Priest sells convent to Muslims for a mosque on a street named for 9-11 hero

Okay, this is galling on a couple different levels. Plot summary: The pastor of a Catholic parish sold the parish convent to an Islamic organization, which plans to turn it into a mosque. The kicker is that the convent happens to be on a street named in honor of . . . get this . . . “FDNY Capt. Martin Egan, 36, who was killed in the terrorist attacks” of September 11th.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The impending sale of an empty, 2 ½ -story convent in Midland Beach owned by St. Margaret Mary’s R.C. Church has neighbors angry and afraid because the purchaser is an Islamic organization they know little about.

Several hundred concerned residents turned out last night for an emergency meeting called by the Midland Beach Civic Association at the Olympia Activity Center, two blocks from the convent site at 555 Greeley Ave.

The association’s president, Yasmin Ammirato, told the gathering that she first learned about the convent sale on May 12. She added that the Rev. Keith Fennessy, pastor, told her at a meeting on May 15 with four representatives of the nonprofit Muslim American Society (MAS), the group set to buy the property, that he had “signed off, and money has been exchanged.”

She said that MAS agreed to pay $750,000 for the property, and its plan for the convent’s re-use includes a mosque and community center with after-school programs for children. “There’s a need for a mosque on the East Shore” from South Beach to Midland Beach, she said the representatives told her, citing Muslim Albanian and Turkish residents.

The convent occupies a 100-by-90-foot corner lot, with a current market value of $915,000, according to the city Department of Finance.

Residents in attendance last night were not happy about what they heard. One proposed a petition drive to remove Father Fennessy from his post, and the idea received sustained applause. Another suggested that the civic association consult with an attorney to explore legal options to fight the project. One woman raised a practical concern: “Parking here is already horrendous. How will another community center affect the neighborhood, whether it’s run by an Islamic group or not?”

“This hurts — it was done without even consulting us, on the sneak,” said Eugene Reems, 42, a life-long resident whose three children attend the parish elementary school, where his wife, Erin, teaches third grade.

“September 11 left scars on this neighborhood that will last for the rest of our lives,” he added, noting that part of the convent fronts Freeborn Street, which was renamed for FDNY Capt. Martin Egan, 36, who was killed in the terrorist attacks.

“We grew up together, and he was a very good friend. Marty was a hero in everyone’s eyes, and this a real slap in the face to his family and everyone who knew him.”. . . (continue reading)


  1. Ty

    Really? Galling? A situation as complex as inter-faith relations, the residual effects of extremist Muslim activity vis-a-vis the average Muslim-American (Turkish and Albanian, to say the least), and the unknowable motives and intentions of a priest can be distilled into one term, "galling"?I'm surprised that you feel so confident about this.

  2. Patrick Madrid

    Yep. Galling. That's exactly the right word. It galls me to see a Catholic convent sold for conversion to a mosque. There is nothing "complex" about that. It's galling that the deal apparently went down the way it did, such that it came as a shock to the parishioners. If you read the article, you'll have noticed that some of them are pretty galled by this. And it's galling that this happens to be on a street named in honor of an American firefighter who was murdered by Muslim terrorists on 9-11.I'm surprised that you aren't galled by this.

  3. Tony de New York

    ' inter-faith relations'my as#@$ ! the priest should have talked to his parishoners. He does NOT own that Catholic convent, it was bought with the money that staten island Catholics have given to the churh.SHAME, SHAME to Rev. Keith Fennessy

  4. RC

    Hello? Archdiocese? I hope somebody is supervising things.

  5. Anonymous

    Hey Patrick. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Regardless, the issue is not complex. We are talking about a neighborhood that is concerned and their concerns should be acknowledged, which does seem to be happening by the Pastor. The article did not convey any bigotry about it– people have a right to be concerned.I find it hard to believe that once again a church, or in this case a part of the church, is being sold to a Muslim group. It is not intolerant to not want to see a Christian home be sold to a Muslim group.

  6. Catholic Defender

    Does the Bishop know about this? I have the impression that priests in the USA can just decide by their own without consulting the community where they are serving?In the Philippines, there's a lot of consultation. It's not only a one man decision. Are American Catholic priests really are Catholics? Or they are just being priests for a living? Then they should not call themselves Catholics in that aspect.

  7. Susan L

    And the radical Muslims have succeeded in yet another slap in the face of the American people.I am saddened that it was facilitated by a Catholic priest.

