The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace

Over 110 Years of Service to  the People of God in Coney Island

2866 West 17th Street

Brooklyn, New York 11224

Phone: (718) 266-1612

FAX: (718) 946-3651

REV.  ARMANDO M. PALMIERI, S. D. V., Pastor

REV.  SHIJU CHITTATTUKARA, S. D. V. , Parochial Vicar

REV.  LORENZO M. GOMEZ, S. D. V. ,  Priest in Residence

A Parish served by the

VOCATIONIST FATHERS

celebrating 50 years in America

1962-2012

(founded by Blessed Justin Russolillo)

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”

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The original rectory along Mermaid Avenue. Today, it’s the site of the main parking lot off  
West 19th Street.
The former Palm Garden dance hall, now Our Lady of  Solace Roman Catholic Church. When this picture was taken in 1914 at its second location at a leased lot on Railroad Avenue, it had been designated the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace eight years earlier. Note the small tower and belfry to the right constructed from the timbers of the felled
Flip-Flop Railway from the original Steeplechase Park.
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IT ALL STARTED WITH A DANCE AND BEER HALL…

One Sunday in 1900, thousands of miles away from San Valentino, Torio, Italy, some people from Coney Island had heard a sermon about faith being “…as the grain of a mustard seed.” On the way home from St. Finbar’s Roman Catholic Church one of the party called out, “If our faith is loyal, behold our church already built!” As he spoke, he rubbed off a dirty pane of glass to show the interior of a disused dance and beer hall, once known as the “Palm Garden,” the home of a thousand spiders and sparrows.

Early in the summer, a priest on the Italian missions in Brooklyn sent a little brass medal of Our Lady of Solace from San Valentino, Torio, Italy, to the household of the man who had spotted the possible site and had made a petition for a chapel.

Months passed and the committee continued its work. Once, a group of Italian children was sent to the Bishop’s house with a bouquet of flowers and this message. “To our dear Father, the Bishop, begging him not to forget his Coney Island children.” Then, in October 1900, the long-awaited priest arrived: Brooklyn-born Reverend Joseph Francis Brophy, D.D., who was later nicknamed “The Apostle of Coney Island.”

When Father Brophy (he preferred to sign documents with his educational title of “Doctor” as opposed to the ecclesiastical title of “Father”) was shown the dance hall he hastened to get permission to adapt it to its new uses. An army of small boys dislodged the tenant spiders and sparrows. Everything was then washed down. Benches from a nearby park were set in order to be used as pews. Two saloon screens marked off the sacristy. The confessional was a nightmare. It was made of reversed billboards and on the “wrong side” depicted astonishing feats of jugglers and told of the desirable qualities of a certain brand of beer. An old chest was turned on its side to serve as a temporary altar. The Altar Society brought linens, candles and vestments for the celebration of Mass. On November 4, 1900 on the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo the first Mass of Our Lady of Solace Parish was celebrated in the newly decorated former dance hall.

The old, abandoned Palm Garden had become the first church of Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island. However, in the spring of 1901, it became obvious that a more suitable and a centralized location for the church was necessary. Father Brophy realized that God’s work had to take in the crowds that surged to Coney Island from every tribe and nation or the church and parish would fail. He envisioned the growth of a work that would make Coney Island the place of national pilgrimage for the souls in purgatory, for whose comfort Our Lady bears the “solace.” He selected some lots on 17th Street on the corner of Mermaid Avenue which provided a direct route to the city. Unfortunately, the lots were not for sale. So, in his usual manner, Father Brophy prayed. Shortly thereafter, a lady donated to him one of the lots, and by May of 1901, twenty-six lots in all belonged to Our Lady of Solace Parish. With the land finally acquired, the problem then was how to move the church building. It was lifted off its foundation and mounted on rollers. Unfortunately, as it was being transported from the Nassau Depot to its new location on Mermaid Avenue, it got stuck halfway through the route!  As it was unable to reach its planned destination, the church was put down at a temporary location on Railroad Avenue.  It was eventually transported to the site of the present church building on the parish campus.

