Read this article as originally published in the Catholic New York Newspaper by Armando Machado.
The Leo House, a Catholic guesthouse for travelers located in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, provides affordable, temporary accommodations with old-world charm—a place where travelers have “found a haven embodying spiritual solace.”
In the hallway of the second floor of the five-story annex building is a large stained glass window featuring St. Raphael, the patron saint of travelers. On the same floor is a quaint chapel that seats about 25. The rooms and suites are modest, with white bed blankets and a crucifix that hangs on the wall.
This year marks the 130th anniversary of Leo House. “It’s a simple, clean, kind environment—and they have a little library where you can leave books and take books,” Colleen Fahey, 69, said Aug. 20 in a phone interview with CNY. “I stay there every two or three months when I’m in New York on business.”
Ms. Fahey, who lives in Chicago, was in Manhattan when she spoke with CNY. “I stayed there last night,” she said of Leo House. “It’s a place where I can feel at home in this busy city, with a lovely quiet reading room where I spent a lot of time writing a book that I co-authored.”
Located at 332 West 23rd St., Leo House is an eight-story building with 81 units, including two family suites. It’s been at its present location since 1926. Established Dec. 7, 1889, by the papal certification of Pope Leo XIII, it was originally located on State Street in the Battery Park section of lower Manhattan.
In the lobby of the main building are many Catholic images, including a framed color photograph of Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Kolkata, who rested overnight on Nov. 7, 1960. Room 409, where she stayed, is dedicated to her. The late Mother Anna Maria Dengel, S.C.M.M., who founded the Medical Mission Sisters, stayed at Leo House at the same time. After their stays, the two women religious kept in contact, coordinating mission efforts.
Mass for guests is offered at 7 a.m., at least four times a week, Tuesday to Friday, by the in-house chaplain, Father Ed Conway, O.F.M. Cap.
“We have guests who have been coming here for 20 and 30 years; they consider this to be their home away from home,” said Ashley Bryant, assistant executive director, in an interview with Catholic New York at her Leo House office. “We have people (and groups) who come from all over the world—60 percent of our guests are foreign. They keep coming here because it’s affordable, it’s clean, it’s safe, and it’s one of the best deals in Manhattan. It’s a great location—we’re centrally located. We have a complimentary full buffet breakfast served six days a week.”
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. Ms. Bryant also noted, “We have a wonderful outside garden where our guests can sit and reflect—we have guests from all walks of life.”
Michael Coneys, president and chairman of the Leo House board, said Leo House was founded “as a place to help German Catholic immigrants become acclimated to life in America. Over the course of its existence since 1889, our mission has changed to that of a general Catholic guesthouse…Anybody can come to The Leo House and be welcomed with Christian faith, hope and love. That’s our mission, to spread Christian faith, hope and love through hospitality. In the 1930s and ’40s, The Leo House took in a lot of refugees from war-torn Europe.”
The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes served at Leo House when it opened, Coneys said, and in the 1950s the order ran it. Today, the staff is primarily laity. One Sister of St. Agnes is currently on staff, and one serves on the board. In all, four C.S.A. sisters reside at a convent inside the annex. The Leo House offices and the chaplain’s quarters are also located in the annex.
Leo House operates under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. The nonprofit, historic Catholic guesthouse is described as offering affordable, temporary accommodations. Coupled with an old-world charm expressed through its brand of the “Art of the Welcome,” administrators noted, people of all faiths, nationalities and races, including clergy and religious, persons visiting the sick, students, as well as international and U.S. travelers, have found it a haven embodying spiritual solace.
The third annual Pope Leo XIII Award Fundraising Gala Dinner for Leo House will be held Monday, Dec. 9, at the Yale Club in Manhattan. Information: www.leohousenyc.org, (212) 929-1010, ext. 219.
*This article was originally published on Catholic New York’s cny.org.