(Str.: dp. 13,500; 1. 420'2"; b. 53'9"; dr. 28'5"; s. 13 k.)
Santa Cecilia (ID-4008) was built in 1913 by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pa., for the Atlantic and Pacific Steamship Co., was taken over by the Navy at New York on 10 March 1919; and commissioned the same day.
Santa Cecilia was one of four Army ships manned by the Navy in March 1919 after conversion to troop transports by the Army. She sailed from Hoboken, N. J., on 11 April 1919 for Bordeaux, France, and returned to New York on 9 May with homeward-bound troops. She completed her fourth and last round-trip voyage on 7 September 1919, and was transferred to the United States Shipping Board on 6 October 1919. Following mercantile service, Santa Cecilia was broken up in 1935.
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St. Cecilia and the History of the Roman Catacombs
We can pinpoint the day when interest in the catacombs was reawakened: May 31, 1578.
Simon Vouet, “Saint Cecilia”, ca. 1626 (photo: Public Domain)
Nov. 22 is the feats of St. Cecilia, for centuries one of the most beloved martyrs. Her name occurs in the centuries-old Roman Canon of the Mass, also known as the First Eucharistic Prayer. The Basilica of St. Cecilia in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood is one of the loveliest in the city, and stands over the remains of her palace (you can go down into the crypt to see the saint’s home). And Cecilia is revered as the patron saint of music and musicians because, the legend says, on her wedding day, when the hired musicians sang bawdy songs, she sang a song to Christ in her heart.
After her martyrdom, Cecilia was buried in a catacomb outside the walls of Rome just off the Appian Way. That catacomb is known as St. Callixtus.
The Christians of Rome buried their dead—martyrs and non-martyrs alike—in the catacombs, and visited the tombs just as we visit the graves of our family and friends. On the anniversary of martyr’s death, they met at the saint’s tomb for Mass, which is the origin of our feast days. But over time, cave-ins made it dangerous to visit the catacombs, and earthquakes often sealed up the entrances. Gradually, the remains of the martyrs were from the catacombs and enshrined in churches. Gradually, the locations of the catacombs were forgotten.
We can pinpoint the day when interest in the catacombs was reawakened: May 31, 1578. That day, workers on the Via Salaria Nuova were digging up volcanic stone known as pozzolana. Suddenly they broke into a long-forgotten catacomb that ran beneath the vineyard. Exploration of the catacomb revealed sarcophagi, inscriptions, and paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The discovery caused a sensation in Rome. It also ramped up one of the greatest points of contention between Catholics and Protestants: the veneration of sacred images. Protestants liked to portray themselves as the true heirs of the ancient Christians, while dismissing Catholics as interlopers who introduced all manner of pagan corruptions into the Christian Church, among these the veneration of images, which Protestants regarded as idolatry. The discovery of a catacomb filled with sacred art delighted Catholic apologists and discomfited their Protestant opponents.
The discovery inspired three amateurs, a Spanish Dominican priest, Alfonso Chacon, a Flemish layman, Philip de Winghe, and a French layman, Ioanne L’Heureux to search for other catacombs and to make a preliminary study of these ancient Christian burial places. The three rediscovered the catacombs of St. Priscilla, St. Valentine, SS. Peter and Marcellinus, and St. Callixtus. None of these men were trained archaeologists (the science did not exist at the time), but their work was a start.
For almost 300 years, exploration of the catacombs was haphazard, until a young Italian named Giovanni Battista De Rossi’s (1822-1894) accepted a post in the Vatican Library, where he took special interest in cataloguing early Christian inscriptions. Soon he was tramping around the outskirts of Rome, looking for signs of long-forgotten subterranean cemeteries. He found about ten.
