Archdiocese upset after St. Patrick finds a home in restaurant

January 26, 2011

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (RNS) And now, let us raise a toast to St.
Patrick.


Once a cherished icon for generations of Catholics, a statue of
Ireland's patron saint from Sacred Heart Church in Newark has landed in
a South Orange restaurant -- much to the chagrin of local Catholic
leaders.


On a recent night, as college-age students mingled at Cryan's Beef
and Ale House, St. Patrick watched silently from a corner in the
restaurant section, a shepherd's staff in his left hand.


The move, from pious to pub, has provoked some debate. The
6-foot-tall plaster statue was relocated after the Archdiocese of Newark
closed the venerable church last summer.


Bar owner Jimmy Cryan said his family had long supported Sacred
Heart, holding fundraisers at the bar and pitching in for restorations.


"The response has been overwhelming," he said. "It's just nice to
have a piece of old Sacred Heart around."


But archdiocese officials, who plan to reuse items from the church
in other religious buildings, are not pleased.


"The (Cryan) family expressed some interest in the statue because
they had been involved in its restoration," said archdiocesan spokesman
Jim Goodness. "They asked if they could have it. Our expectation was
that it would be in a house, or a place for appropriate veneration."


Generations of local Catholics flocked to Sacred Heart in the
heavily Irish Vailsburg neighborhood to pay their respects to the icon.


"It was gorgeous," said Paul Reilly, a former parishioner. "The St.
Patrick's parade in Newark had their Mass there every year, and they
used to bring the statue out. The place would be packed."


Citing falling attendance, the archdiocese shuttered the church in
June, despite bitter protests from longtime worshippers.


Bob Madara, who joined the church in the 1970s, said he enjoyed
having St. Patrick preside over his meals.


"It's in a respectable place," he said. "It's great. When people saw
it on Christmas, it was one bright spot (after the church closed). It's
a morale booster."