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"One Nation Under God" --Contributed by John McCann

I grew up in a parish on the lower east side of Manhatten , tucked between a huge 3 blo ck long power plant and a city housing project. In the period just as the vets were returning from
WW II (you know, the big one) Immaculate Conception Parish was overcrowded and twelve families founded their own parish by first establishing a Sunday Mass in the cafeteria of the
Consolidated Edison plant. When the members of our parish ran the various fund raising events for our chuch they operated under the banner of “The Founders Club” In their case they were
quite literally “THE Founders”

They purchased a quarter block parcel across the street from the plant at a highly discounted price . These were the days of patriotic fervor, and also great persecution in the Catholic Church
, especially in the captive nations of Europe. The first thought’s of the founders were to name the newly built all purpose structure on this piece of property “St Stephens” in honor of Bishop
Minsenti who had placed himself into self exile at the U S embassy in Hungary. They quickly found out that there were at least four St Stephens in the NY archdiocese, three of which were
named after the e of Hungary. After a little research they found that St Stephens son, Emeric, was also canonized. Thus: St Emeric’s.

I understand that Emeric is the Eastern European version of Amerigo as in Amerigo Vespucci who was the surveyor and map maker whom America is named after. What a significant
coincidence for a parish founded by Catholic Veterans of WWII.

The founders decided that instead of spending the money on a knock ‘em dead full steepled chuch with all the bells and whistles, they would build a school one grade at a time and
petititioned Cardinal Spellman for Nuns to run the school. He sent them the Sisters Of Charity of Mt St Vincent ( a branch of Mother Seton’s Order) They with their kind ways were my first
introduction to the gentility and saintliness of Vincent De Paul.

At the same time, the Cardinal had sent the founders two young Jesuits to help run the Parish until such time the parish population grew and diocese priests were available. What an unusual mix
of Orders.

An all purpose building was built as our Worship Area with the intention of building a church later. It was beautifull in its own way, and as respectfull as any church ever was, but the Founders
were operating under our belief that no matter what the surroundings, the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. Later, as the number of Grades at the school increased and the faithfull increased
the numbers of their family, there was not enough money in the till to build a new church from scratch.The founders decided to “upgrade” the all purpose building , the result was magnificent. I’ll
never forget the artists and designers who bought in the large red panels and placing them behind the altar and the craftsmen brushing gold leaf tongues onto the panels ; our little electric organ
was replaced with a pipe organ , the haulers moved in Blondewood Pews and the Fine carpenters sculpted crosses and curly q’s.....

But as this our patriotic holidays approach I mostly think of the dedication of the Church in the late fifties as I had the honor of serving mass for Bishop McGuire who at the time the head
of Chancellory . Part of the Liturgy was the placement of the Vatican Flag and the American Flag at the altars of St Joseph the Worker and Mary the patroness of America. The Flags were
placed there by the Ave Maria Post of the Knights of Columbus. And if you looked above the main altar on your way out you could see painted in gold leaf and maroon, our school colors, our
new parish mission statement, right from the lips of Jesus: “Come to Me, All who are labored and are burdened and I will Refresh You”

As I grew a little older Sister Martha tried her best to get us to Memorize the Emma Lazarus poem to no avail in my case, with the encouragement: “You know children, we only live
slightly up the road from this Lady.” But whenever I read this poem I think of those very words of Jesus that were our school Motto.

When the towers in NYC were in flames and beginning to crumble as thousands of people were receiving their call in front of our shocked eyes, you could see this bright lady standing in
the harbor between the towers holding her torch high.

Here at our sea-washed,

sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a

torch , whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning ,

and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon- hand

Glows world-wide

Welcome; her mild eyes


The air-bridged harbor that

twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “give me you tired ,your poor ,

Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these , the homeless,

Tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the

golden door !”

This it what it means to me to be a person of Faith in America, why I think of the cross and the flag In the same light ; and this is my greeting to you on this independence day. Never Forget, but most important of all, always remember those who were martyred for our freedom and our faith, before , on and since September 11th 2001.


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