Father Salvo and the legacy of the old St. Patrick's Cathedral

Father Salvo talks in this second part of the interview with Omnes about the old St. Patrick's Cathedral and its legacy.

Jennifer Elizabeth Terranova-November 26, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Father Salvo

Father Enrique Salvo in his office

Father Salvo is not only the rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral, but also directs the basilica of the former St. Patrick's Cathedral (sometimes referred to as the "Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral"), located in Nolita, a neighborhood with which he is very familiar. When he first moved to New York, he lived across the street from St. Patrick's Basilica, and it was his first parish.

Running St. Patrick's Cathedral can be challenging, but Father Salvo is committed to being physically and emotionally present in both places and recognizes the help he receives. He says he can attend both churches "because there are great people in both places who make it possible; that's the bottom line when it comes to their practicalities."

A revived legacy

The basilica, located on Mott Street at the corner of Prince Street, was once known as "the new church in town." It was the second Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States (Baltimore was the first) and the first church dedicated to the patron saint of the city. IrelandSt. Patrick.

The Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral has a legacy that Father Salvo is proud of and recognizes its importance and significance. "It is beautiful to remember that there is a legacy..." and it is "a great opportunity to, once again, try to pick up that legacy, which should never have been broken in the first place."

The old cathedral became parish status when the new St. Patrick's Cathedral opened in 1879; however, "it was still respected as the original cathedral; it still is and always will be; and it has the status of a basilica," and it's good that people are more aware of that, says Father Salvo.

A cathedral and its seat

The two churches are very different "in terms of size" and are located on the opposite side of Manhattan. However, Father Salvo appreciates the "similarities" between the two churches and their shared history. He spoke of Archbishop John J. Hughes (1797-1864), whom he says "was the visionary of St. Patrick's Cathedral as we know it." But the man who laid the cornerstone for the new cathedral north of the city would not see the majestic cathedral open its doors on the first day because he died before the momentous date. "It took a long time to build because of the Civil War," Father Salvo recalls.

The rector also acknowledges the blessing of being part of both churches, "To be able to have that legacy is a great privilege, and it's a beautiful thing, and it thrills me." He also defines what a cathedral is: "A cathedral is where the seat of the archbishop of the diocese is; here is the seat of Cardinal Dolan, so this is the cathedral, but the history of both is tied together."

It's a beautiful thing!

The two churches are inextricably linked and have commonalities; the way Old St. Patrick's Cathedral is run on a daily basis "is more like a normal parish in terms of the number of parishioners and the obligations to people...". But because "it's such a special place" and is "in such a prime location in New York City, it's also another place where there are a lot of great events that take place almost weekly," says Father Salvo.

He is also proud and happy to tell Omnes about the "vibrant young adult community" at Old Saint Patrick's and boasts of his 7 p.m. Sunday Mass. He says that every Sunday at that time, "the church is full of young adults; very talented, intelligent, faithful young adults who don't need to be there, and many of their peers are unfortunately not there, but they are, and they are faithfully there, and it's such a beautiful thing to witness." He goes on to say that "it's not just about them expressing their faith, but also being able to serve them, and not just helping them grow in faith, but also providing a platform for them to meet other young adults who also care about their faith."

This article is the second part of my interview with Father Enrique Salvo. Soon we will publish the third part.

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