Reprinted with permission from “NYC Mayor De Blasio Proclaims the Church of Saint Cyril Day” © 2016 Slovenski Ameriški Časi – Slovenian American Times. November 2, 2016, Volume IX, Issue 1. www.slovenianamericantimes.com Photos: © 2016 Elena Dubas.
Sunday, October 16th, 2016, marked the centennial of the Franciscan parish of the Church of Saint Cyril at 62 Saint Marks Place on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City, where Mass has been celebrated in Slovenian every Sunday for the past hundred years. Most Rev. Msgr. Stanislav Zore, Archbishop of Ljubljana, celebrated the centenary Mass with concelebrants Fr. Marjan Čuden, Provincial of Slovenian Province of The Holy Cross, Fr. Krizolog Cimerman, Pastor of the Church of Saint Cyril, Fr. Nikola Pašalić, Pastor of St. Cyril and Methodius Croatian Parish in New York, Rev. Milan Dimic, Pastor of Saint Emery Parish in Fairfield, CT, and Rev. Janez Arnež, Associate Pastor in Idrija, Slovenia.
At the conclusion of the Mass, parishioners Anton and Mija Branc were spiritually adopted by the Franciscan Province of Slovenia, in thanks for their love, goodness and generosity toward the Parish of Saint Cyril which is under the jurisdiction of the Franciscan Friars of Slovenia.
Joining in celebrating the liturgy was an overflowing crowd of participants who came from the New York Metropolitan area as well as from across the United States, Canada, Australia and Slovenia, some dressed in traditional Slovenian costumes. They included parishioners and their children and grandchildren, and Mrs. Myra M. Hesch, age 99, the oldest member of the Church of Saint Cyril. Honorary guests included H. E. Dr. Božo Cerar, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to the United States; H. E. Andrej Logar, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to the United Nations; H. E. Dr. Valentin Inzko, High Representative of the United Nations for Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Colonel Mitja Miklavec, Military Attaché of the Republic of Slovenia to the United Nations.
Fantje Na Vasi, the Slovenian Men’s Choir from Cleveland, sang during and after the Mass. Artist Manca Ahlin created “The Good Shepherd” for the sanctuary, a sculpture made of sisal rope using the bobbin lace technique, to commemorate the centennial. Parishioner Sergej Delak Sr. acclaimed the hundredth anniversary of the Church of Saint Cyril as a holy day and a day of celebration for the Slovenian community in New York, praising its pastor, Father Krizolog Cimerman, for his accomplishments in leading the renovation of the church in the late 1990s and in providing spiritual leadership and comfort to the parishioners over the past quarter century. Mr. Delak said that “in every Sunday Mass, Father Krizolog illuminates and strengthens our beliefs and brings our Catholic faith and thought in focus, in the Slovenian language, the language of our ancestors; the Slovenian psalms and songs add to the beauty of our Slovenian heritage.” Dr. Michael Puc offered a champagne toast in the church hall, and Deputy Commissioner Harold Miller, on behalf of Mayor Bill De Blasio, proclaimed Sunday, October 16th, 2016 in the City of New York as “The Church of Saint Cyril Day.”
After the celebrations at the Church, the guests went to Central Park South for a gala reception at the New York Athletic Club. This was an appropriate setting because, in 1962, parishioner Tomo Kalan competed with the New York Athletic Club team, which won all-round honors in the Metropolitan Amateur Athletic Union senior gymnastics championship at the Winged Foot Gymnasium. Master of Ceremonies, Ivan Kamin, U.S. Representative to the Government Council for Slovenians Abroad, welcomed over 260 guests, and Dr. Silvester Lango greeted His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. Myra Hesch offered the Cardinal a bouquet of traditional Slovenian red carnations and Emil Gaspari gifted the Cardinal with a handmade Slovenian straw hat from Domžale. One hundred years ago, the original congregation of the Church of Saint Cyril was formed by families from Domžale where the women were skilled in the craft of making straw hats. They immigrated to New York City to make these hats for the Orthodox Jewish community. After dinner, Ambassador Dr. Božo Cerar gave the keynote speech and Emil Gaspari introduced special guests from Slovenia, including representatives of the winery Vinakoper, which produced the Slovenian Refošk and Malvazija wines for the gala. Ivan Kamin thanked the many parishioners, volunteers, donors and guests who helped to organize and make the celebration such a memorable occasion.
The musicians Fantje Na Vasi (choir), the Jan Kus Quintet (jazz) and Mitja & Rok Zupančič (accordion) concluded the festivities with song and dance, including beloved Slovenian polkas. The home-baked potica was made by Mija Branc – flower arrangements featuring handmade weaving and spinning straw dolls from Prekmurje were also created by Ms. Branc, Tončka Delak and Maria Whitmire.
Notes on the renovation of the Church of Saint Cyril (1997)
In 1986, the parish commissioned a stained glass window for the unadorned church, depicting Bishop Frederic Baraga, a Slovenian missionary among Native American Indians. The window was the work of the artist and parishioner Miro Zupančič. In 1997, the brownstone building, which was in severe disrepair, underwent a complete redesign and renovation under the leadership of its current pastor, Father Krizolog Cimerman. Architect Peter Rolih designed the layout for the rectory and church hall, while the architect Eduardo Lacroze designed the church sanctuary and choir loft. Ivan Blejc undertook the massive renovation project as the general contractor and solved many of the unforeseen structural problems. Slovenian artist and parishioner Jože Vodlan created a beautiful replica of Marija Pomagaj from the original painting in the National Shrine of Brezje in Slovenia; the crowns on the painting were crafted by Anton Babnik, and the elegant stainless steel work within the church was crafted and donated by Anton Babnik. The liturgical chairs were designed by Slovenian architect Professor Janez Suhadolc. Renowned Slovenian artist Bogdan Grom was commissioned to design the stations of the cross, statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua, the tabernacle, the cross on the altar and two chandeliers that currently grace the interior of the church.