Friday, February 6, 2009

Alba House

And now for something completely different....

Although we have many beautiful, or at least interesting churches on Staten Island, one thing about the Catholic landscape here that has always fascinated me has been the large number of independent Catholic institutions sprinkled throughout the island. By "independent", I mean to say that they are not churches, their raison d'etre is something other than housing public worship, and they are not connected to any one parish, as are the Catholic schools. I refer to seminaries, convents, religious orders, shrines, retreat houses, charities, etc. Often housed in architecturally fascinating buildings, they've always had an air of mystery about them, existing as they do, away from the public gaze. I am going to pictorially document some of these institutions here, as they might be of interest to both locals and out-of-towners as a historical testament to Staten Island's once pervasive Catholic culture. Also, at the rate we're going, it might not be long before some of them are knocked down by condo developers, converted into group homes for the city or otherwise sold off by the diocese, so we'd better record their existence while we still can.

The first place we're going to visit is Alba House at 2187 Victory Blvd. It is a major Catholic publishing house run by the Society of St. Paul. The members of this order are known as the Paulines (not to be confused with the Paulists) and, as per the example of their order's namesake, their mission is worldwide evangelization utilizing all the communication tools available to modern man. As such, they are a major, multingual publishing and multimedia ministry. Chances are some of your Catholic books were published by them here on Staten Island. Their main building is this renowned structure, redolent of an alien mother ship, which was built in 1968, whether for the Paulines or some other purpose (Lex Luther's headquarters?), I do not know:



Another view:



This building houses an excellent book store on the first floor, where you can see the priests and lay workers preparing shipments in an adjacent room. I assume the other floor are devoted to storage and office space, but I can't say for sure. I went to a Lenten retreat here once, and can tell you that there is a well-appointed room on one of the upper floors for Mass or other gatherings. Other than that, I don't know. However, it does look like a really cool place to explore, especially the rooftop.

I don't know when the Paulines came to SI, but I assume it was some time before this modernist structure was built, since there is an older building in the rear which seems to be the priests' residence:




The residence is connected to the space ship by an elevated covered bridge:


Until recently, this imposing statue of St. Paul stood outside the convent/bookstore of the Daughters of St. Paul (a sister order) in the neighborhood of St. George. The lovely sisters had to move away because of dwindling numbers, so now their property is going to be used to house mentally handicapped people for the city, I believe.



There is another building on the grounds which looks like it was once used as a schoolhouse.



I don't know what it is mainly used for these days, but one section of the building contains a small chapel where Perpetual Adoration is held. You'll have to visit the place to see what it looks like inside, because I wasn't about to take pictures while people were praying.



There is also a beautiful little shrine here, which seems to be a very popular place for people to come pray and light a candle.



A detail of the shrine- statue of St. Peter:



A courtyard of holy statues:



Our Lord:



Our Lady of Fatima:



The Cross, surrounded by the Stations:



If anyone can contribute additional information about Alba House, please leave a comment.

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