St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church

The Irish Parish

(Introduction page from the "St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church 
Brooklyn, New York Baptism and Marriage Registers - The Irish Parish"

St. Paul's Parish

  "St. Paul was the focal point of Irish immigrants to the 
City of Brooklyn during the Great Irish Famine years of 1845-1851 
and the early  years of the new Diocese of Brookllyn founded in 
1853.  Since the City of Brooklyn did not require residents to 
report births and marriages until 1866, St. Paul's sacramental 
registers serve for that era as the sole documentation of these 
events for many new arrivals. some immigrants believed that 
baptism fulfilled both their religious and civil obligations; 
consequently many births went unrecorded even after 1866.  
Marriages too went unrecorded in some cases.

  On April 8, 1834, Brooklyn was incorportated as a City. 
With its increasing population overflowing into the southern 
part of the newly created City, farms and hills were turning 
into suburbs, in turn to be changed into closely 
packed residential (tenement) areas.

  The unfinished foundation of the new Brooklyn City Hall lay 
between St. James Church, the first Catholic church in Brooklyn 
and on Long Island, and the proposed new church for the people 
living on the southwest side of Fulton Street.  
The new edifice would be called St. Paul's and rise on a 
large field at the corner of present-day Congress and Court 
Streets. The land for the church was donated in September 1836 
by Cornelius Heeney, a generous Catholic merchant and 
philanthropist who had taken up residence in Brooklyn after the  
disastrous New York City fire of 1835.  Dedication of the completed church 
building took place on January 21, 1838 with the Bishop of the Diocese 
of New York, the Most Reverend John DuBois, presiding.

  The first pastor of St. Paul's church was Father Richard Waters, 
O.F.M, who had served as an assistant at the mother-church of St. 
James prior to his appointment.  Unfortunately, Father Waters 
lost favor with the trustees of the parish and was replaced as 
pastor in 1839.

 The Reverend Nicholas O'Donnell, O.S.A., a member of the 
religious Order of St. Augustine in Villanova, Pennsylvania, 
was appointed to suceed Father Waters.  Born in Cahir, Ireland in 
1802, he was ordained in Rome in September 1828 and served in 
upstate New York until assigned to Brooklyn.  He was to be 
assisted by his cousin and fellow Augustinian James O'Donnell.

 Father James was born in Black Castle, Ireland, in 1806 and 
ordained in New York City in 1837.  One of the first "circuit 
riders priests", he traveled from 
St. Paul's to Jamaica (1839), 
Huntington (1840), 
Smithtown (1841), 
Sag Harbor (1841), 
Williamsburgh, (1842), 
Flatbush (1842), and other mission stations from Brooklyn to Montauk Point 
at the eastern tip of Long Island.  
Although it is not possible to identify these missionary visits by geographical 
location in his baptism and marriage register entries, genealogists are encouraged 
to search them for possible family surnames. 

 Father James remained at St. Paul's until 1844 and Father Nicholas
until 1846, both being reassigned by their Augustinian  
Superiors to new parishes beyond Brooklyn."
As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine, 
the sacramental registers ofthe 1839-1857 are a worthy memorial 
to the thousands of Irish immigrants who survived that tragedy in 
their new homeland, the City of Brooklyn and the Parish of 
St. Paul." 

Thanks to: Pat Wood
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