One day in 1849, De Rossi was examining a vineyard on the Appian Way. In a cellar he found a broken marble tablet that bore an incomplete inscription: NELIUS. MARTYR. From a seventh-century guide to the catacombs, De Rossi knew that after his martyrdom in 253, Pope St. Cornelius had been buried nearby. De Rossi appealed to Pope Pius IX to purchase this vineyard as well as the vineyard adjoining it so he could begin an excavation. Pius bought the land, and De Rossi began a dig at what he discovered was the ancient St. Callixtus catacomb. Among other treasures, he found the other half of the grave slab: it bore the letters COR and beneath Pope Cornelius’ name, EP, an abbreviation of EPISCOPUS, meaning “bishop.” De Rossi even found the chamber where St. Cornelius had been buried in the Crypt of Lucina, a Christian and a member of wealthy noble Roman family. Like many other well-to-do Christians of the time, she made room for the bodies of martyrs in her family tomb. By doing so, Lucina was not merely practicing the virtue of charity, she was also securing for herself and her family the prayers of St. Cornelius. Since his body was buried among Lucina’s family, the martyred pope could be relied upon to intercede for her and all her relatives.
As De Rossi continued his explorations, he found the original tombs of St. Cecilia and of St. Tarsicius, an adolescent boy who gave his life rather than permit a pagan mob to desecrate the Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps most wonderful of all was a chapel where nine popes of the third and fourth centuries had been buried.
Naturally, De Rossi reported his find to Pope Pius IX, and May 11, 1854, the pope, with a small entourage, arrived at the catacomb. De Rossi led his visitors to the chapel of the popes. In his memoirs De Rossi records the pope saying, “So these, then, really are the tombstones of the first successors of Peter, the tombs of my predecessors who now repose here?” De Rossi assured him that was correct, then he handed to Pius several of the tomb slabs of the martyred popes. The pope’s eyes filled with tears. He knelt and prayed.
In many cases the original tombs of the martyrs that De Rossi discovered were empty, the relics having been moved centuries earlier to churches in the city. The bones of St. Cecilia lay in the beautiful basilica built over her mansion, and the bones of St. Tarsicius were placed in the Church of San Silvestro in Capite. But there were many graves that remained intact, with the bones of martyrs preserved inside. Many of these saints were new to the Church—their names did not appear on the Roman Martyrology, the ancient list of martyrs from the first centuries of the Church.
When such tombs were found, the bones, the inscription on the tomb slab, and any objects found within the grave were examined by historians and physicians for evidence that the deceased had been a Christian and died a violent death. For example, in 1853 during excavations at the Cemetery of Pretextatus on the Appian Way, the work crew found an intact tomb. The slab bore the inscription:” TO THE SOUL OF THE INNOCENT AND PURE VIBIANA, LAID AWAY THE DAY BEFORE THE KALENDS OF SEPTEMBER” (Aug. 31). The slab bore a carving of a laurel wreath, a Christian symbol for a martyr. Inside the tomb was the skeleton of a young woman and a small glass vial. It was a custom among the early Roman Christians to collect some of a martyr’s blood (if possible) and place it in the tomb. After examining the bones, physicians concluded that Vibiana had died in a violent manner. The report regarding Vibiana eventually reached Pope Pius IX, who exercised his authority to declare Vibiana a saint.
By chance, a few weeks later, Thaddeus Amat, the new bishop of Monterey, California, arrived in Rome for a private audience with the pope. In Rome, the United States was regarded as mission territory, no different than the Congo or China. During his audience with Bishop Amat, Pope Pius had an inspiration: he presented the relics of St. Vibiana to the diocese of Monterey, to be enshrined in the cathedral. Today the relics of Vibiana are enshrined in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.
And Bishop Amat’s diocese was not the only one in America to receive the relics of an early Roman martyr. Old St. Mary’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, was given the relics of St. Martura. The Redemptorist Fathers who staffed the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in New York City were given the relics of St. Datian. The relics of a child-martyr, eight-year-old St. Cessianus, was Pope Pius’ gift to the bishop of Dubuque, Iowa the relics lie beneath the main altar of the Cathedral of St. Raphael. The skeletons of two martyrs, St. Bonosa and St. Magnus were enshrined in the Church of St. Martin of Tours, in Louisville, Kentucky. The chapel of the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Maria Stein, Ohio, preserves the relics of SS. Concordia, Victoria, Innocent, Cruser and Rogatus. And the skeleton of St. Demetrius can be found in Pittsburgh’s St. Anthony’s Chapel, home to the largest collection of sacred relics in the United States.
When he began an excavation, De Rossi never knew what he would discover. St. Callixtus is his greatest find. As beautiful as the basilica of St. Cecilia is, it is a much powerful experience to wander through poorly lit underground tunnels to the place where the persecuted Christians of Rome carried her body and buried it among a host of martyrs.