On the day of the re-opening of Our Lady of Solace Church, a great wind had caused the Flip-Flop Railway, which was Coney Island’s first “Loop-the-Loop” ride, to collapse. The timbers were saved by Steeplechase Park founder and owner George C. Tilyou for Dr. Brophy, who used them to erect a small tower and belfry.  This housed the fire bell that originally rang from the tower of the first Steeplechase Park. On the bell were engraved the following words:

We live for those who love us

For those whose hearts are true

For the God that reigns above us
And the good that we may do.

Our Lady of Solace Church had indeed grown strong since its humble beginnings. Bishop McDonnell, seeing that the people of Coney Island were in earnest, presented the little church with a piece of baked stonework, which was a copy of the statue of Our Lady of Consolation in San Valentino.  It is a group of six figures which form an allegorical picture; angels are represented beside our Lady and her Son, breaking the chains of the captive souls in Purgatory.

In September 1905, Father Brophy, in poor health, was sent to Rome by the Bishop. He visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at San Valentino, Torio, Italy. At this time, Father Brophy also received the privilege of a private interview with Pius X.  Bishop Mundelein, then a young priest, was present at the interview which he tells about in these words…

“Kneeling at the feet of His Holiness, Father Brophy asked him to grant an extraordinary privilege to his church, begging that Our Lady of Solace be made a shrine in perpetuity with special indulgences for all who visit it. His Holiness listened while Father Brophy spoke of the manifold amusements of Coney Island and of his little church set so near the heart of all the rush and glare. Then the Holy Father smiled: ‘If the people will turn only a moment from pleasure to prayer let them be rewarded.”

Thus, Father Brophy’s request was granted. Our Lady of Solace Church became the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace, a recognized Roman Shrine with the privilege of the Portiuncula Indulgence. It is truly ironic and unique that the island of pleasure, the playground of the world, was the very place chosen for the special remembrance of the souls in purgatory.

In 1925, Father Brophy’s dream of a magnificent permanent church building and parish complex was finally realized under the administration of the parish’s second pastor: Rev. Walter Kerwin, late of St. Sebastian’s R.C. Church in Woodside, Queens. The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace, as it stands today, was erected at the site located on the northwest corner of West 17th Street and Mermaid Avenue.  A tasteful combination of the best of overall Romanesque, Tuscan roof and Neapolitan brick styles with grand apse mosaics honoring the Holy Trinity, and an ornate gold-leaf tooled wood ceiling brought to the church a spacious, ornate and acoustically perfect structure. The overall atmosphere brought to the near cathedral-sized structure the prayerful intimacy of a small country church.  Stations of the Cross, hand-painted in fine oil paints with almost photographic renderings surrounded the church interior on its walls between its colorful leaded stained glass windows.  Its historic tracker organ, originally built in 1865 by Odell and rebuilt in 1884 by Hilborne Roosevelt for the Second Reformed Church of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was acquired from the Second Reformed by Father Kerwin in 1924, the year before the new church’s completion. An entire parish campus was constructed that included a school and a convent (Both were completed in 1919 and still stand today.), and a magnificent spired neo-Gothic three-story rectory on a man-made hill designed to resemble Mount Carmel occupied the space between the church and school.  Built on the corner of Mermaid Avenue and West 19th Street, the structure pre-dated the church by a six years. It was adjacent to the school and church sites; the church’s construction commenced in 1924.

Attached to the church building with its baptismal chapel in its base was an imposing 185-foot tower that could be seen from miles away. Its Meneely-cast and controlled chimes consisting of massive fire bells were donated by the New York City Fire Department and the Tilyou family, owners of Coney Island’s greatest and last surviving of its original three great theme parks, “Steeplechase, the Funny Place.”  

Sadly, Father Brophy never lived to see the fulfillment of his work. The energetic and devoted young founder and pastor died of pneumonia in September of 1908 at the age of 39.  A plaque honoring Father Brophy was moved from the original church to the lobby of the current church during its dedication Mass where it remains today.  Forty-nine years after his passing, in 1957 the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace came to national prominence on the ABC and syndicated primetime dramatic religious anthology series, Crossroads. In an episode taken from a true story and titled “Coney Island Wedding,” Father Brophy was immortalized in a moving portrayal by longtime film actor Dick Foran.

