Maybrook is in mourning. Its beloved Church of the Assumption will see its last Mass celebrated Jan. 8, and the Homestead Ave. property, comprised of Rectory, stone church and church hall, will face an as-yet undetermined fate.
“The property is not for sale right now,” said Fr. Matthew Reiman, pastor of the combined Holy Name of Mary-Assumption Parish. “But I think eventually it will be put on the market.”
(The Assumption Parish was merged with neighboring Holy Name of Mary Parish in Montgomery in 2015 by order of the Archdiocese of New York, which cited declining attendance, number of available priests and increasing financial burden.)
There was a proposal to close the Assumption Parish two years ago, related long-time Assumption parishioner Joseph Raiti, who has served as president of the Parish Council, chairman of the Parish Finance Committee and “all-around helper”. But a concerted effort by many in Maybrook who waged a petition drive to keep Assumption alive, forestalled that plan.
“But it was never a matter of keeping the wolf from the door forever,” Raiti sighed. “This was a decision made solely by Fr. Reiman and the Archdiocese, I believe. No, there is no petition campaign this time; I think people are discouraged.”
Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York, noted that the Assumption property and buildings “are not the property of the Archdiocese” and belong to Holy Name of Mary-Assumption. The various Parish committees will discuss what to do, and that decision will involve the Archdiocese. We have people here with experience.”
Zwilling said it is “too early to speculate” if the Assumption property will be sold or “put to some other parish use,” including some sort of Catholic Charities work.
Maybrook Mayor Dennis Leahy is aware of the projected closing of Assumption.
“I have been made aware of the statements made about the church,” he said, “and I’m having a conversation with the church.”
Zwilling said he is unaware of any upcoming meeting between Leahy and the Archdiocese but “it is possible”. Fr. Reiman confirmed he has spoken with the mayor.
Social media has blown up with posts about Assumption’s closing, with most people writing how deeply sad they are about the January closing. Maybrook justice and former Mayor William Schimpf said, “My phone has been ringing off the hook all day.” Schimpf is a former Eucharistic Minister, former president of the Parish Council and former lector at Assumption. He also founded a Knights of Columbus chapter at Assumption.
“I hope and pray the church stays,” he said. “We’re all going to miss it and the companionship we all had. They could have done things to grow the church; when we combine, we became a dash. This doesn’t come as a total surprise, but it is totally sad. This is a blow for this community.”
Schimpf believes the Archdiocese “has been up to this for a while”. So does Raiti, who blames the Archdiocese and Fr. Reiman.
“This was a decision made solely by the pastor and the Archdiocese,” he said. “I believe Fr. Reiman could have been a rock star here. When Fr. Dan (former Assumption pastor Fr. Daniel O’Hare who became parish administrator when Assumption and Holy Name of Mary were combined until he was replaced by Fr. Reiman in 2019) left and we were finally assigned a young priest, we were ecstatic and hopeful, looking for great things. We had hoped this priest would revitalize us.”
Instead, Raiti believes, “he began to undermine and weaken our faith community”, citing a suspension of regular monthly Parish Council and Finance Committee meetings. Currently, there are three weekend Masses at Holy Name of Mary and one at Assumption. Daily Mass and Holy Hours are held only at Holy Name.
Reiman denies he was assigned to Holy Name of Mary-Assumption solely to close Assumption.
“It is absolutely false that I was sent here with a mission to close Assumption,” he said. “We have empathy and sympathy for our people, but a lack of attendance and some building and financial issues led to this. These challenges pre-date my arrival here. Assumption has done so much good through the years and we have so many memories. And yes, it is sad.”
While many in Maybrook are angry, many are also resigned to Assumption’s fate.
“It was only a matter of time,” said James Barnett, a village trustee who, with his wife Marie, taught many years in Assumption’s religious education program. “It certainly hurts and is not good for Maybrook. But there’s not much we can do. A lot of old-time Maybrook families built that church and we all loved our church. It’s a sad day for Maybrook.”
Assumption was founded in the early 1900s as a mission church of St. Mary’s in Washingtonville. The original stone church was built by the predominantly Italian families living in Maybrook at the time.
According to Reiman, the stone church has not been used for any occasion in “several years at least”. It was a gradual process, caused by deterioration of the building’s structure, lack of ease of access and limited seating. Masses are currently held in the church hall.
Reiman said he remains accessible for any questions or concerns and can be contacted at the Holy Name of Mary rectory.
“I remind everyone to keep their focus on the spiritual work and mission of the Catholic Church,” he said. “ We have been and still are one parish and everyone is so welcome to come worship at Holy Name of Mary.”