St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church

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The Church of St. Malachy
(The Actors' Chapel)
Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church 239 W 49 St jeh.jpg
General information
Architectural styleGothic Revival
Location239 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019, USA
Coordinates40°45′41″N 73°59′08″W / 40.761484°N 73.985602°W / 40.761484; -73.985602Coordinates: 40°45′41″N 73°59′08″W / 40.761484°N 73.985602°W / 40.761484; -73.985602
Construction started1910[1]
ClientRoman Catholic Archdiocese of New York
Design and construction
ArchitectThomas J. Duff[1]

St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church is a parish church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located in Manhattan on West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. The parish has served the theatre community in a special way since 1920, and its parishioners have included many actors, such as Bob Hope and Gregory Peck.[2]


The parish was founded in 1902 by Archbishop Farley, with the Rev. William Daly being named the first pastor.[1][3] Services were soon being held in a basement sanctuary.[1] The current church complex was designed by prolific ecclesiastical architect, Thomas J. Duff, and built the following year.[1]

The Actors' Parish[edit]

Around 1920 the Theater District started to move uptown into this area, and actors, dancers, and musicians became prominent worshipers at the church, replacing the traditional, working class congregants. To answer their needs, the pastor, Monsignor Edward F. Leonard, had the Chapel of St. Genesius, the patron saint of actors – commonly called the "Actors' Chapel" – constructed below the main church in 1920.[1] He sought the special permission of the Archbishop of New York for Masses to be celebrated there at 4 A.M. (which was banned by canon law at the time) to accommodate the non-standard schedules of theater workers and thus make worship convenient for them.

St. Malachy soon became a primary place of worship for the entertainment community.[1] It gained worldwide attention when the church was the setting for the funeral of Rudolph Valentino, as well as of the wedding of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to Joan Crawford.[1] Celebrity worshipers were often in attendance, as well as theater goers, and the nearby location of Madison Square Garden during that time helped to provide a steady stream of visitors. Until the late 1960s average monthly attendance at Sunday services totaled some 16,000 people.[4] The church's chimes would play "There's No Business Like Show Business."[1]

Changing neighborhoods[edit]

By 1968, the neighborhood was undergoing a drastic change as the theatre community started to move out and the area became home to a community plagued by poverty and drugs. Madison Square Garden moved away. Most who stayed were elderly and poor. Many were held virtually under siege in decaying single room occupancy hotels or in tenements with a tub in the kitchen and a shared bathroom in the hallway.[5]

Msgr. Thomas J. O'Brien was brought from a parish in the South Bronx to help deal with the new realities of the neighborhood. He was succeeded by the Rev. George W. Moore in 1976, who created a new model of pastoral outreach.[6] Under his pastorate, the church "expanded its mission to the elderly, poor, homeless, and home-bound."[1] In 1991, after 25 years as pastor, Moore was awarded a Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre for his service to the elderly of the theater district.[1] He received it shortly before his death from cancer.[7]

List of pastors[edit]

  • The Rev. William G. B. Daly (1902–1906)
  • The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Francis Delany (1906–1917)[8]
  • The Rev. Lawrence E. Murray III (1917–1920)[9]
  • The Very Rev. Msgr. Edward F. Leonard (1920–1937)[10][11]
  • The Rt. Rev. Msgr. James B. O'Reilly (1941–1960)[12]
  • The Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. O'Brien (1966–1976)[13]
  • The Rev. George W. Moore (1976–1991)[1]
  • The Rev. Michael C. Crimmins (1991–2001)[14]
  • The Rev. Erno Diaz (2001–2003)
  • The Rev. Richard D. Baker (2003–2015)[15]
  • The Rev. Peter M. Colapietro (2015–2018)[16][17]
  • The Rev. John Fraser (2018-) Parish Administrator [16]

Notable ceremonies[edit]

Celebrity worshipers[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae David W. Dunlap, From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.) p. 224.
  2. ^ Dworhin, Caroline (April 17, 2009). "Plot Twist at the Actors' Temple". New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009. Its fame may be eclipsed by the Actors’ Chapel, a Roman Catholic church a few blocks away that was attended by Gregory Peck and Bob Hope, among others.
  3. ^ Remigius Lafort, S.T.D., Censor, The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3: The Province of Baltimore and the Province of New York, Section 1: Comprising the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Buffalo and Ogdensburg Together with some Supplementary Articles on Religious Communities of Women.. (New York City: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), p.344.
  4. ^ "History". St. Malachy.
  5. ^ "St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church - New York City".
  6. ^ "A Half Block Off Broadway, Father George Moore Oversees the Miracle of 49th Street".
  7. ^ "Rev. George W. Moore, 64, Pastor Who Invigorated 'Actors' Chapel'". The New York Times. May 4, 1991.
  8. ^ "St. Malachi's new pastor". New York Times. September 25, 1906. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  9. ^ "St. Malachy's Pastor dies". New York Times. August 8, 1920. Retrieved December 26, 2011. The Rev. Lawrence E. Murray III, Two Weeks of Pneumonia
  10. ^ "Actors to Honor Priest". New York Times. November 22, 1937. Retrieved October 16, 2009. Theatrical celebrities will participate in a testimonial dinner to be given in honor of Mgr. Edward F. Leonard, pastor of St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church, known as the Actors Church, next Sunday evening in the Hotel Astor.
  11. ^ "Mgr. Leonard dies:'Actors' Priest,' 70". New York Times. November 28, 1937. Retrieved December 26, 2011. Pastor of St. Malachy's for 20 Years Revered by Stage Folk
  12. ^ "Mgr. O'Reilly named St. Malachy Pastor". New York Times. June 13, 1941. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  13. ^ Msgr. O'Brien gained notice ten years later, when, after suffering from a stroke, he refused to be fed intravenously, and declared that he should be allowed to die. The Catholic nursing home where he was being cared for went to court to require that he accept treatment. Against the judgment of four psychiatrists, the judge declared him incompetent and ordered that a feeding tube be inserted into his stomach. He died a month later, at age 84.Johnson, Kirk (November 8, 1986). "Sick Priest ruled incompetent". New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  14. ^ Howe, Marvine (November 7, 1993). "Neighborhood Report: Midtown; The 'Miracle' at St. Malachy's". New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  15. ^ McKinley, Jesse (December 23, 2005). "Finding God". New York Times "Theater". Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ Fr. Fraser became administrator of the Parish in 2017 when Fr. Colapietro entered treatment for emphysema. He currently remains Parish Admistrator following the death of Fr. Colapietro Barron, James (February 9, 2018). "Peter Colapietro, 'saloon priest' who ministered to lowly and mighty; at 69". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  18. ^ "LA Times, 1929: Young Doug Weds Joan".
  19. ^ "Walter O'Malley : Biography : This Day in Walter O'Malley History : September 5".
  20. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (January 5, 2005). The Valentino Mystique: The Death and Afterlife of the Silent Film Idol. McFarland. ISBN 9780786483419 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ "U-M SMTD - Tennessee Williams @ 100 - About TW".
  22. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (June 13, 1942). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. – via Google Books.
  23. ^ Caroline Dworhin (April 17, 2009). "Plot Twist at the Actors' Temple". New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009. Its fame may be eclipsed by the Actors’ Chapel, a Roman Catholic church a few blocks away that was attended by Gregory Peck and Bob Hope, among others.

External links[edit]