THE DARK YEARS

Over the decades, the destinies of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace and America’s Playground would be inevitably intertwined.  Coney Island lost Dreamland to a massive fire in 1911. In 1944, Luna Park from Surf Avenue to Neptune Avenue suffered the same fate.  The surviving section of the park from Neptune Avenue to the subway yard continued to operate for the remainder of the season; then it, too, closed.  During the decades of the fifties, sixties and seventies (the era of Robert Moses’ much-vilified “urban removal”), Coney Island spiraled into decline as poverty, drugs and gang violence took over the streets.  With devotion and defiance, the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace continued to stand against these elements.  By 1964, its great Meneely chimes had been silent for nearly a decade.  Through the longtime devotion and generosity of the Tilyou family to the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace, they were restored that spring in time for the annual "Catholic Day."  However, the escalating crime and gang violence, as well as the overwhelming competition from Robert Moses' 1964 New York World's Fair was too much to overcome and the great "funny place," Steeplechase, closed forever. Moses' triumph was complete; he had successfully helped eliminate the last of the three great Coney Island theme parks. At the moment of its closing, two bells sounded that indicated the passage of time, and the numerous lights went out for the last time.  In 1965, the Tilyou family sold the park to developer Fred Trump, who then subleased some of the property to small independent ride operators and concessionaires.

Trump (who was pushing for luxury hotels, high-rise low-income apartments and legalized casinos on the site) demolished the abandoned and historic Doric-columned Pavilion of Fun and its surroundings in the pre-dawn hours of one morning in September 1966. He discovered that the City Council and the Department of the Interior were about to protect it as a city landmark later that day. Norman Kaufman leased some of the Trump property for a new Steeplechase Park that opened in 1966. It was “Steeplechase Park” in name only; much of it wasn’t even on the original Steeplechase site and the ride for which it was named was gone with the Pavilion of Fun. Consisting mainly of standard portable carnival rides, the uninspiring facility was seedy and rundown, particularly in comparison to the clean and sparkling Steeplechase Park of the Tilyou era. Unable to secure zoning changes, Trump sold the site the the City of New York. The former Avis Antique Car ride from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair also arrived (with some of the Fair's light fixtures) and was reconstructed at the boardwalk end of the Thunderbolt; it died in 1968.  Two of the three remaining great historic rollercoasters, the Tornado and the Thunderbolt, survived for a few more years. The bobsled-styled Tornado was claimed by fire in 1978. After decades of sitting as a vacant lot, the site became the home to successful miniature auto-racing tracks and a batting range.  With the final closing of the the Parachute Jump in 1968 and the historic Thunderbolt in 1983, this sad incarnation of Steeplechase Park was gradually abandoned and completely closed. In 2000, the abandoned Thunderbolt was suddenly condemned and demolished by the City Buildings Department as “unsafe” on the orders of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (he saw it an “eyesore” next to the new Keyspan Park), just before the City Council was about to meet with property owner Horace Bullard and consider landmark status and funding for restoration and new operation.  Fortunately, there were two bright spots that kept classic amusements from leaving Coney Island forever in spite of the City’s efforts to wipe them out completely. One was the establishment of Astroland Park in 1962, built on the site of the old Feltman’s Hot Dog Emporium, by Dewey and Jerome Albert.  The Albert family later took over management of the National Historic Landmark Cyclone rollercoaster in 1974 after it was purchased by the City of New York.  The other was when Tarrytown pushcart vendor, entrepreneur, restaurateur, and very frequent Coney Island vacationer Denos Vourderis purchased and saved the former Ward’s Kiddie Park in 1981.  In 1983, he purchased the Garms family’s great Wonder Wheel as “…a wedding present to his wife - a ring so big, everyone in the world would see how much he loved her - a ring that would never be lost.”  Together, they form the ever-popular Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.  Starting with the Ward and Garms families and continuing with the current ownership and management of the Vourderis family, the park has been delighting children and grown-ups alike continuously for over ninety years.

