Beloved Upper East Side church celebrates centennial four years early after announcement of closure

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UPPER EAST SIDE (PIX11) -- Parishioners and descendants of the founders of Our Lady of Peace Church walked in a procession to celebrate the church’s centennial on Sunday—four years early.

The church on East 62nd Street is marking that milestone now because April of 2019 would be too late. The beloved house of worship would be non-existent.

It’s one of a number of churches the Archdiocese of New York plans to merge and close this August.

The endangered church has turned to the Vatican, which has agreed to review its case.

“We’re hoping for the best, “said parishioner Janice Dooner Lynch. “This is a financially healthy parish. It’s solvent. We owe no debt to the Archdiocese.”

Dooner Lynch is a member of the committee working to save the landmark church, building support through social media, including an online petition.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer showed her support by attending Sunday’s centennial celebration.

“When Our Lady of Peace opened its doors in 1919, many East Side immigrants found a spiritual sanctuary. This church has been a vital part of community life for Italian New Yorkers ever since,” Brewer said. “It is my sincere hope that Our Lady of Peace will persevere to serve this community for another 100 years.”

It certainly is the hope of Eugenia Merlini, whose grandparents were founders of the church.

“They were from Parma. They came here as immigrants and saved money to participate in their own church. This was the church they chose. I grew up here. It’s been a beautiful place,” Merlini said.