Antonio Pappano Music Director
Sir Antonio Pappano has been Music Director of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia since 1 October 2005
The Box office at the Auditorium Parco della Musica will be open every day from 11:00 until 18:00
Where we are
The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia concert hall is the at the Auditorium Parco della Musica of Rome (Viale Pietro De Coubertin, 34) designed by architect Renzo Piano, one of the largest music complexes in the world today. Legal Headquarter is at Via Vittoria 6.
Musicians’ charity Help Musicians hosts an annual celebration of St Cecilia, which usually takes part at Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Cathedral, and features their great choirs and other wonderful musicians and guests.
For 2020, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration went ahead – but online. And the charity partnered with Cathedral Music Trust, which supports cathedrals and choral music in the UK and beyond, to showcase wonderful and poignant performances and messages in a time that’s tested the classical music world.
The celebration features performances by Westminster Cathedral Choir, Gloucester Cathedral Choir and British soprano Natalya Romaniw, as well as appearances from composer and conductor John Rutter, Help Musicians ambassador Isata Kanneh-Mason, and president of Cathedral Music Trust, Harry Christophers.
The celebratory concert was streamed on Help Musicians’ website, here, at 11am GMT on Wednesday 18 November, and is now available to stream online on demand. Viewers and music lovers are encouraged to donate to the charity at this incredibly difficult time for musicians.
“We hope that in a time of further lockdown and restrictions, that music lovers right across the UK will join us to reflect on the role that music has in our lives, and the value musicians bring to us all.
“2020 is turning out to be one of the most difficult years that musicians have had to face, with tens of thousands seeking support. This event will also therefore raise much needed funds for Help Musicians and The Cathedral Music Trust.”
Please watch the video produced by the halo initiative which includes footage of teachers and our campus!
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Santa Maria in Trastevere
Some sources say this is the first church where Mass was celebrated openly. Legend surrounds this church’s founding some information puts its construction at 221, although mid 4 th century is more likely. It was rebuilt in the mid 12 th century and again in the mid 19 th century. Santa Maria in Trastevere contains an odd mixture of Ancient Roman artifacts and construction and early, medieval and relatively new Christian art and architecture.
The front of Rome Italy's Santa Maria in Trastevere Church
The façade was rebuilt in 1702 the four Baroque statues above the portal depict Sts Calixtus, Cornelius, Julius and Calepodius. The mosaics are 12th century. They depict the parable of the wise and the unwise maidens. The Blessed Virgin is in the center. The right side maidens are crownless and have allowed their lamps to extinguish.
The door has recycled Imperial Rome stone cornices and the narthex contains a collection of pagan and early Christian inscriptions (3rd century) on the wall and fragments of 9th century sculpture and medieval paintings. The sarcophagi are from the 3rd and 4th centuries.
The campanile is 12th century.
The Mosaic and Triumphal Arch in Rome Italy's Santa Maria in Trastevere
The spectacular main apse mosaic is also from the 13th century remodel project and is attributed to Pietro Cavallini. Christ and St Mary are enthroned and flanked by saints and popes. The mosaic’s left side shows Pope Innocent II holding a model of the church, St Lawrence and Pope St Callixtus. On the right side are Peter and Pope St Cornelius, Pope St Julius and St Calepodius.
The panels between the windows are also mosaics and are late 12th century. They show scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin. From the left they are: The Birth of Our Lady, The Annunciation, Nativity, Epiphany, Presentation in the Temple and The Falling Asleep of Mary. The last one shows the soul of Mary in the arms of Our Lord.
The Apse Mosaic of Rome, Italy's Santa Maria in Trastevere Church
The triumphal arch’s frescoes are 19th century, the episcopal throne in the apse is ancient.
And now for some of the oddness that is Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Inside the church in various places are the Latin words “Fons Olei (oil spring).” Legend has it that a crude oil spring bubbled up here during Augustus’ rule. The local Jewish community interpreted it as a sign that God’s grace would soon flow into the world. Later, because of this interpretation, this location became a meeting spot for the first Roman converts to Christianity.
Another oddness at the steps at the end of the right aisle you can see some black marble weights. These are ancient standard weights, which the Romans first kept in the temples and later in the churches.