During the late 1960's, the aging rectory of Our Lady of Solace on the northeast corner of Mermaid Avenue and West 19th Street had become more and more difficult and increasingly expensive to maintain. The rectory building and its manmade hilltop were eventually razed and replaced with a new building on West 17th Street adjacent to the convent.  The main church parking lot now occupies the original site. The 185-foot bell tower had major structural issues; it was top-heavy and its foundation had been built too shallow to support the weight of the massive belfry as well as its total height.  In 1989, the bells were removed and sold.  Its ornate belfry as well as its top 100 feet were razed, but the lower portion was saved and still stands today. The original 1884 Roosevelt tracker organ had become far too expensive to maintain and repair. After 1969, it was rarely used and the passing decades of neglect and decay ultimately rendered it unplayable. A project to restore the instrument had been started in 2007, but continuing and expensive necessary repairs and restoration of the parish buildings made funding unavailable. Finally, the tracker organ had deteriorated to a condition where restoration and repair were no longer feasible; the project was entirely abandoned and the instrument was removed from the church on August 29, 2012 for scrap and salvaging of useful parts.  Our Lady of Solace School was shuttered in 2003; however, the building rose like a Phoenix from the ashes when part of it was leased to HeartShare and the remainder to the City of New York’s Department of Education. It now serves as Liberation High School.  The school and the auditorium/gymnasium are still used by the parish for special events, and some classrooms for the Sunday Religious Education program.

A CONEY ISLAND COMEBACK: THE PHOENIX RISES

From the dawn of the 1990’s (and especially over the first decade of the new millennium), Coney Island has experienced a reversal of its fortunes as new generations have discovered the remaining landmark amusements and a rich history. The annual Mermaid Parade draws more than a million people annually, evoking memories of George Tilyou and Steeplechase. The New York Mets’ minor league Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team plays at MCU Park (formerly Keyspan Park; the name disappeared when it was absorbed by National Grid). The sparkling new modern subway terminal greets visitors as they arrive, its facade, spires and running exterior lights patterned after the Surf Avenue entrance to old Luna Park. The National Historic Landmark Cyclone rollercoaster and Deno’s ever-popular Wonder Wheel continue to thrill visitors. The original Nathan’s at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues still turns out its gastronomic delights and has visitors holding their stomachs during its nationally-televised Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest. Garguilo’s Restaurant, Coney Island’s “Basilica of Italian Dining”, continues to prepare the finest in Italian cuisine as it has for a century. The famed Steeplechase Parachute Jump (“Coney Island’s Eiffel Tower”) has been painstakingly structurally restored and stands proudly at the foot of Keyspan Park, once the site of the Pavilion of Fun and the World’s Largest Swimming Pool.  Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park continues to delight the youngest and thrill the older “kids” with the kiddie park and the great Wheel. The beach itself is still greets millions of sunbathing visitors every summer. Pavilions, reminiscent of the buildings that once stood prior to the 1960s, have been built along the Boardwalk and the old classic ornate Beaux Arts cast-iron street lamps (some mothballed originals and others perfect replicas) made their return to the Boardwalk after an absence of nearly five decades. At the end of the 2010 season, former Astroland owner and operator Carol Hill Albert and family retired from the management of the city-owned Cyclone rollercoaster after a nearly 40-year run.

Astroland, whose properties also were sold to Joseph Sitt and Thor Equities in 2006, was finally closed permanently on September 7, 2008 and demolished in early 2009. Only the AstroTower remained.  With the sale of seven acres of Thor property along the boardwalk to the City of New York,  a new incarnation of the long-lamented Luna Park opened on the former Astroland site Saturday, May 29, 2010. It was designed, built and operated by world-renowned Zamperla of Italy and its American unit, Central Amusement International (CAI), which also operates the renowned Victorian Gardens summer amusement park on the Wollman Rink site in Manhattan’s Central Park.  Its brilliant entrance facade of crescent moon logos, ornate towers and lights recreate the original entrance that once stood on north side of Surf Avenue directly across.  Many of its new thrill rides are unique to Coney Island; the Air Race ride is making its world debut in Luna Park and a Coney Island classic, the Tickler switchback coaster, has been recreated.  Over 14 million visitors came to Coney Island, making the summer of 2010 its most successful summer in decades. Starting with the 2011 season, CAI took over the operation and maintenance of the Cyclone.