  8. Jim

    I have to agree with Mr. Madrid on one point, but disagree on another.It is indeed galling to see a religious building being sold to another religion, fully aware of their intent to convert it for religious purposes.However, to find it galling because it's on a street named for a 9-11 hero is incredible–as in, lacking credibility. The implication of Mr. Madrid's statement is that all Muslims, and by extension all of Islam, are responsible for–or at least support–what happened on 9-11. That's like saying the vigilante who shot Dr. Tiller, the Phelps family of Westboro Baptist Church, and the other assorted crazies and loudmouths who give Christianity a black eye are representative of and the proper measure of Christianity.Unless there is a demonstrated connection between this particular Muslim group and terrorism–a connection I didn't see in the article–it is difficult to see why the location would be of any matter at all. Without that connection, it's difficult to see the comment about the location being galling as anything but hateful.

  9. Marcy K.

    Well, as much as you don't like a group, isn't it illegal to refuse to sell or rent to somebody because of who they are? If the priest would have refused to sell it to them the archdiocese could have been sued, etc.

  10. bt

    I think the real issue is that we should be trying to fill our empty convents. We need to pray that this happens. At the Church nearest me, the convent was basically empty for about two decades. Formerly it had been staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who taught grades one through eight. Now the school is taught by laypersons. Recently, the pastor got a few Mexican Sisters to move into the convent, although they are not a teaching order. That is a start at least, after having been empty for so long! In the parish my parents attended in Bozeman, Montana, the convent, which had been staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from Lacrosse Wisconsin (an excellent teaching order at the time), is now empty. The parish is planning on having the convent torn down. How tragic! Why tear it down? Where is the hope? How will you ever have a full convent if you sell off your convent? Where are the real values? In my opinion, the model of the Catholic school with adjoining rectory and convent is a great model and builds a strong community. Why settle for less? When we sell off a convent, we are selling off more than just a building. We are selling off, nay surgically removing, an essential spiritual component of our community. We are throwing away our hope.If your convent has nuns, if your rectory has priests, the building and land concerns will not be concerns.

  11. Staten Pilgrim

    We live in an age when our natural leaders- our political representatives and our clergy- are actively fighting against the people and the systems they are supposed to protect. This priest is a disgrace.

  12. Anonymous

    Interestingly enough, I found the link below on the same page I found a link to your page. Kreeft points out that not all Muslims are terrorists, so it is not right to associate all Muslims with the 9-11 attacks.I agree that it is sad to have to sell the convent in the way described, but I get the feeling people are stereotyping Muslims and reacting to irrational, uneducated associations.

  13. Anonymous

    I think that sometimes we comment on things too quickly. Not surprising that a gut level reaction would be negative. However there should reasonably be a presumption that you can't equate terroism with all Muslims. To do so would be profiling right?Any chance that someplace in the States someone of McVey's lineage or ethnicity could have bought a church or other American institutional property? If so it'd have happened without outrage.There's real offense though in doing the deal in the dark or absent the knowledge of at least lay parish leadership. But as was said in another comment our knowledge is at best superficial. Apart from the pastor I think it's likely that parish council or stewardship folk knew something. If not that'd be a travesty and potentially an indication of a problem with Church hierarchy and the priest for not ethically consulting with parish level bodies.At the end of the day I'd guess the property was disposed of in a commercially reasonable way, ie it went to the highest bidder. It is very unlikely that if they had another qualified buyer, that would have paid more than the Muslim's, they'd have done the deal. There are lots of parishes gushing red ink and therefore cannot out of pride or other motives hold unto dormant buildings for which there's no future parish use.

  14. Matt C. Abbott

    I agree, Patrick. Thanks for posting this.

  15. John

    Folks, if anything bothers me here, it's the reaction to this news.I don't see a distinct terrorist threat here.I don't see an effort at undermining any faith.If anything, I'm surprised the Muslims would buy a building that likely has Christian symbols on the facade; symbols that may be difficult to remove.I understand very well that we'd like to see the nuns return….But if they haven't been about for some time and likely won't be again soon, why are we going nuts?Far better that monotheistic Muslims–who also believe in Mary–should buy it than say, the average Pagan group…..

  16. Faith

    How do we know that Father Fennessey wasn't doing this to further friendly relations with Muslims? I mean how Chestertonianly (to coin a word?) ironic that on the very street that was named for a martyr of Islamic terrorist violence, Catholics and Muslims can get along so well? Aren't we supposed to love our enemies? How does being prejudice against Muslims in real estate sales and vilifying them all with one broad indiscriminate stroke demonstrate this most Christian of all concepts (love of enemy)?Methinks we are so intent on being 'galled' all the time we forget to practice the very basic principles of Catholicism.It is sad that the convent was empty, though. To me,that was the most galling part of the article.

