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St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church - The Actors' Chapel
For our next meetup, we'll take in Sunday Mass at one of New York's most famous parishes, St. Malachy's in the Theatre District, home of the Actors' Chapel. This is a do-over of a meetup from 2019 that only a
couple of folks were able to attend, but will also serve as a belated observance of the feast day (Nov. 3) of St. Malachy, the former archbishop of Armagh in Ireland and 12th-century church reformer. St. Malachy was the first canonized Irish saint.
With Broadway recently re-opening, we'll dedicate this meetup to New York's continuing recovery from the pandemic and pray that Covid does not enjoy a winter resurgence in the Big Apple.
St. Malachy's was established as a parish in 1902 with the current church built the following year. But the parish began to serve a new congregation starting around 1920, when New York's Theatre District moved uptown to Times Square from Herald Square. Broadway actors, directors, stagehands, set builders and other workers flocked to St. Malachy's, which in turn built the Chapel of St. Genesius--patron saint of actors--below the main church. It's been known as the Actors' Chapel ever since.
Rudolf Valentino's funeral Mass was held at St. Malachy's in 1926. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford were married here in 1929. George M. Cohan was an early parishioner and donated money for the altar rail in the Actors' Chapel. Spencer Tracy, Perry Como, Irene Dunne, Florence Henderson, Elaine Stritch, Lawrence Luckinbill, Rosiland Russell, Danny Thomas, Bob and Dolores Hope and Ricardo Montalban all worshiped here as well. Fred Allen, Don Ameche, Cyril Ritchard, Pat O'Brien and Jimmy Durante all grew up in the parish and were altar boys at St. Malachy's.
As recently as 1968, 16,000 people were attending Mass here monthly. The parish had a special 4 a.m. Mass for theatre workers. As Times Square declined in the 1970s, so did the congregation. St. Malachy's shifted its focus to serving destitute senior citizens left behind in the deteriorating neighborhood, which it continues to do today. But a revival in Times Square and New York in general since the early 1990s has brought the parish back to life.
Today, St. Malachy's continues to serve the local theatre community as well as the millions of tourists who come to this part of New York. A special post-theatre Mass was held at 11 p.m. on Saturdays, though that has currently been suspended because of the pandemic after-effects. While still serving senior citizens, St. Malachy's also has a thriving young adults group.
Mass is at 11 a.m. Sunday brunch/lunch to follow around the corner at Hurley's Saloon, which has a legendary history of its own.