In 2011, another new theme park, Scream Zone, opened and stretches along the Boardwalk from Deno’s Wonder Wheel to the former Tornado site. The beach itself is still greets millions of sunbathing visitors every summer.  Scream Zone is an offshoot of Luna Park. It employs an updated version of “Tilly,” George Tilyou’s toothy widely grinning mascot of Steeplechase Park, as the symbol of Scream Zone.  Tilly’s hair black in a continental Italian style (as opposed to short brown and slicked) and has a wider grin than his original incarnation (which can be seen gracing Luna Park’s Tickler coaster); he’s probably showing his added joy in seeing the crowds and classic amusements, thrills and spills return to his beloved Coney Island. In 2013, the new Steeplechase Pavilion will open adjacent to the Parachute Jump and MCU Park along the boardwalk in the new Steeplechase Plaza park.  Its main attraction will be the return of the famous  1919 merry-go-round, the B&B Carousell (that’s not a misspelling), returning from an exhaustive restoration in Ohio.

All throughout the continuing evolution of Coney Island, the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace continues to stand proudly as it serves its parishioners and community.  An impressive digital carillon emulates the great chimes of the past and emits from the church tower.  A newly-installed (2004) Rodgers digital organ adds to the glory and spirit of the Mass.  Two adult choirs (English and Spanish) and a youth choir serve as the foundation of a growing, energetic devotional music ministry.  The 11:00am Sunday Mass brings the beauty of the Spanish language and customs of our newest citizens and parishioners to worship. The many prayerful and occasionally festive processions through Coney Island started by Father Brophy continue today. The Pastoral Planning Council and Liturgical Committee promote parishioner involvement in all aspects of the parish’s mission. The Our Lady of Solace Baseball League reaches out to the youth of the community through the pride of team spirit and athletic competition on the athletic grounds of Steeplechase Park and the ballfields of Kaiser Park.  A parish hymn to our Blessed Mother petitions her to help the least fortunate among us, to aid in the growth of the parish and its ministries; it has become an additional source of pride for its parishioners. More and more visitors who once simply “passed by” on the way to the shore are stopping to come in and discover (or rediscover) the beautiful church and stop in to pray or attend Mass. The annual Palm Sunday Passion Play, staged by the youth of the parish, draws people from all over the region to be moved by its profound beauty each Palm Sunday. Like Coney Island itself, and through the tireless efforts of its pastor from 2001 through the start of 2012, Rev. Patrick J. West, the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace has rediscovered its vitality and looks to a promising future in our Lord’s service.  From the day of his arrival from Colombia in 2007, parochial vicar Rev. Giovani Romero greatly expanded the outreach of evangelization to the Spanish-speaking members of the parish and united them with all their diverse cultures and traditions into one group of parishioners that quickly united itself with the English-speaking parishioners into the body of a single great parish family.

THE ARRIVAL OF THE SOCIETY OF DIVINE VOCATIONS (THE VOCATIONIST FATHERS)

A new chapter in the history of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace opened January 31, 2012, as Father West departed for a new assignment as administrator of Corpus Christi R. C. Church in Woodside, Queens.  For the first time since its founding, the parish is served and administered by a religious order, the Society of Divine Vocations (Vocationist Fathers), founded in Naples, Italy by Blessed Justin Russolillo, S.D.V. (beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 7, 2011).  Since the Society was founded on October 18, 1920, the ministry of the Vocationist Fathers has quickly spread throughout Italy, France, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. Most recently, their ministry has expanded to Nigeria, India, Philippines, Madagascar, Columbia and Ecuador. Rev. Armando M. Palmieri, S.D.V, former pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Palisades Park, New Jersey, arrived January 9, 2012 and officially took over as Pastoral Administrator of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace on January 31, 2012. Joining Fr. Armando was Rev. Shiju M. Chittattukara, S.D.V. as Parochial Vicar. In June of 2012, Fr. Armando was appointed Councilor General of Vocationist Parishes Worldwide in addition to his pastoral duties at Our Lady of Solace.

