Catholic Youth Hostel welcomes visitors to NYC

by Stefani Manowski
November 16, 2009
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Catholic Youth Hostel welcomes visitors to NYCENLARGE PHOTO | START SLIDESHOW

Pilgrims and pilgrimage groups now have a convenient and inexpensive place to stay as they experience the urban spirituality of New York City: the Catholic Youth Hostel, a ministry of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan.

While primarily designed for Catholic pilgrims, the hostel is open to all, said Paulist Father Gilbert Martinez, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle.

The hostel has seen a healthy 80 percent occupancy rate since opening on April 1.

“We have had pilgrims from all over the United States,” Father Martinez said. “And we have also had a lot of pilgrims from Paris, France.”

Conveniently located near Columbus Circle on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the hostel features 92 beds, a modern kitchen, Internet access and ample common space. Pilgrims and pilgrim groups are welcome to participate in liturgies and sacraments celebrated at St. Paul, and can book the church for the spiritual components of pilgrimages. Pilgrims are invited to participate in the celebration of the liturgy and sacraments at St. Paul, as well as to receive an orientation session on Servant of God Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers, and tours of the church featuring notable works of religious art.

The hostel highlights the missionary aspect of the Paulist Fathers that serve the parish and hostel, said Father Martinez, noting that it is almost missionary work in reverse.

“It is missionary in because we welcome people coming to New York City,” he said. “The hostel provides hospitality primarily to young people here to experience the spirituality of the city or to do service work.”

In fact, many pilgrims do service work right at St. Paul (including painting the interior of the church auditorium rooms used for the parish homeless shelter), cleaning the hostel and volunteering in the parish soup kitchen and shelter.

“There is definite interaction between the pilgrimage groups and the parish ministries,” Father Martinez said.

The hostel is housed in the former convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters, who served the St. Paul’s parish elementary school until it closed in 1974. The Sisters then operated a program for at-risk young women experiencing social and economic difficulties, where the clients would receive job training and encouragement to pursue their education. The program closed on Jan. 31, 2008, and the Sisters vacated the building.

The building took some $500,000 in renovations to be transformed into the hostel, according to Father Martinez, including a new roof, new plumbing, air conditioning installation, new floors and knocking out walls.

“It was in bad shape, but now it is coming along,” said Father Martinez.

The money generated from the hostel will pay back the parish for the renovation expenses and then serve the parish as a source of income, Father Martinez stated. The cost is $35 per night per pilgrim, which lowers to $28 per night per pilgrim for Catholic pilgrim groups.

It has been very exciting,” Father Martinez said. “It has worked out well, better than we expected in our wildest dreams.”

More information can be found and reservations made at catholicchurchhostel.com.

 

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