside,” said Bishop Cisneros.
Rising up over the tabernacle is a restored statue of Our Lady of Grace. Bruno is devoted to her Heavenly Mother and spoke of what Mary meant to her; “Everything. She’s Jesus’ mom, my mom. She’s definitely a role model for everyone.”
Father Vincent Chirichella, the church’s pastor, said the generosity of his parishioners made the restoration project possible; “It was done to really bring new hope and new life to the parish and to build up the community here.”
Bishop Cisneros agreed that the wonderful renovations to the 83-year old building will be appreciated in the years ahead; “That’s for the future, that’s for new priests. And new couples that will be married here; and for first holy communions and confirmations. That gives each of us a sense of who we are as a Church — Not just a building, but people.”
“People [will] come and realize, ‘wow, this is Our Lady of Grace. It’s beautiful. I’m going to start coming more.’ And it has a big impact on us,” said Bruno. An impact that parishioners pray will lead to an even stronger future at Our Lady of Grace.