BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL
Upon the grounds of Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg sits Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel. The chapel was founded in the 1950s for the patients and staff of the hospital. It was later that more members of the public began attending the chapel that found a special place in their hearts.
Just a few months ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York gave word that the chapel would be closing its doors to the public. The chapel would still be there for Eucharistic celebrations and sacraments but only for the patients and their families. The intention of the chapel was never to be used for the public. The Archdiocese was worried that too many people were not attending their local parishes and going there instead. Fathers Vladimir and Martin have served this chapel for the past eight years. This change is part of a “general reorganization of the pastoral services in the New York Archdiocese,” as Father George explained in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church’s news bulletin.
Sunday, September 1 at 4:30 p.m. was the final mass and the chapel was filled to the brim. The chapel is not as modest in size as one might have imagined. It seats a few hundred people and has large stained glass windows with a high ceiling. It isn’t a fancy church, but is far from run down or old looking.
“I’d like to thank all of you that helped make this a special place of worship,” said Father Vladimir. He thanked numerous staff members and others that have been involved. Claps and cheers rang out through the room. “Find your places of worship!” he told all.
After Vladimir was done speaking, everyone gave a standing ovation. “And thank you!” shouted a man from the pews.
The choir sang America the Beautiful as the mass concluded. Afterwards there was a final goodbye reception for all to gather and eat. There were many upset people who found it wrong that the Archdiocese would close this place that became so important to them.
“It came as a bit of a shock. So many people chose to come here, but what happens to the people who live here. We can go elsewhere. They can’t,” said Alice Ryan. Ryan has been singing at the church for the past 25 years. “It’s a special place. My son was baptized and married here.”
Many tried to plead with the Archdiocese with no luck. They were told to go back to their original parishes, but they each came to Our Lady Queen of Peace for their own reasons. Many find its simplicity and genuineness one of a kind. Gossip of where the chapel’s priests will end up chattered around the room as the final church bells rang.