The Stained Glass Wndows of Rome Italy's Santa Maria in Trastevere
If you are planning a visit to Italy soon I have written 2 walking tour guide books to Rome that you can purchase here or at Amazon or Barnes and Noble plus I have a great deal of travel information about Italy and Rome here at my Travels webpages.
Santa Cecilia Str - History
About 10 years after the end of the Civil War, when construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was in its seventh year and the “panic of 1873” was plaguing New York City, the Very Reverend Hugh Flattery, a pioneer priest, established a tiny chapel in the Old Red House, a resort hotel located on 105th Street in East Harlem.
Interestingly, Fr. Flattery’s chapel—which represents the origin of the Catholic Church of St. Cecilia—was established less than two centuries after the cornerstone had been laid for the first permanent Roman Catholic Church in New York City, in Lower Manhattan.
As the founding pastor of St. Cecilia, Fr. Flattery soon began looking for a larger, more permanent parish site, but he died in 1879. His successor, the Very Reverend Monsignor William P. Flannelly, took up his cause, eventually locating and procuring property at the church’s present site on the south side of 106th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues.
Records show that the cornerstone of the new church was laid at 4 p.m. on September 9, 1883, though it is not made clear why the name of St. Cecilia—who had been martyred as a young virgin in the 2nd Century A.D., and who serves as the patroness of church music and musicians—was selected. Six months later, on the fourth Sunday of Epiphany 1884, the Most Reverend Archbishop Hayes blessed the basement chapel of what would become the new edifice.
That same year, Reverend Michael J. Phelan, famed throughout the Archdiocese of New York as the “builder of churches,” was appointed pastor of St. Cecilia, a post he held for 38 years, until 1922.
Fr. Phelan, using the building plans of Napoleon Le Brun, notable for designing the Metropolitan Life Building in New York, took on the duties of general contractor himself, commissioning the services of carpenters, plasterers, tinsmiths, and bricklayers—mostly parishioners.
By the beginning of the 20th Century, the area between Central Park’s northeastern perimeter and the Hell Gate section of New York’s East River was being populated by new waves of immigrants as Irish and Italian families joined the already established German and Jewish populations.
Later, Hispanic immigrants joined a black population in East Harlem, along with Puerto Rican families, who gave the new name, El Barrio, to the neighborhood of approximately 60 square blocks, stretching from East 100th Street to East 112th Street, and from First Avenue to Fifth Avenue.
(In what year, or at least in what decade was Commander Shea School established at 132 East 111th Street for first through fourth grades St. Cecilia School established at 220 East 106th Street for fifth through eighth grades and Christo Rey Catholic High School established?)
In an historical note, Commander Shea School continues to house the altar that was used by Pope Paul VI during his trip to the United States when he said his famous Mass in Yankee Stadium. The altar was bequeathed to the school in March 1972 by Cardinal Cooke.
Now well into the 21st Century, the Church of St. Cecilia, notable for bearing its “cross-crowned steeple,” continues to welcome a diversity of Catholic families representing many homelands.
[Over the weekend, thousands of readers were moved by the images of a young Carmelite nun, Sister Cecilia, whose countenance radiated joy as she approached her culmination. That story, which originated in Aleteia’s Spanish-language edition, culled from the Facebook page Curia General de los Carmelitas Descalzos, received a helpful clarification from the Carmelites, who have subsequently granted Aleteia permission to tell the inspiring story of Sister Cecilia’s joy in the face of suffering. This is, again, translated from the Spanish – Ed]
Photos circulating on the internet of a dying Carmelite sister are certainly, as they say, worth a thousand words. But the images that have traveled around the world are only part of the story. For those who lived her suffering beside her, the nun’s testimony of joy and peace was just as radiant as her face.
News of her failing health and her reflections spread quickly through social media on WhatsApp. Even Pope Francis was following her situation. And Sister Cecilia Maria, a discalced Carmelite, knew about everyone’s prayer.
Despite her illness, she did not lose her joy, which was sustained by the support of her numerous family members, who remained close by. Joyful nieces and nephews congregated in the gardens outside the hospital where she was admitted for some weeks, sending her messages and helium balloons to distract and entertain her from the window.
