St. Athanasius Church (Bronx)

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The Church of St. Athanasius
Athanasius RCC Bx jeh.jpg
Photographed in 2010
General information
Town or cityBronx, New York City
CountryUnited States
ClientRoman Catholic Archdiocese of New York
The church in 1914

The Church of St. Athanasius is a Roman Catholic parish church under the authority of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located at Tiffany Street between Fox Street and Southern Boulevard, Longwood, Bronx, New York City. It is dedicated to Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Doctor of the Church.[1]


Archbishop John Murphy Farley commissioned the parish in 1907, purchasing the entire city block for $58,000. The cornerstone was laid on May 31, 1908 by Cardinal Logue, Archbishop of Armagh, who was visiting on the occasion of the centenary of the Archdiocese of New York. The building was solemnly dedicated on February 21, 1909. Fr. Terence James Cooke (later Archbishop of New York) was assigned to serve as a curate in the 1950s. [2]

The parish has long been prominent in serving its low-income neighborhood, in partnership with St. Anthony of Padua. Of note are longtime pastor Fr. Louis R. Gigante— brother of notorious gangster Vincent "the Chin" Gigante[3]— who founded the Simpson Street Development Association in 1967; and Sister Miriam Thomas. Thomas, a nun who came to St. Athanasius in 1962 as a teacher, and who joined with Gigante to found the South East Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO) in 1968. SEBCO collects federal Section 8 funds to convert abandoned buildings into affordable housing.[4] Another neighborhood activist group, the Mid-Bronx Desperadoes, was co-founded by St. Athanasius priest Fr. William Smith in 1974[5] In 1985, Thomas even organized the first South Bronx Halloween parade, in 1985[6]

A 105-unit affordable housing development which SEBCO built on the last parcel of city-owned land in the South Bronx was the Sister Thomas Apartments in 2008. At the dedication, the New York State Housing Finance Agency stated that "In the '60s and '70s the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx was a desolate place lined with the carcasses of buildings still smoldering from the latest fire…. The only refuge was St. Athanasius and its priests and nuns, who became beacons of hope and leaders in the tenants' rights movement…."[7]

Nevertheless, Sister Thomas and the flea market she long organized were expelled from the parish unceremoniously in 2010, dividing the community, shortly after the arrival of a new pastor.[7] Many parishioners participated in protests against the move, while others defended the new pastor.[8]


The Sisters of Charity of New York opened St. Athanasius School on September 8, 1913. The original school was situated adjacent to the church on Fox Street, but was soon outgrown. The parish constructed the current school building at 830 Southern Boulevard in 1965.[9]


  1. ^ 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.382.
  2. ^ Catholic Editing Company (1914), The Catholic church in the United States of America, New York, p. 382
  3. ^ Redfearn, Jennifer (January 16, 2007), "Sins of the Father", The Village Voice
  4. ^ Irfan, Umair (November 4, 2010), "Stars and More", The Uptown Chronicle
  5. ^ Teltsch, Kathleen (October 30, 1987), "Once Desperate, a Bronx Housing Group Earns Praise", The New York Times
  6. ^ Oros, John (October 26, 2010), In Hunts Point, Halloween Celebrates Rebirth
  7. ^ a b O'Shaughnessy, Patrice (August 10, 2010), "Unholy treatment: New pastor at St. Athanasius Church kicks out beloved Sister Thomas", New York Daily News
  8. ^ Hirsch, Joe (August 23, 2010), Protesters Call for New Pastor’s Ouster
  9. ^ St. Athanasius School: History, retrieved 2011-02-01

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°49′8.19″N 73°53′40.25″W / 40.8189417°N 73.8945139°W / 40.8189417; -73.8945139