What a Summer!

It was rainy, hot, and humid but work never stopped in the church, the rectory and the school. Some of the work was planned, and so was budgeted. Some of the work was in response to emergencies, and so not part of our budget. Here’s a full list of the projects conquered this summer, and some still in progress.


LED conversion for most of the lighting inside the church, theater and community center. We’re in the process of discerning LED lighting for the exterior of the church, and for the flood lighting and hanging pendants inside the church. We’ve not paid for any of this work yet because it hasn’t been completed. CON ED is picking up the biggest chunk of the cost. Our portion will be about $25,000. We’ll have a good return for this investment over the years.


Two rest room floors were replaced. Besides being unsightly, they were cracked and becoming a safety hazard. Cost: $3,900.


The strip lighting along the rear of the stage needed replacement for several years. Lights were constantly blowing. LED strip lights were installed at a cost of $33,000. We’ll see a hefty drop in the theater’s electric bill because of this investment.


Rectory repairs hit us hard this year. Some of the projects had been planned; others were responses to emergencies.

We had planned to install high-energy efficient central air conditioning in the priests’ and brothers’ kitchen, living room and dining room. This has made a great difference in the quality of life for the community. Removing the three 23,000 BTU units have made the area beautifully quiet. We keep the unit running at 73 degrees. It’s heaven. Cost: $19,100.

We had planned refurbishing the seven-story fire escape at the back of the rectory. This fire escape, original to the building, was thickly covered by 104 years of accumulated paint. Three of our staff, Pablo Checo, Wilfredo Ortiz and Francisco Francisco, worked in this summer’s heat and rain for ten weeks grinding the paint off the steel, repairing the steel, and then priming and painting the structure. The exterior emergency lights on each floor of the fire escape were replaced, and a timer installed. The cost for tools, paint and salaries was $25,000.

The six burner commercial stovetop in the rectory kitchen has been in need a replacement for several years. It leaked gas, and some of the jets no longer worked. It was replaced for $4,100. Replacement of the kitchen/dining room floors in the two convents. This was a serious safety issue that had to be addressed immediately. The floor tiles had begun cracking and ungluing, but the real problem was the under-flooring. We had to go down to the original floor, cover it with plywood, and then install a new Pergo floor. It was $5,200 a floor. Total cost: $10,400.

Replacement of the 40 ft. x 16 ft. awning on the rectory roof. The four-year old awning had ripped in several places during a storm at the end of last summer, and could not be mended. This is a lovely space for the community of priests, brothers and sisters to relax during the summer months. Cost: $6,800.


The commercial freezer in the rectory kitchen suddenly expired and needs to be replaced. The cost: $2,400.

A big surprise happened in January when half of the asbestos insulating the rectory’s original 1924 boiler simply slid off and on to the floor. It couldn’t be replaced at the time because it was estimated to be a two week job to conduct the asbestos abatement, and at least another week to install the new insulation. We needed to keep the boiler running because we have 13 nuns and 10 priests and brothers living in the rectory. So we deferred the job to the summer months. We made the decision to remove all the asbestos from the boiler room while we were investing in re-insulating the boiler. The cost was $33,000 for the abatement and $22,000 for the re-insulation of all the pipes in the entire boiler room. Total cost: $55,000.


A NEW CITY ORDINANCE was put in place during the summer that gives us until December 31, 2019 to make alterations to the elevator doors in the rectory. The nonnegotiable cost: $53,000!!!



The outdoor metal stairs going from the fourth floor roof of the rectory to the top of the dome were stripped of all paint, repaired and repainted. This project was completed by our staff, Messrs. Checo, Francisco and Ortiz . Cost: $7,000.

The twelve windows of the dome were repaired, re-corked and their metal frames stripped, primed and repainted. Cost of scaffolding and repair: $140,000.

The upgrade of the sound system in the church was completed during the summer. A new 16 foot speaker was installed, and all the original speakers in the church were rebuilt to synchronize with the new speaker. 6 new microphones jacks were installed, and 6 additional microphones were purchased for the music area along with a new wireless microphone for the celebrant. Cost: $70,000.


In the auditorium new stage lighting will be installed, and the entire stage area rewired. The old lighting was installed in the 1960s! There was growing concern about the safety of the wiring and the lights. We’re waiting for proposals from the electrician and the lighting consultant. Estimated cost: $50,000.

The auditorium has had problems with an appropriate sound system because of the severe echo in the room. Pascom Inc., which installed the church upgrade, has given a proposal for a new system: $40,000.

As parishioners and friends, you all have a right to know where your donations are going. While we struggle to make ends meet on a week-to-week basis, we can’t let the buildings deteriorate. So I’ve reported to you what we’ve done over the past year. All this has been possible because of your generosity in last year’s RENEW AND REBUILD FUNDRAISER. We deserve a communal pat on the back.

I’ve had a long history with this wonderful church. I was privileged to attend grade school here, was ordained here by Cardinal Cooke in 1975, and served as pastor from 1987 until 2000. I returned as pastor in 2013. During my first pastorate, the church building was quite literally falling apart. My first Easter Sunday at St. Jean’s, 50 lbs. of plaster fell from the ceiling while I was celebrating the High Mass! 13 years of fund-raising, and $7,000,000 later, the church’s 7 copper roofs and 4 flat roofs had been replaced. The entire exterior of the church was cleaned, pointed and illuminated. The interior of the church, from the top of the dome to the carpeting, was totally rejuvenated.

The “lower church” was converted into a theater and community center. (This is presently the source of 50% of our income.) The decrepit convent was sold and demolished. This gave us the funds to renovate the rectory to accommodate the community of nuns, and the priests and brothers.

The nuns added their own magic to St. Jean’s by building a fourstory addition to the school while sprucing up the original structure. The Congregation of Notre Dame funded this project at $8,500,000. (Talk about commitment!)

2010 until 2014 the façade of the church was covered with scaffolding because the stability of the 24 sandstone pillars of the two towers had been compromised due to water penetration that deteriorated the steel skeleton within the pillars. The pillars were replaced with a stone-plastic composite, and the interior steel stabilized at a cost of $750,000.

This information can be read as a nightmarish history of a money pit. OR, for those of us who always see the glass half-full, it can be seen as stabilizing and renewing an incredible New York City and National Landmark for another 100 years.

Because of my long history with this church, I can attest that we’re just about finished with a total renewal of the plant. There are two more expensive, but important, projects, that will need to be tackled. One is the rebuilding the sidewalk vault along 76th street, and the other is the re-setting of the church steps and the replacement of the three monumental doors. These projects will probably necessitate a capital campaign. I’ve received estimates, but until we make the decision to proceed I hesitate to throw out an imprecise number. (I also don’t want to cause premature and undue anxiety for the people who always see the cup half empty.) But the completion of these two projects will celebrate a total and complete renewal of the plant. After that, the usual repairs will continue as we act as good stewards of this wonderful parish. Thank you for your support.

Thank you for loving St. Jean’s as much as I do.

Fr. John