Pastor Frank Samoylo said he is thankful no one was hurt a few months back when, during Mass, part of the North American Martyrs Chapel in Putnam Valley settled due to a problem with the foundation.
“There was a big bang and the floor in the back of the church went up and down,” he said.
Engineers and contractors quickly assessed the building and determined there was structural damage beneath it and that it should be closed until repairs can be made.
“The whole structure was in danger,” said Samoylo. “Everyone I talked to said not to hold services there.”
He explained that cribbing was put in place to support the building while plans are drawn up to address the foundation, and cost estimates are obtained. He expects to resume services at the chapel later this year.
“There are no plans to permanently close the church,” said Samoylo. “There never was.”
The Martyrs Chapel is a mission church of the St. Columbanus Catholic Church in Cortlandt Manor. According to Samoylo, there are about 1,750 families who are members of the parish, with about one-third of them living near the Martyrs Chapel.
Samoylo said that while many parishioners are upset about the temporary closure of the chapel, it was a necessary step. “Apparently over the years they’ve done little Band-Aid things to shore it up,” but now a more permanent fix is needed, he said.
Samoylo is confident the church will be able to utilize some of the more than $600,000 in “Renew and Rebuild” capital project funding that is coming to St. Columbanus through the Archdiocese of New York to rehabilitate the chapel.
“I think we’ll be okay,” he said.
While Samoylo said it is heartening to hear that people want to donate to fix the chapel, he cautioned that the church has not set up any formal fundraising efforts or GoFundMe page. “Anything that is out there is not from the parish,” he said.
While the chapel is closed, many parishioners are encouraged to attend service at St. Columbanus, located at 122 Oregon Road, Cortlandt Manor. For more information, visit stcolumbanusparish.org.
The chapel, also known as the Indian Church, was built in 1937 and dedicated in 1938.
According to catholicplaces.org, Eight French Jesuits were martyred in 1936 while spreading Christianity in North America and Canada. An Irish messenger who had studied the Jesuits built the chapel in their honor, and chose to build it in the shape of an Iroquois long house.
Outside the barrel-shaped chapel, alongside the “Lord’s Prayer” and the “Hail Mary” translated into Iroquoian, are Indian plaques and carvings.
Inside the church, along with a painting of the Crucifixion, are traditional North American Indian motifs stenciled along the walls. Pews are rough-hewn wood, and the altarpiece is made of logs, shaped like stockade with the pickets arranged like organ pipes. The altar light rests in a 2-foot-long replica of an Iroquois canoe.
Stations of the Cross are painted on an Iroquois drumhead.