  17. Sandy Ricket

    Folks, We have less to fear from Turkish and Albanian Muslims than we do from Southern Baptists. To me the real issue here is the priest keeping things close to the vest… if he did. Did the parish council know about this? By the way, isn't the property held in the Diocese" name, not the parish? The priest may be acting as an agent for the Bishop. Why was the property being sold? And the $950000 number looks good on paper, but in this market, $750000 is very reasonable.

  18. Shug

    Maybe the US should insist that all muslims have little yellow crescent moons sown into their clothing so everyone can be as galled as you seem to be.You should be ashamed of yourself.

  19. Anonymous

    Why do so many ask stupidly, "…does the Bishop know?" Bishops know and approve. For Heaven's sake, about the only times they ever act is if there is an "unapproved" Latin Mass. Again, the Bishops know and approve. Many of them just don't agree with us.

  20. Anonymous

    I hope there is a bloody battle on the streets, with more deaths on the residents side as then they will all go to heaven for being such great Christians cause they spread Jesus's message of intolerance.

  21. Genevieve Kineke

    Thank you for the link to Peter Kreeft's book on Islam. I am stunned. He notes one point of what we should learn from Islam: "The sacredness of the family and children and hospitality." He cannot be serious! The family in which the wife is called to servile obedience to the husband or be subject to corporal punishment? In which the women is half the worth of a man? In which the woman is first subject to obey her father, then her husband, and then her sons? In which she is married off even against her will and for which the father is paid? In which she can be summarily divorced and dismissed by her husband's fiat? In which she may be displaced by up to three other wives and innumerable concubines? That family?He cannot be serious. Has he really read the Koran, the ahadith and shari'a law that flows from them? I'm galled to think that a house built with loving alms by the local community for authentic Brides of Christ will now be used by adherents of a religion that has no such reverence for womanhood.

  22. Anonymous

    I agree with Genevieve. Good post Patrick!

  23. Susan L

    You know, Patrick, sometimes things that should be a slam-dunk in common sense aren't that at all for others. For radical muslims, it is a sign of victory to build mosques where they've attacked. Look at Ground Zero. They're building two mosques right nearby. Now they're buying a convent on a street named for a 911 hero and building a mosque. Hmmm. Shug, something wrong with your post. You just don't get it. Blind blind blind. and Anonymous with the "bloody battle on the streets" post. Truth does not equal intolerance. Stop your blathering and find out what is truth. Truth is truth.

  24. John Campbell

    Ty, Jim, Anonymous, John and other potential American Dhimmis posting on this thread.Wake the hell up. The Muslim Association has terrorist ties and is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. A simple internet search will confirm this from numberous sources. Tolerance is a virtue, but in this case it is gravely misplaced. The sell-out of this facility, by a priest no less, is unconscionable — a slap in the face to the Catholic Church, and the victims of 9-11.

  25. MaryAnn

    Has anyone heard of stealth jihad? This is it, in action. Americans are by nature trusting and welcoming people. Jihadists know this and take great advantage of it. The sad thing is that they announce their plans every chance they get, clearly and loudly, and yet so many people refuse to hear them.I was also apalled after reading Kreeft's introduction to his book. He clearly has not delved into the Quran or the present day practices of the "religion of peace".If he has, he chooses not to learn or to believe what he's learned.Perhaps he has not heard of FGM (female genital mutilation), honor killings (murdering the wife or daughter for such egregious offenses as dressing in a western style). The list could go on. He sounds like an apologist for Islam.

  26. Anonymous

    Another example of our Bishops failure to govern which leads to another scandle. As a new Catholic my respect for the Bishops is diminished by their unwillingness to address the issues.

  27. Allison

    As the wife of a man who survived by the Sept. 11 attacks on the WTC (my husband escated within 11 minutes of the Tower One falling) I am galled .All Muslims did not attack our country. The attacks killed thousands and traumatized tens of thousands who were in the building that day. The attacks were indiscriminate – Muslims were killed, along with Catholics, Jews and people of no particular faith. To broadly portray Muslims in such a negative light and to jump to conclusions is just bigotry.The Holy Spirit calls us to much more than this.

  28. Patrick Madrid

    Allison, you've missed the point of the article. It says nothing about "portraying Muslims in a negative light." Yes, yes, we all know that the attacks killed many people indiscriminately. That's a non-issue. The point is that it was Muslims who killed all those people in the name of their religion. And the people of the parish whose convent was sold to a Muslim group are unhappy that it's being turned into a mosque, located on a street named for someone who was killed by Muslim terrorists. I'm not galled by your comment, just amazed at how completely you missed the point of this news item.

  29. Matt C. Abbott

    Sadly, political correctness (which is not the same as authentic compassion) is becoming a problem even in the Church.

