The inauguration of the Emmaus Center combines faith and the performing arts in Brooklyn | Catholic National Register
The Diocese of Brooklyn has launched a new neighborhood evangelism business that merges a new Catholic parish with a performing arts center, all located in a historic opera house. The Catholic Church of St. Peter and Paul, part of the Epiphany Parish, was established on the first floor of the Williamsburg Opera House, and now, with renovations completed, its Center for the Arts of the scene, the Emmaus Center, made its inauguration on December 13.
Matt Maher and Danny Rodriguez hosted the âSpirit of Christmasâ concert in the 600-seat Emmaus Center theater which now sits atop the church and is just the beginning of community evangelism.
On the day of the inauguration, the general manager of the center, Craig Tubiolo-Syracuse, spoke with the Register of the new Emmaus Center, about its vision and plans for 2022, and how it aims to show how the Catholic Church can advance the new evangelization through the performing arts.
What is the history of the new Emmaus Center? How does a new performing arts center fit on top of a newly consecrated Catholic church in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood?
So this building has actually been here since the late 1800s. It was the original (and still is) the first opera house in the tri-state area. [The Williamsburg Opera House], then became a school, and there was no church in the building until only a few years ago. Mgr. Hernandez, who was the pastor, had a vision to truly reach out to this community, which is more of a lay community. Williamsburg has grown over the past few years and is filled with young people. And he wanted to give them a space to come, be evangelized, be a part of the parish, and reach them through the arts and community outreach and concerts. He therefore had the vision to restore the building to its original appearance. â¦ Everything looks like it was in the 1800s.
The work they have done is simply phenomenal. The church itself is on the first floor, which separates us from any other place. The center of brilliance [in New York] has a small chapel, but we have a fully functional parish church, which is located in the building. If you go to Barclays Center and go see a show, Matt Maher, and you feel the call to Christ, why, you get in your car and sit in traffic, and that kind of spirit has. faded away. But here [after the show], you can go down; you can meet a priest; you can pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Christ is in the building. So you can always come back and be a part of it. It’s not like you’re going to sit in traffic. So what we have and what we offer is something extremely unique at Center EmmaÃ¼s.
Who is part of this new company? How did it come together?
The Brooklyn Diocese owns the building. Saint-Pierre-et-Paul is the church and is part of the parish of the Epiphany. I have worked for the Diocese for over 10 years and worked at DeSales Media, more on the TV side, where I was Director of Programming and Production. I’ve always done all the live events, concerts. The bishop assigned me [to the Emmaus Center] and said: “Craig would be perfect for this initiative.” Thus through the intermediary of Mgr. Jamie Gigantiello and I – Mgr. Jamie is the Vicar for Development for the Diocese of Brooklyn – we created the non-profit Emmaus Center. Once the construction of this building is complete, we incorporated it into community outreach, evangelism, concerts, and we really raise the bar at these events. Mgr. Jamie has a vision that’s a little bigger than me at times, but I’m able to put it into place through his leadership and his ability to really move me forward. So we have created and will create premium events to bring people back to Christ through new forms of technology and evangelism.
What do you have planned for your inauguration here?
We have Matt Maher. We love Matt; he’s an incredible artist. We have Anthony Mangano, a devout Catholic from the area who has appeared on television; he just suffered from a stroke, and this is his first major performance. It’s only been a few months, and by the power of prayer he’s here today, and he’s better than ever. We have Danny Rodriguez, who we all know as the cop who sang during 9/11 and who was on all of the shows on Oprah to (as he jokes) Wayne brady. It occurs all over the world. We have Chris Macchio, who recently sang Ave Maria in the White House, and Chris is a devout follower of Christ. And we have Dan Roebuck, who we all know from several shows; he plays Papy Munster in the new Munsters and has a lot of Catholic films coming out. He is a great disciple of Christ from California. So we brought in the best of the best.
And when the show starts, people will see and experience something they have never experienced before, especially at the Emmaus Center.
Many people may think of evangelism and the arts as separate activities. – as one is spiritual and the other is secular. But what do you think is the link between evangelism and the performing arts?
Jesus used the form of technology that was available to him, which was stories, right? He travelled; he walked; he told stories, parables. Now, when we talk about the new evangelism, we do the same thing, just using the technology that is available to us. When you create an experience in someone, you use all of the senses, and they are able to experience the Holy Spirit through video, through technology, through someone giving their testimony. Itâs powerful. I think people are setting the bar very low for denominational or religious content. And we need to step it up, especially if we want to connect with the generation we are losing, who are so used to these new forms of technology. I always say, “How do we try to reach people on platforms where they’re not even on those platforms anymore?” “
We have to reach them where they are and give them what they want. Of course, we don’t go into the gray area – we stick to our religious values ââ- but we can give them premium content, still evangelize, and stay true to the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with using, you know, lights and screens and stuff like that to preach to them, because I believe it’s through these new forms of technology that the Holy Spirit can. talk, plant that seed of hope and bring them back to church and to Christ.
We don’t throw just anyone on stage either. It is discernment. It is prayer. I make sure that’s what God called me to do. And we put on shows to bring people to Christ. I think when people say, âThis is not what God would want,â I would question and debate it, because every event that I have organized has only been successful because it is not. There is no program: the only program is to bring people to Christ. And everything we have accomplished and done over the past 20 years has been focused on this goal. If it’s not for Christ, we don’t.
What are the events, shows, etc. that the Emmaus Center has planned for 2022?
We have a few things in the books, and we have something that I can’t really say all about, but it’s an art exhibition from one of the dioceses in Italy. We are in conversation with them. We are in conversation with some films. We also do a lot of outreachâ¦ and then we have these big concerts.
We are trying to reach out to people in all areas of this community, to get them to come back to church and let them know that this is a place for them, their family, a place to volunteer, s’ involve, join the parish – this is really community awareness.
We have a lot to come over the next year, and especially in February. An event features Chris Macchio, a devout Catholic, and he’s going to put on a show for the community. We’re going to be doing things in the parking lot, which we did during the summer. We’ve got a lot going on, but today what we’re focusing on is planting that Christ seed through today’s performance by Matt Maher.
Overall, what impact do you expect from the new Emmaus Center?
I really want to set the bar, as we have done in the past, to show other people in the community – pastors, churches and dioceses – that we could put on some really high-end quality events and shows, and we should glorify God through the technology available to us. I did a show yesterday or the day before, it was fantastic. We had an ice rink and we really set the bar high. I think sometimes when we do church events or shows we say, âWe don’t need speakers; we don’t need lights. We’ll just plug it in. And people’s expectations are low. We’re trying to raise the bar to say, “No, we’re planting the seed of Christ.” We’ve got to raise the bar, we’ve got to show people that the standards are to be high, and we’re glorifying God. And I think if we just slap things, plug in a speaker, and turn on a flashlight, we’re not glorifying God like we should. I like to set the bar and really let them know that we can and should do it. And that’s what kids want. Kids will watch videos and shows, and if the quality isn’t good, they won’t be as interested. I don’t want youth workers to have to force them to act. i want them to want be there. I want them to be interested in coming over to see Matt Maher and all these artists, so we’re giving them a show that they could go back and say, âMan, that was exciting. I can’t wait to see you next year.
For more information visit EmmausBrooklyn.org.