To the editor:
I ask your indulgence for I know that the subject matter of this letter is parochial in its true sense, and as such may not draw the interest of many of your readers.
Still, it is important to me, and I am hoping that the subject will draw the interest as well as reactions of my fellow (never say “former”) parishioners of the Church of the Visitation — a community that meant and gave so much to Kingsbridge.
Walking by the corner of Corlear Avenue and West 230th Street recently, I ran into an old friend, and a memory. It was a sculpture depicting the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which until that day, had stood quietly and proudly on the lawn outside the rectory since its commission and dedication more than 30 years ago.
In name and form, it was the symbol of our parish — a symbol of an open and warm embrace.
Seeing our sculpture in this relocated place was unsettling as well as unannounced. Worse yet, the sculpture was painted over in a darker color, which meant also painting over the vision and the touch of the artist.
Forget the fact that this open and desolate location at the corner of the old convent makes our statue vulnerable to any vandal or vagrant with no good intention on the mind and anger in the hand. And forget, as well, the fact of the artist’s interpretation being painted over.
No, there is a more troubling issue here. Ever since our parish and church were taken away from us and we were “assigned” to St. John’s parish, we’ve really never been made to feel a part of the parish community. Our statues that were brought to St. John’s were relegated to the halls of the old convent, the pastoral center.
Our processional cross was consigned to the lower church. Our late school was made to feel no better than an outpost. There is not a remembrance, a touchstone or a “relic” from Visitation represented in the Upper Church of St. John’s. In truth, the only thing that we’ve been “allowed” has been a hyphen.
And now the relocation of the Visitation sculpture — the beautiful symbol of a warm and open welcome to worshiper and wayfarer alike — has been decided. While we knew that it was inevitable that our symbol was destined to find its way to the grounds of St. John’s, we also knew that it would be given an appropriate place in the front of the church somewhere on its lawn so as to greet those worshipers and wayfarers.
We just knew. Sadly and shockingly, we learned that was not to be the case. Given this reality, questions need to be asked:
• What was the reason for selecting the Corlear Avenue location?
• Was there any consideration given to the obvious fact that this location is the farthest point on church grounds from the doors of the church, and that the sculpture itself is oriented away from the church?
• Why was it felt proper to paint over the sculpture? This is not the artist’s vision and certainly not in line with the wishes of the good parishioners of Visitation at the time of its commission.
• Was there any attempt or thought to reach out and to solicit opinions from Visitation parishioners?
In truth, the responses — if any — to these questions don’t matter. It’s all a moot point now. A wonderful and touching, and yes a very visual opportunity, has been lost. As with our statue, we remain as far removed from the St. John’s community as we were on that Sunday in July 2015.
We are but visitors left with the memory of what was and the reality of a hyphen.