Her joy was accompanied — or perhaps explained — by a profound state of prayer. Whenever she could, she put on her habit so as to participate at Mass in the hospital chapel. She lived these Masses with the same devotion that characterized her life behind the grille of the Carmel of Villa Pueyrredon in Buenos Aires.
Despite her illness, Sister Cecilia remained quite lucid. Though she couldn’t talk during her last months, her weak gestures at each Mass gave evidence of her attention and fervor. When the prayers of the faithful included the intention of the sick, her expression showed her gratitude.
Those who saw her spoke of her face as showing peace and joy — as someone awaiting the encounter with the One to whom she had given her life, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
During her last months, two religious sisters accompanied her: one, her blood sister, a nun of the Incarnate Word, and the other, a spiritual sister from her congregation. With her and like her, despite the sorrow, they were always smiling, as were the members of her family. This is a beautiful testimony the the power of the domestic Church, facing in unity difficult moments such as these.
“I am very content,” Sister Cecilia Maria wrote in May, “astonished by the work of God through suffering, and by so many people who pray for me.”
Even Pope Francis from Rome had assured her of his prayers in a voice message in which he told her that he knew of her offering and that he loved her very much.
It wasn’t the first time that the Vicar of Christ had his attention on Sister Cecilia. Before taking the habit, she had been able to personally tell Pope John Paul II about her vocation.
Some hours before dying, the Carmelite was able to receive Communion, wetting her lips with the Precious Blood of Our Lord. The illness had already, sometime before, taken the use of her tongue, “the most sacred paten for receiving his Body and Blood,” as she described it.
Like Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, she requested that in her funeral, in addition to prayer, there would be celebration. The beloved would at last embrace her Lover.
She “has softly fallen asleep in the Lord, after an extremely painful illness, which she always endured with joy and surrender to her Divine Spouse,” her sisters in the Carmel of Santa Fe said in announcing her death.
General Curia of the Discalced Carmelites
If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.
In the fourth century a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian was written in glorification of virginal life with the purpose of taking the place of then-popular sensual romances.
Consequently, until better evidence is produced, we must conclude that St. Cecilia was not known or venerated in Rome until about the time when Pope Gelasius (496) introduced her name into his Sacramentary.
It is said that there was a church dedicated to St. Cecilia in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in 500.
The story of St. Cecilia is not without beauty or merit. She is said to have been quite close to God and prayed often:
In the city of Rome there was a virgin named Cecilia, who came from an extremely rich family and was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, fasted, and invoked the saints, angels, and virgins, beseeching them to guard her virginity
During her wedding ceremony she was said to have sung in her heart to God and before the consummation of her nuptials, she told her husband she had taken a vow of virginity and had an angel protecting her. Valerian asked to see the angel as proof, and Cecilia told him he would have eyes to see once he traveled to the third milestone on the Via Appia (Appian Way) and was baptized by Pope Urbanus.
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Following his baptism, Valerian returned to his wife and found an angel at her side. The angel then crowned Cecilia with a chaplet of rose and lily and when Valerian's brother, Tibertius, heard of the angel and his brother's baptism, he also was baptized and together the brothers dedicated their lives to burying the saints who were murdered each day by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius.
Both brothers were eventually arrested and brought before the prefect where they were executed after they refused to offer a sacrifice to the gods.
As her husband and brother-in-law buried the dead, St. Cecilia spent her time preaching and in her lifetime was able to convert over four hundred people, most of whom were baptized by Pope Urban.
Cecilia was later arrested and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for one night and one day, as fires were heaped up and stoked to a terrifying heat - but Cecilia did not even sweat.
When Almachius heard this, he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the baths.
The executioner struck her three times but was unable to decapitate her so he left her bleeding and she lived for three days. Crowds came to her and collected her blood while she preached to them or prayed. On the third day she died and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.
St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music, because she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married, and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand.
Officials exhumed her body in 1599 and found her to be incorrupt, the first of all incurrupt saints. She was draped in a silk veil and wore a gold embroidered dress. Officials only looked through the veil in an act of holy reverence and made no further examinations. They also reported a "mysterious and delightful flower-like odor which proceeded from the coffin."
St. Cecilia's remains were transferred to Cecilia's titular church in Trastevere and placed under the high altar.
In 1599 Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, nephew of Pope Gregory XIV, rebuilt the church of St. Cecilia.