SUPERSTORM SANDY AND THE RECOVERY

From October 30 to  October 31, 2012, a storm of unimaginable proportions bore down on the Northeastern United States.  Named “Sandy”,  and covering a track nearly eight hundred miles wide, it never grew into any more than a Category 1 hurricane bringing very little rain with it.   The storm’s tidal surge did most of the damage.  In anticipation of the coming of the storm surge, coastal communities up and down the Northeast, including Coney Island, called for mandatory evacuation.  Occurring at high tide, the surge from the Atlantic Ocean hit like a massive tidal wave never before seen in the region. All of the communities along the coast of New Jersey and Lon g Island were either heavily damaged or completely destroyed. Atlantic City, Point Pleasant, Long Beach Island, Asbury Park and Seaside Heights were but a few of the heavily damaged or destroyed community, their renowned boardwalks smashed into kindling and amusement rides ruined beyond repair.  In New York, downtown Manhattan was completely flooded; basements, parking garages and the South Ferry subway station saw water from the bottom to their street entrances.  All of the traffic tunnels were filled with polluted salt water up to their ceilings. Staten Island’s beautiful shore communities, from South Beach to Midland Beach to New Dorp and Tottenville became New York’s “ground zero” of Sandy’s fury. Breezy Point saw not only destruction from the flooding, but the burning of one-hundred-and-ten homes to the ground when a gas line ruptured. Coney Island’s beautiful Seagate community saw houses on the waterfront torn apart, their fronts torn off making them resemble large open toy dollhouses. The Seagate Beach Club was entirely washed away. The Rockaways and Long Beach also saw damage like never before.

The Coney Island boardwalk did survive with relatively little damage. A classic haunted spook ride in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park that kept riders screaming in terror since 1920’s was forever ruined.  While the repairs have been ongoing on the new Zamperla rides in Luna Park and Scream Zone, the fates of the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster remained in doubt for some time. Their works, which were underground and dating back almost ninety years, were seemingly damaged beyond repair. However, on opening day, March 24, 2013, all of the parks and their rides were back in operation. New track was installed on the Cyclone by CAI to ensure a still thrilling but smoother and safe ride. The Wonder Wheel was completely refurbished and its gondolas cleaned and repainted.  No major hurricane and its sea surge would stop the Vourderis family from having its wonderful park ready and the great Wheel ready to provide riders with some thrills and grand vistas.  The original Nathan’s still stands strangely silent; it will take months to restore it and put it back in operation. However, its boardwalk location survived with very little damage and will keep the tradition alive while its far older big brother recovers. Gargiulo’s is an amazing story. Although sections of the classic Italian restaurant were badly damaged and neatly blocked off, it reopened on December 1, 2012, offering not only its incomparable food, service and catering facilities but a also shot of encouragement to the many small business owners in Coney Island whose businesses were washed away.

The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace also saw extensive damage with over four feet of water in the church, most of it coming up from its furnace room basement and crawlways (the new doors, installed in 2010, kept back most of the water).  The rectory and convent basement were also flooded to the ceiling and, liked the church, their electrical boxes, wiring and heating systems were destroyed. Damage to the school building was, however, minimal in comparison. It had been originally planned that Sunday Masses would be held in the auditorium with weekday Masses in the old convent chapel. Working tirelessly, pastor Fr. Armando Palmieri, parochial vicar Fr. Shiju M. Chittattukara, and a small army of volunteers worked tirelessly to set the church to rights, cleaning pews and refinishing some where necessary, removing mud, sand and small pools of standing water.  On Sunday November 4th with sanctuary lights, a portable sound system and electronic keyboard powered by a generator, all of the Sunday Masses returned to the church. The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace was not long in taking its accustomed place as a beacon of faith and hope in Coney Island.

