The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center
for Thought & Culture
Named after the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, best known for his popular radio and TV ministry in the 1950s and 60s, The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is a project of the Archdiocese of New York, presenting more than 75 events in theatre, film, music, and thought per season. The state-of-the-art complex has a 274-seat proscenium theater equipped with five-camera high-definition livestream capability and a multi-track recording studio with thirty-two onstage inputs; an 80-seat black box theater; four rehearsal studios; and an art gallery.
The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is a forum to highlight the true, the good, and the beautiful as they have been expressed throughout the ages. Cognizant of our creation in the image and likeness of God, the Sheen Center aspires to present the heights and depths of human expression in thought and culture, featuring humankind as fully alive. At the Sheen Center, we proclaim that life is worth living, especially when we seek to deepen, explore and challenge ourselves, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, intellectually, artistically, and spiritually.
The Sheen Center is a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization. EIN: 46-4995275
Production Highlights at The Sheen Center
- The North American premiere of Stephen Unwin’s All Our Children starring John Glover
- The New York premieres of a cappella musical All Is Calm (Drama Desk winner), Tectonic Theater Project’s Uncommon Sense, and Bill Cain’s 9 Circles
- The annual Justice Film Festival presents diverse films of unexpected courage and redemption annually.
- Red carpet film premieres and exclusive sneak previews including Hacksaw Ridge with Mel Gibson and Robert Schenkkan, Breakthrough with Chrissy Metz and Devon Franklin, Captive with David Oyelowo and Kate Mara and Risen with Joseph Fiennes
- Interviews with Bishop Robert Barron, actors John Lithgow and Brian Dennehy, and playwrights John Patrick Shanley and David Mamet
- Interviews and performances from Vanessa Williams, Kelli O’Hara, Raúl Esparza, the cast of Come From Away and Kiss Me Kate.
- Talks by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Chirlane McCray, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jim Gaffigan, Robert George, Cornel West, Juan Williams, Ross Douthat, Arthur Brooks, Jonah Goldberg, James Martin, SJ, Julian Carron, and Mother Dolores Hart
Concerts by Norah Jones, Kirk Whalum, George Winston, Michael Cerveris, Kate Baldwin, and Eileen Ivers
History of the Building
The Church of Our Lady of Loreto
In the summer of 1891, Archbishop Michael Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, asked two Jesuit priests, Fr. Nicholas Russo, SJ, and Fr. Aloysius Romano, SJ, to establish a mission church to serve Italian, specifically Sicilian, immigrants living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The new church was to be a mission of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mott Street. The two priests rented a bar-room at 292 Elizabeth Street, where they built an altar and two confessional booths, and named the building “Missione Italiana della Madonna di Loreto” (The Italian Mission of Our Lady of Loreto). On May 6, 1892, the priests purchased two tenement houses across the street from the chapel, which were converted into a new church. The church was dedicated by Archbishop Corrigan on September 27, 1892. By 1896, the church was drawing a congregation of 3,000 people per Sunday.
By 1926, the parish was staffed by diocesan priests. The renovated school buildings were in disrepair, and the pastor decided to undertake a building project to replace the old tenement buildings with a new school and cultural center. The school was sixteen rooms with a gymnasium and swimming pool, as well as an auditorium with a professional stage. The Dramatic Society of the parish put on six or seven full scale operas and plays each year.
The Holy Name Centre
However, the combination of the Depression and the new subway at Houston Street devastated the parish, and left it unable to pay the bills on the school’s construction. Unable to pay back the mortgage, the bank foreclosed on the property in 1938. Catholic Charities purchased the property at 18 Bleecker Street, and converted the school to a new home for the ever-expanding Holy Name Centre, a mission serving homeless men originally located on the Bowery. Although the school’s last graduating class was 1938, the parish church remained, with the director of the Holy Name Centre serving as parish administrator, although it experienced a significant decline after World War II.
The building was six stories, with a reception room, interviewing room, and clothing room on the ground floor. The chapel took up the entire second floor, and the rest of the floors had 10 rooms for recreation and reading. The four priests who served the Mission and Our Lady of Loreto lived on the top floor. The Chapel of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, at the Holy Name Mission was dedicated on May 12, 1939 by Bishop Stephen J. Donahue. The chapel was donated by a Miss Mary E. Shea.
The mission was open every day, and housed an employment bureau. The Holy Name Centre, in addition to cafeteria, library, and pool hall on the third floor, also had a full theater. In the 1950s and 60s, Golden Gloves tournaments were held in the theater. The room had green walls and red velvet drapes on the stage. The basement had a swimming pool and a gym, and there was also outdoor space on the roof. During the weekdays, mass was held in the chapel, and on the weekends mass took place in the auditorium. Older men had access to the amenities all day. Younger men, who were expected to be working or at least looking for jobs, had access to the shower and waiting room during the day, and the other facilities at night. The Centre offered a coffee and rolls in the morning, a cold meal at lunch, and a hot meal at dinnertime. On holidays, both meals were hot.
At its height, the Centre severed over 1800 men on Christmas. In addition to the services offered to the living, the Holy Name Centre also buried the dead of the Bowery. The Centre had a large plot at Calvary Cemetery. If a body was found in the neighborhood, the police would call the priests of the Centre, who were often able to identify the man. During the 1950s and 60s, the Centre could bury up to 40 men a month. The Holy Name Centre also offered men a mailing address, which could be used for Social Security or VA pension checks.
Church and Mission Combined
By the mid-1980s, the church building of Our Lady of Loreto was experiencing severe structural damage, as well as a declining congregation. The property where the church building stood, south of the building at 18 Bleecker Street, was sold, and the parish was moved into the chapel of the Holy Name Centre. The money from the sale was used for a new heating system, new windows, and a new roof for the center, as well as renovations to the chapel to allow it to be used as the parish church.
Due to further changes in the neighbourhood, the need for the centre diminished and The Holy Name Centre and the Church of Our Lady of Loreto closed in 2011.
The building and theater were extensively renovated and reopened in 2015 as The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
From the Archives of the Archdiocese of New York