Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church

The Church of St. Malachy
(The Actors' Chapel)
General information
Architectural style Gothic Revival
Location Manhattan, New York, USA
Coordinates 40°45′41″N 73°59′08″W / 40.761484°N 73.985602°W / 40.761484; -73.985602Coordinates: 40°45′41″N 73°59′08″W / 40.761484°N 73.985602°W / 40.761484; -73.985602
Construction started 1910[1]
Completed 1920[1]
Client Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York
Design and construction
Architect Thomas J. Duff[1]

Saint Malachy Roman Catholic Church is a parish church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located in Manhattan on West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. The parish has served the theatre community in a special way since 1920, and its parishioners have included a large number of celebrities in the field of acting, such as Bob Hope and Gregory Peck.[2]


The parish was founded in 1902 by Archbishop Farley, with the Rev. William Daly being named the first pastor.[1][3] Services were soon being held in a basement sanctuary.[1] The current church complex was designed by prolific ecclesiastical architect, Thomas J. Duff, and built the following year.[1]

The Actors' Parish

Around 1920 the Theater District started to move uptown into this area, and actors, dancers and musicians became prominent worshipers at the church, replacing the traditional, working class congregants. To answer their needs, the pastor, Monsignor Edward F. Leonard, had the Chapel of St. Genesius, the patron saint of actors—commonly called the "Actors' Chapel"--constructed below the main church in 1920.[1] He sought the special permission of the Archbishop of New York, for Masses to be celebrated there at 4 A.M. (which was banned by canon law at the time) to accommodate the non-standard schedules of theater workers and thus make worship convenient for them.

St. Malachy soon became a primary place of worship for the entertainment community.[1] It gained worldwide attention when the church was the setting for the funeral of Rudolph Valentino, as well as of the wedding of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to Joan Crawford.[1] Celebrity worshipers were often in attendance, as well as theater goers, and the nearby location of Madison Square Garden during that time helped to provide a steady stream of visitors. Until the late 1960s average monthly attendance at Sunday services totaled some 16,000 people.[4] The church's chimes would play "There's No Business Like Show Business."[1]

Changing neighborhoods

By 1968, the neighborhood was undergoing a drastic change as the theatre community started to move out and the area became home to a community plagued by poverty and drugs. Madison Square Garden moved away. Most who stayed were elderly and poor. Many were held virtually under siege in decaying single room occupancy hotels or in tenements with a tub in the kitchen and a shared bathroom in the hallway.

Msgr. Thomas J. O'Brien was brought from a parish in the South Bronx to help deal with the new realities of the neighborhood. He was succeeded by the Rev. George W. Moore in 1976, who created a new model of pastoral outreach. Under his pastorate, the church "expanded its mission to the elderly, poor, homeless, and home-bound."[1] In 1991, after 25 years as pastor, Moore was awarded a Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre for his service to the elderly of the theater district.[1] He received it shortly before his death from cancer.

List of pastors

Notable ceremonies

Celebrity worshipers


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 David W. Dunlap, From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.) p. 224.
  2. Dworhin, Caroline (April 17, 2009). "Plot Twist at the Actors' Temple". New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009. Its fame may be eclipsed by the Actors’ Chapel, a Roman Catholic church a few blocks away that was attended by Gregory Peck and Bob Hope, among others.
  3. Remigius Lafort, S.T.D., Censor, The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3: The Province of Baltimore and the Province of New York, Section 1: Comprising the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Buffalo and Ogdensburg Together with some Supplementary Articles on Religious Communities of Women.. (New York City: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), p.344.
  4. Parish website "History"
  5. "St. Malachi's new pastor". New York Times. September 25, 1906. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  6. "St. Malachy's Pastor dies". New York Times. August 8, 1920. Retrieved December 26, 2011. The Rev. Lawrence E. Murray III, Two Weeks of Pneumonia
  7. "Actors to Honor Priest". New York Times. November 22, 1937. Retrieved October 16, 2009. Theatrical celebrities will participate in a testimonial dinner to be given in honor of Mgr. Edward F. Leonard, pastor of St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church, known as the Actors Church, next Sunday evening in the Hotel Astor.
  8. "Mgr. Leonard dies:'Actors' Priest,' 70". New York Times. November 28, 1937. Retrieved December 26, 2011. Pastor of St. Malachy's for 20 Years Revered by Stage Folk
  9. "Mgr. O'Reilly named St. Malachy Pastor". New York Times. June 13, 1941. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  10. Msgr. O'Brien gained notice ten years later, when, after suffering from a stroke, he refused to be fed intravenously, and declared that he should be allowed to die. The Catholic nursing home where he was being cared for went to court to require that he accept treatment. Against the judgment of four psychiatrists, the judge declared him incompetent and ordered that a feeding tube be inserted into his stomach. He died a month later, at age 84.Johnson, Kirk (November 8, 1986). "Sick Priest ruled incompetent". New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  11. Howe, Marvine (November 7, 1993). "Neighborhood Report: Midtown; The 'Miracle' at St. Malachy's". New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  12. McKinley, Jesse (December 23, 2005). "Finding God". New York Times "Theater". Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  13. Caroline Dworhin (April 17, 2009). "Plot Twist at the Actors' Temple". New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009. Its fame may be eclipsed by the Actors’ Chapel, a Roman Catholic church a few blocks away that was attended by Gregory Peck and Bob Hope, among others.
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