Hasta la vista, Lady: Our Lady of Loreto statue removed from Brownsville church

August 1, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The statue of Our Lady of Loreto has been removed from its pedestal outside the church that shares her name, as this photo taken on Aug. 1 indicates. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Madonna mia.

The statue is gone.

It stood in front of Our Lady of Loreto, a historic Catholic church in the Ocean Hill section of Brownsville.

The now-vacant church was built more than a century ago as a refuge for Italian immigrants who were discriminated against by Catholics of other ethnicities.

As a photo taken by the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday shows, the statue of Our Lady of Loreto is missing from its pedestal on the corner of Sackman and Pacific streets.

Until its removal, it could be seen above a construction fence that had been placed around the church in late spring.

The removal of the statue is an ominous occurrence as far as preservationists are concerned — a sign that Catholic officials are preparing to move forward with the planned demolition of the church.

“While she represents the Holy Mother, she also encompasses the hopes and dreams of the past, present and future residents of Brownsville,” Miriam Robertson, the executive director of Brownsville Heritage House and a member of the Brownsville Cultural Coalition, said in a statement.

“Her open arms will be missed.”

The Brownsville Cultural Coalition, a group composed of civic and arts leaders, preservationists and former parishioners of Our Lady of Loreto, has been fighting to get the neoclassical Roman Renaissance-style church landmarked and transformed into a neighborhood cultural center.

The Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corp., which leases the vacant church at 126 Sackman St., plans to tear it down and build 40 units of low-income housing.


What will become of the statue?

A source told the Eagle that one option Catholic Charities has considered is to return the statue of Our Lady of Loreto to the Sackman Street site after the church is demolished and housing has been built.

A second option Catholic Charities has considered is to move the statue to Our Lady of the Presentation at 1677 Saint Marks Ave., the source said.

That’s the church into which Our Lady of Loreto’s parish was merged when its church building was closed several years ago.

A second source said he had been told that the statue would be sent to Our Lady of the Presentation.

A spokeswoman for Catholic Charities did not immediately respond to the Eagle’s query about the statue’s fate.  

The city Buildings Department issued demolition permits for Our Lady of Loreto Church last spring. But later the agency issued a stop-work order during a legal battle mounted by Jillian Mulvihill, a member of the Brownsville Cultural Coalition and a former parishioner of Our Lady of Loreto.

In June, Justice Ellen Spodek of the state Supreme Court in Brooklyn denied Mulvihill’s motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the church’s demolition.

In July, Justice Spodek denied a motion by Mulvihill for permission to renew and re-argue the case, online court records indicate.

Mulvihill plans to file an appeal, a spokeswoman for the Brownsville Cultural Coalition told the Eagle.

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