By William T. Clew
And Tanya Connor
Architects have been asked to devise a plan to try to brace the inner wall of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, to prevent it from moving farther away from the main frame, according to Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St Ann Parish.
When the plan is completed, he said, the architects will get together with representatives of Consigli Construction Co. to decide whether the plan is feasible and at what price.
Msgr. Pedone said a major problem is that the front inner wall of the church is pulling away from the frame and roof of the building, exposing roof beams. This problem was discovered late last month after the top part of the facade was torn down and the cap stones were removed.
That part of the facade was leaning away from the front of the church and the bell tower supports were eroding, he said. The front door of the church had been closed earlier because of the potential danger that debris might fall on people entering the church. Parishioners had to use the side entrance.
The architects had come up with a plan to stabilize the inner front wall but it was deemed too dangerous for the workers, Msgr. Pedone said. Safety is an issue, he said. So is the price of any plan to repair the church. So they are working on a different plan.
“We don’t have much money,” Msgr. Pedone said. “If we can’t pay for it, then the city will have to decide about the building.”
He said the architects and the parish have been working with David Horrne, city building inspector, to keep him informed about the condition or the church building and the proposals for repairing it.
He said Mr. Horne has praised the parish for its cooperation with the city on the problem.
What to do about the church has been a topic for parishioners for some time.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church fronts Mulberry Street, which separates it from Interstate 290. The church has been called Our Lady of the Highway by many people because it is so visible from the highway.
Construction of the highway began in 1958. Msgr. Pedone and others said they believe vibration from construction and from the traffic, especially heavy trucks, have damaged the church.
“If you stay on that property, you can feel the vibration” in the church, rectory and parish center, he said. “Our great nemesis is the highway,” he said, adding that the state denies that.
In 2007 the parish launched a $3 million campaign to take care of the church and the parish recreation center. The drive fell about $2 million short of its goal.
Deterioration of the church building, which was built in 1928, has continued over the years, and discussions, some of them contentious, have been held with parishioners.
Msgr. Pedone, in a letter in the Jan. 31, parish bulletin, proposed that the church be closed and the parish be merged with Our Lady of Loreto Parish, of which he also is pastor.
He said about 80 percent of the parishioners in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Ann Parish are on fixed incomes and offertory collections do not provide enough income to meet parish expenses.