  30. Allison

    I did not miss the point. Because SOME Muslims chose to embrace evil and misuse their religion as a front for their own hatred is not a reason to be bigoted against ALL Muslims. Do the Sept. 11 terrorists speak for/represent the Muslim faith? Does the IRA speak for/represent the Catholic faith? Does the JDL speak for/represent the Jewish faith? If we allow the terror of that day to enter our hearts and warp into bigotry, then those terrorists really did win. Instead, let us pray our Church is renewed through increased vocations and increased participation by all of us in the Church's sacramental life.

  31. Patrick Madrid

    Allison, your latest post just proves my point about how you've entirely missed the point. Nobody quoted in that article was being "bigoted" toward all Muslims.They are upset by at least three things: 1) that their parish convent was sold to this group in a way that took them by surprise (i.e., they didn't seem to be aware of it till after it was a fait acompli; 2) that the convent will be converted into a mosque; and 3) that the mosque will be located on a street named in honor of a man who was murdered by Muslim terrorists in the name of Islam.If you can't see why that would be galling to the Catholic folks who are personally affected and distressed by this situation (as it is galling to those of us who sympathize with them), then I don't know what else I can say to you about it. This has nothing to do with "bigotry" toward Muslims. You should stop using that kind of prejudicial language about people who are not guilty of bigotry.

  32. Allison

    You are conflating terrorists who misuse the Muslim religion to justify their evil with folks who, at this point, we have every reason to believe are folks who are ordinary Muslims. That is prejudging. I believe in innocent until proven guilty and nothing I have read suggests these folks are anyone to be feared.A convent should be filled with nuns. This one is not. It's empty. Thus it was sold with the blessing of the Archdiocese of New York. Let us pray for vocations and that all Catholics participate in the sacramental life of the Church so we don't continue to face empty convents and nearly empty seminaries.

  33. Anonymous

    Yes, Allison, let us pray for an increase in vocations, if for no other reason than to properly catechize the faithful. Your own posts show that you are a shining example of those who have suffered from poor catechesis.

  34. Ty

    The complexity of the matter has been highlighted by a few who have posted here–namely, that all Muslims are not to be equated with terrorism, which, like it or not, is the implicit tone of the original post and the explicit tone of too many of the comments above. Exactly how the sale was made and the way in which the parish or bishop was/was not involved may well be troubling. But unless we all want to be equated with, say, the 'Christians' who bomb abortion clinics we might not want to equate all Muslims with Al Qaeda.

  35. Ty

    But may I also add, that given the uniqueness of the situation, consulting with the parishioners would be even more important, as Patrick has pointed out. The closeness of the 9/11 tragedy to the lives of the community makes not involving them in the decision certainly more troubling. But, again, we must ask what we are implying by some of our choices of words. Patrick, when you say "galling to those of us who sympathize with them", there is something implicit here. For, if we can recognize that just because certain people did something very, very horribly "in the name of Islam" it doesn't follow that we should abhor the presence of average Muslims, can we not sympathize while still differentiating between extremist Muslims and average Muslims? I think you would agree here and I'm not trying to accuse you; however, it's the general tone of what you are offering and, even more disturbingly, the very specific tone of so many other comments posted above. I hope that makes sense. Thank you for allowing the discussion to happen on your blog.

  36. Allison

    Ty: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your remarks. You articulated my view far better than I was able to. I am the wife of a survivor who walked down from the 68th floor of Tower One after it was attacked. He lost dozens of colleagues. To Anon: My faith is precious to me and I strive daily to learn more. God bless you and yours.

  37. Anonymous

    Allison, You previously made the following statement:"That is prejudging. I believe in innocent until proven guilty and nothing I have read suggests these folks are anyone to be feared."I would like to know where you conducted your research. Others were able to easily find the Muslim American Society does have ties to less than reputable Muslim groups. I think you would like everyone to say what a great person you are for being so tolerant of Muslims given your circumstances.I wonder if your husband feels the same. Ask people who worked in the area, how many Muslims conveniently disappeared a few days before 9/11 I am sure you think a mosque a couple of blocks from the WTC site is a wonderful idea. Yes by all means let's allow them to build a mosque to honor the terrorist they lost on 9/11

  38. Anonymous

    I was born and raised Catholic and becoming angry with the Church and its policies.Are you's aware, that muslims are not allowed to sell any muslim community property to any other christian or religious organization other than their own??? Think people.. get your heads our of your butts.. this is not about racism.. its about National Security… regardless of what they say… Did you read anything else? "They" say they're against any form of terrorism.. but did you notice he (did not) WOULD NOT denounce Hamas or Hezbellah… this is about as sorry a story as has been the open borders in Arizona and Texas.. (shakes head)… don't sell your souls to the demon of political correctness people!!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: