Excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia.. WEBSITE
Diocese of Brooklyn
...We have no positive evidence that any considerable body
of Catholics became a component part of Brooklyn's local life
till after the dawn of the nineteenth century and
especially after the location there of the Navy Yard in 1801.
This government station at once gave employment to many
mechanics in the various trades connected with the ship-building
industry. Soon a number of Irish immigrants, mostly
from the Catholic sections of the North, especially from
Derry and Donegal, sturdy confessors of the faith in
their native land, settled in Brooklyn.
Among these were the parents of the first American cardinal
John McCloskey, Archbishop of New York, and of his namesake
the first Rector of the American College at Rome,
William George McCloskey, afterwards Bishop of Louisville, Kentucky.
Until 1822 these Catholics had to cross the East River
to New York to hear Mass and attend to their spiritual
necessities, as the scarcity of priests and their own
poverty brought about this inconvenient situation.
Occasionally a priest would go over from New York to
say Mass and preach in private houses, or wherever suitable
accommodation could be obtained.
The pioneer in this was the Augustinian missionary
Father Philip Larissy, who said the first Mass in the house of
William Purcell at the north-east corner of York and Gold Streets
on a date now unknown. The little colony, constantly growing in
numbers and influence, desired a church of its own,
and hence a meeting was held on the 7th of January, 1822,
at the house of William Purcell, at which a
committee of five was named to wait on Bishop Connolly
of New York and ask his advice and consent for the
organization of a congregation. It is notable that
in the circular calling this meeting the reasons
stated are: "In the first place we want our children
instructed in the principles of our holy religion;
we want more convenience of hearing the word of God
ourselves. In fact, we want a church, a pastor, and a place
for interment." Those prominent in the pioneer work of
the congregation were
George S. Wise,
William Purcell, then a purser in the United States Navy
James and Patrick Freel,
Dr. Andrew B. Cook, also of the United States Navy,
Hugh and James McLaughlin,
Quintin M. Sullivan, and Daniel Dempsey.
As a result of this meeting eight lots were purchased
on Jay Street, and St. James's, the first Catholic
church on Long Island was built and dedicated to
Divine worship by Bishop Connolly, 28 August, 1823.
The lots about the church were used as a graveyard until 1849,
when Holy Cross Cemetery, Flatbush, was opened.
The original church building stood until 1903,
when its walls were enclosed in a new structure built
on the same site for a pro-cathedral. The Reverend
Dr. John Power of St. Peter's New York, was the early
and stanch friend of the new congregation. He used to
cross the river frequently to minister to them. Other
priests of the pioneer days were the Reverends Patrick Bulger,
James McKenna, and James Doherty; the last two died
in the service of the parish, and were buried in front
of the church. The first regular pastor was the
Reverend John Farnan, who was appointed in April 1825.
The second church in Brooklyn, St. Paul's dedicated 21
January, 1838, was built on land given by Cornelius Heeney.
He first offered the site for a seminary, but could not
agree with Bishop Dubois as to the manner in which the
title should be held, the old and troublesome idea of
lay trusteeship proving an obstacle. It is notable that
although the organization of the first congregation in
Brooklyn was due mainly to lay effort there was never
any of the subsequent difficulty over trustee authority
and rights that made so much scandal elsewhere during this era.
The Reverend Nicholas O'Donnell, O.S.A. (1840-7);
was the second pastor of St. Paul's, and after him the
Reverend Joseph Schneller, until his death in 1860, had
charge there. Father Schneller was one of the most active
priests in the New York controversies of the early years
of the nineteenth century. His name, with those of the
Reverend Dr. Power, Fathers Felix Varela and Thomas C. Levins,
is to be found in most of the bitter public contests
waged with non-Catholic assailants of the Church.
He helped to found and edited for some time the
"New York Weekly Register and Catholic Diary",
established in 1833. Cornelius Heeney did not limit
his generosity to the site for St. Paul's Church and
the Girls' Industrial School that adjoins it.
During his life his income was mainly devoted to charity
and 10 May, 1845, three years before his death, he had his
estate legally incorporated as the Brooklyn Benevolent Society,
and its officials directed to expend its yearly
income for the benefit of the poor and orphans.
This amounts now to about $25,000 annually, and the total
expended by this charity since Mr. Heeney's death is more
than a million dollars. In 1841 another famous priest,
the Very Reverend John Raffeiner, a native of the
Austrian Tyrol, bought with his own money property
on which was erected the church of the Most Holy Trinity
and began there to minister to a colony of German Catholics.
His efforts in this direction were extended to similar
congregations in New York, Boston, and New Jersey.
He labored thus for more than twenty years and held the
office of vicar-general when he died, in 1861.
St. Charles Borromeo's parish was founded in 1849
by the Reverend Dr. Charles Constantine Pise, also
one of the strong writers and publicists of that time.
Before going to Brooklyn he had been stationed at
St.Peter's, New York, and previous to that, in 1832,
while officiating in Washington, he was, on motion of
Senator Henry Clay, appointed Chaplain to the
Congress of the United States and served during a session
the only instance on record of such an honor being
given to a Catholic. Other priests whose earnest work in its
formative period contributed to the building up of the
Church in Long Island were the Reverends John Walsh
James McDonough, Richard Waters, James O'Donnell
David W. Bacon, afterwards the first Bishop of Portland Maine,
the Reverends Michael Curran, William Keegan for many years
Vicar-General of the diocese, and his associate in that office,
the Right Reverend Mgr. Michael May, the Reverends Nicholas
Balleis,O.S.B. Eugene Cassidy, Sylvester Malone, Peter McLoughlin
John Shanahan, Edward Corcoran, Hugh McGuire, Jeremiah Crowley
James McEnroe, Joseph FransioliMartin Carroll, T. O'Farrell,
Anthony Arnold, John McCarthy, James O'Beirne Joseph Brunneman,
Anthony Farley, John McKenna Patrick O'Neil, and James H. Mitchell.
Father Mitchell was much interested in the work of societies
for young men, and his administration as head of the
national organization was specially successful.
When, in July, 1841, Father Raffeiner began the great
German parish of the Most Holy Trinity on a part of the
farm of the old Dutch Meserole family, this was known
as the Bushwick section of the then town of Williamsburg
which was subsequently annexed to Brooklyn. The first German
Catholic Church in the city of Brooklyn was the quaint little
St. Francis'-in-the-Fields, which Father Raffeiner opened in
1850 at Putnam and Bedford avenues. Its title indicates
its rural environment, and Father Maurus Ramsauer,
a Benedictine just arrived from Germany, was made its first
pastor. In 1855, under Father Bonaventure Keller, the original
design of Father Raffeiner was carried out, and a sort
of preparatory seminary for German ecclesiastical
students was begun and lasted there for two years.
When Father Raffeiner died in 1861, he left St. Francis',
which was still surrounded by a garden, for the benefit
of the orphans of the Holy Trinity parish. The little church
was then closed, owing to changes in the neighborhood,
and was not reopened until 1866, when the Rev. Nicholas Balleis
a Benedictine took charge and remained there until his death
13 December, 1891. The old building was again closed and
remained so until the property was purchased by the
Sisters of the Precious Blood in 1892, when the structure
was torn down, and the convent of that order built on the site...
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