New Book: Upper West Side Catholics and Progressivism in the Church

  Last modified on November 14th, 2019

Upper West Side Catholics, a new book about the Catholic community of the Upper West Side and in particular the Church of the Ascension, is “in itself a microcosm of the history of the Catholic Church in New York City”, says Fordham University Press.  It discusses the progressive roots of specific branches of Catholicism in NYC, including Ascension in the Upper West Side.

Differing significantly from the archdiocese of New York, a Catholic community in the Upper West Side has long held relatively liberal views with regards to social justice, liturgical reformation, and treatment of the poor.

Among these differences is acceptance of openly LGBTQ members of the church.  This can be seen in particular in the Church of the Ascension on W 107th. This was one of the first parishes in the archdiocese to welcome LGBTQ members.  It also funds and supports the Ascension Gay Fellowship Group, a group of LGBTQ Catholics whose ultimate goal is to reach out to non-Catholic members of the LGBTQ community.


Upper West Side Catholics tracks a history of progressive Catholic priests that extends to the mid 19th century, tracing the impact of this subgroup of religious leaders to present day.  It discusses the history of the Church of the Ascension, and other like minded congregations around Manhattan and New York City.

Founded in 1827, The Church of the Ascension has seen great shifts over its history.  It began as German, transformed into a larger Irish parish, and after hard times in the 1960s to ’80s, saw a large influx of Puerto Rican and Dominican Catholics.  The parish now supports an active bilingual community.


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