Many Catholic, Protestant and  Jewish congregations, and organizations from New York City and beyond delivered aid to the stricken parishioners of Our Lady of Solace. With its food pantry in the rectory basement destroyed, Catholic Charities was quick to deliver provisions and supplies and run their distribution from the rectory dining room.  Chase’s bank branch on the corner of Mermaid Avenue and West 17th Street, was almost totaled.  Three 24-hour ATM’s were set up with a generator in the main parking lot of Our Lady of Solace for as long as they would be needed. Our Lady of Solace also served as a major staging area for FEMA, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and the United Way during the major portion of the disaster.  By mid-December 2012, all of the church’s operation had returned to normal with power, heat, and the replacement of its ruined sound system. However, the rectory and Providence House in the convent needed extensive restoration, as the overflooded basements had caused structural damage to the floor above. Finally, the Adult Choir and Youth Choir returned, as the organ and the loft were undamaged by Sandy.  Coro Español had returned to the 11:00am Mass on November 11th in the front of the church.

On Monday, November 26, 2012, power and heat were restored to the church, and the following week, the Monte Bros. sound system was replaced and improved. The church organ, undamaged but out of service for more than a month, was back in all of its glory and all of the choirs had returned.  The rectory, however, had more structural damage than originally thought after flood waters seeped through from the overfilled basement; both the basement and the first floor level of the rectory had to be completely restored.  In May 2013, the restoration of the rectory and convent was completed.  New, spacious meeting rooms and a new food pantry supply room for Catholic Charities were created in the rectory basement. Providence House and the Sisters of St. Joseph returned to the convent building. The convent chapel, long-used as a meeting and activities room, is being restored to once again serve as a chapel for most weekday Masses.

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One hundred and twelve years since its founding by Father Brophy in abandoned dance hall, the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace continues to grow and thrive, and it serves as an important focal point in a reviving community. Also, in keeping with Dr. Brophy’s dream and the words of Pope Pius X, the souls in Purgatory are not forgotten. On the third Sunday of every month, a special Purgatorial Mass is offered for all enrolled in the Purgatorial Society of Our Lady of Solace.


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About Our Parish - 112 Years in the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace

The original 185-foot
Church Tower
with its Meneely Bell Chimes
The original 1884 Roosevelt organ that began life as an Odell instrument in 1865 in New Jersey.  Beyond repair, it was finally removed in 2012  as renovations and repairs to the church commenced.
The arcade between the church and the former Convent of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary on a beautiful spring day. Memorial bricks line the small plaza in front of the Immaculate Conception Shrine.
As beautiful as ever, the church
interior today. The sanctuary was refurbished in January 2009 and two rows of pews were removed to accommodate the physically challenged.  In spite of it large size, the great building provides the kind of  prayerful intimacy one would find in a small country chapel.
Garms’ Wonder Wheel still operates today as well as Ward’s Kiddie Land. Together, the comprise Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Thanks to the great love and care given to the great landmark by the Vourderis family, it looks and operates even better than when new.
The original Nathan’s Famous still sends the tempting odors of gastronomic delight wafting through the open windows of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace on a clear summer day with a westerly breeze. The light towers of MCU Park (built on the site of the Steeplechase Pavilion of Fun and its swimming pool) are visible in front of the non-operational Parachute Jump tower, the only piece of old Steeplechase to survive.
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This is Blessed Justin Russolillo, S.D.V., (beatified May 7, 2011) who worked tirelessly to build a Congregation that would to cultivate religious vocations, especially among the poor and underprivileged. In 1920, he founded the Society of Divine Vocations in Naples, Italy. The Vocationist Fathers’ ministry rapidly spread all over the word. At the end of January 2012, the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace moved from Diocesan administration  and became the Vocationist Fathers’ first parish ministry in New York State.