Can the arts bring millennials closer to God? That’s the plan at this beautifully restored Brooklyn theater – Catholic World Report

A new performing and visual arts center dedicated to Catholic evangelization opened in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 13.

Can the arts bring millennials closer to God? That’s the plan at this beautifully restored Brooklyn theater – Catholic World Report
The Emmaus Center is housed in a former opera house in Brooklyn, New York. / Courtesy of The Emmaus Center

Denver Newsroom, Dec 15, 2021 / 14:51 pm (CNA).

A new performing and visual arts center dedicated to Catholic evangelization opened in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 13.

The grand opening of The Emmaus Center, which sits above Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in the city’s Williamsburg neighborhood, featured performances from Grammy-nominated Christian artist Matt Maher, New York singing policeman Danny Rodriguez, and a host of other celebrities and guests.

“It’s new life,” said Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, vicar for development at the Diocese of Brooklyn and chairman of the board for The Emmaus Center. “This is a new way of reaching people, a new way of evangelization, and it’s a new venue.”

The celebration included a street fair with carolers dressed in Dickens-era costumes, as well as two horse-drawn carriages. Popular Christian radio station K-Love was also present to give away prizes during the outdoor festival. Inside, additional carolers welcomed guests and led them to the 700-seat renovated opera house for a Christmas music performance.

“It was a spectacular evening with so much talent on display,” said Craig Tubiolo, the center’s executive director.

Grammy-nominated Christian artist Matt Maher performs on Dec. 13, 2021, at the grand opening of The Emmaus Center, a new Catholic performing arts venue in Brooklyn, New York. The Emmaus Center
Grammy-nominated Christian artist Matt Maher performs on Dec. 13, 2021, at the grand opening of The Emmaus Center, a new Catholic performing arts venue in Brooklyn, New York. The Emmaus Center

The 600-seat venue, which was built in 1897 as the Williamsburg Opera House and restored in 2020, hopes to attract millennials who have moved to the area but who may not profess affiliation with any particular church.

“I call the people in the community, ‘the dot, dot, dots,’ because when you ask them, they say, ‘I was raised dot, dot, dot,’ but when you ask them what happened, they usually don’t know why they stopped going,” Tubiolo said.

Many of the people in the neighborhood are younger and new to the neighborhood as the area gentrifies. Tubiolo said he hopes The Emmaus Center is able to meet the community where they are by inviting them to participate in both secular and faith-based events, of which he plans to have more than 100 per year.

“We’re trying to reach those people, the young people who don’t go to church or who stopped going to church,” he said. “Our hope is that people reconnect with their relationship with Christ. Then, through that relationship, maybe they come back to church.”

Monsignor Gigantiello echoed Tubiolo’s sentiments.

“The area has changed drastically, and we have a lot of young people and they have a yearning for the past,” he said. “We feel that through the arts, we would be able to maybe reach some of them.”

The construction company that facilitated the restoration of The Emmaus Center used a photograph of the center from the original build to replicate everything from the lights to the carpet, Tubiolo said, which makes visitors feel like they are back in time. The $20 million project was funded by a land lease of an adjacent parking lot, according to the diocese.

Both Gigantiello and Tubiolo want to use the space to bring people to Christ through visual and performing arts, music, film, and other high-end productions. They have a hope that the center will be “busy all the time with outreach and evangelization,” Tubiolo said.

“I want people to stop and say, what is this place?” Tubiolo said. “We’re there to really evangelize and be this sort of pillar in the community where people can go and enjoy themselves. Then, [we will] be there for them in every aspect of their life. That’s what we’re creating.”

Proceeds from the grand opening event will go to support Futures in Education, which disburses more than $7 million directly to Catholic school students providing scholarships in support of Catholic families in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.

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