St Joseph's Chapel
Battery Park City
385 South End Ave
NY, NY 10280
St Joseph’s Chapel traces its origin back to 1899 when its first members gathered for worship in the lower level of St. Peter’s Church. At that time the congregation belonged to the Maronite rite of the Catholic Church, a branch located mainly in Syria and Lebanon. In 1916 the parishioners built their own church and moved to Liberty Street, where it stood adjacent to St Nicholas’ Greek Orthodox Church.
Most of the church’s members of Middle-Eastern origin moved away in the population shifts that affected lower Manhattan following World War II. In 1983, St Joseph’s was moved to the newly-established Battery Park City and affiliated with St Peter’s Church. In the beginning, the congregation was composed of only a handful of people, as many of the buildings presently existing in Battery Park City had not yet been constructed. In fact, legend has it that a Catholic deacon employed by the Lefrack Organization, the developer responsible for the Gateway Plaza, convinced his boss to lease space to St. Joseph’s in a part of the building that had been proposed for a dry cleaning store. His logic was that the chapel would attract tenants to the area and help fill Gateway. Today St Joseph’s Chapel comprises a faith community of almost two hundred households.
St Joseph, the patron saint of workers, is appropriately chosen for this faith community, working and living in the shadows of Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center) and the former World Trade Center. In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, U.S. government agencies occupied the chapel and used it as a supply station. For several months afterward the chapel was used as a place where firefighters, police officers and construction workers involved in the recovery effort would come to find food, fellowship, rest and spiritual counsel. As soon as martial law was lifted and residents could return to the area, Sunday Mass was celebrated in a recreation room of a building on Rector Place for the remnant of the parish that had come back. Following the repairs and renovation necessitated by the destruction of the chapel’s interior, St Joseph’s reopened on September 11, 2003. In those days the parishioners of St Joseph’s were confronted with a myriad of challenges as they engaged in the task of rebuilding their lives and the fabric of community life in Battery Park City. Significantly, there was more than 50% turnover in the residential population.
The Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero at St Joseph’s Chapel is a reflection of the generosity of parishioners, as well as many other congregations, corporations and individuals, testifying to how faith in Jesus Christ can help to find some meaning and a measure of hope in the face of the horror of 9/11. While Catholic in its inspiration and iconography, the Memorial aims to be catholic in honoring all those whose lives were taken that day, and all those who took part in the rescue and recovery efforts in the weeks and months afterward, irrespective of their religious backgrounds. The distinctive elements of the Memorial work together to express the paradox of Christian faith: the tragedies of life, when faced with faith, hope and love, can allow God’s presence to emerge in an even more profound and genuine way. The Memorial received the unique honor of being granted the “Optime Award” by Liturgy and Ministry magazine for the outstanding quality of its design.