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Over 120 years of serving the people of God in Coney Island Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace History: Part 8 A New Pastor and a Restored, Refurbished, and Growing Church

With the issue of leading the parish through the recovery from the effects of Hurricane Sandy finally settled, Fr. Palmieri was finally recalled to Italy to formally take up his new office in Rome as Councilor for the Parishes and Vocationaries. Chosen to succeed him initially as administrator of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace was the Parochial Vicar, Fr. Shiju Chittattukara, S.D.V..  Already much-loved by the parish (especially the children) and buoyed by a great enthusiasm and true faith and devotion, it was natural that, in 2014, Fr. Shiju would be appointed by Bishop DiMarzio as the new pastor.

The parish still continued to recover from Sandy, and suffered the loss of many parishioners whose homes were destroyed and were forced to move away. However, with new parochial vicar Rev. Javier Flores, S.D.V., and Coney Island Hospital Chaplain Rev. Lorenzo Gomez, S.D.V., it was picking up new parishioners as well as many visitors who found the parish’s liturgies to be especially uplifting. Finally, after the last Confirmation Mass on May 10, 2015, with the insurance claims on the Sandy disaster mostly settled and sound financial arrangements for the future, Fr. Shiju was about to accomplish something that his predecessors hadn’t been able to do: the rebuilding and restoration of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace. The church was to be closed and stripped; Sunday Masses would move to the school auditorium and other Masses moved to the chapel. Arrangements for funerals and weddings were made with nearby Most Precious Blood and Guardian Angel Parishes.  Demolition of the old church floor commenced on May 18, 2015.

Moving ahead to December 20, 2015 and a special 12:00 noon Mass of Rededication celebrated by Bishop DiMarzio, it is astounding to look around the church, see its clean brick walls, elegant ceramic tile floor, new lighting, restored chandeliers, the newly-refurbished pews with new kneelers, the new, raised main altar and ornate new ambo (pulpit), the gleaming and colorful mosaic of the restored Holy Trinity Apse above the sanctuary, and the restored marble altar rail, all in a 1925-built church reborn in a new millennium. In rebuilding the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace, Fr. Shiju joined the good spiritual company of two earlier pastors: Dr. Joseph Francis Brophy, who founded the parish, acquired the property, and rebuilt the “Palm Garden” church; and Msgr. Alphonsus Areese, who built the current church that is now prepared to meet the future.

The prayer in the second stanza of the parish hymn, Our Lady of Solace, says: “O Mother of Mercy, grant this parish your blessings. May it prosper and flourish; may it grow in God’s grace…” In spite of all kinds of obstacles, culminating with a disastrous hurricane, the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace is evidence that our Blessed Mother is continuing to answer that prayer through her intercession with her beloved Son.

In 2016, Providence House and the Sisters of St. Joseph moved out of the former convent. The Chapel of Our Lady of Divine Vocations continued to be used for weekday Mass and Eucharistic Devotion as the search went on for a new tenant. Finally, in August 2017, a new charity with a ministry similar to Providence House signed a lease to move into the unused convent. However, it is partially subsidized by the City, which meant that the chapel would have to go.  The old baptistery in the church had seen many uses as a repository for the Tabernacle, a shrine for various images of our Lord, Mary and saints, and as a room for crying children.  Fr. Shiju saw it as taking the place of the chapel in the convent for weekday Eucharistic Adoration with the Blessed Sacrament.  All Masses returned to the church; however, because of ongoing problems with theft, the church would now be closed after the last Mass of the day. All of the Stations of the Cross from the old chapel were moved into the Adoration Chapel so the weekday devotion could continue. Access to the chapel comes through the door of the church at the end of the arcade. The church interior is still very much visible from the chapel through its attractive etched glass doors. On Sunday, November 27, 2017, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, a Novo Ordo Latin Mass was celebrated and the Adoration Chapel consecrated and blessed by Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, and on Friday, December 1, 2017, the Adoration Chapel opened for public devotion.

In 2017, Fr. Javier was reassigned as a Parochial Vicar of Church of the Visitation in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  He was replaced in residence by Fr. Michael Onyekwere, S.D.V. the new chaplain of Saints Joachim and Anne Nursing Center. However, his time at Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace laid the foundation for a future return.

Rededication Mass with the  Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio,  Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, as principal celebrant  on Sunday at 12:30 PM,  December 20th, 2015 Rev. Shiju Chittattukara, S.D.V., pastor of Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace from 2014 to September 2020 The church under construction during June 2015 Second layer of new steel-reinforced concrete foundation and floor during August 2015 Completed sanctuary December 2015 The Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. The iron gates of the baptistery have been replaced by new doors,  and the image of the Baptism of Jesus at the top  has been replaced by the Host and the Chalice. Inside the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel

CONTINUE ON TO PART 9.