Blessed Sacrament Parish & School History
Excerpted from the book “Church of the Blessed Sacrament: 75th Anniversary Heritage Edition” by Author/Historian Pat O’Neill, (1985)
To search for the beginnings of the Catholic Church on Staten Island is to take a long journey back to our country’s early missionary days. The seventeenth century was still young when Catholics along with Indian Chiefs attended Mass in Governor Dongan’s Manor House Residence. Although old records are scanty, there was a Catholic Church in Richmondtown as early as 1720.
The first plans for an organized parish were laid at a meeting in 1839 at a gun factory in New Brighton, where the New Brighton Association donated land for the erection of St. Peter’s Church. A second parish, St. Rose of Lima (now Sacred Heart), was founded in 1875 and rapidly grew into a thriving Catholic community. The years passed, and one day in January 1910, as the pale rays of the winter sun cast shadows across his study, the Pastor, Father William Poole, sat down at his large desk, his pen as it moved rapidly across the paper making the only sound in the quiet room. He was writing to the Most Reverend John Farley who was Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York.
For several years he had watched St. Rose of Lima grow, with many parishioners from the shoreline moving to the less congested interior of the Island. Old farms and estates, some of which dated back to the Dutch had spread across West Brighton. Families named Daly, Sheridan, Kelly, Hall and Devlin bought and settled some of that land in the area of Cherry Lane, which is now Forest Avenue, and the community flourished. Father Poole realized that he could no longer minister to the growing number of parishioners at St. Rose.
His letter to the Archbishop suggested the need for a new parish to the west and north of St. Peter’s Cemetery. It was a good time, he suggested, to secure a piece of ground for a church, school and house, and he recommended as Pastor of the new parish his faithful and energetic assistant, the Reverend William J. Mulcahy.
Winter passed and spring brought now word from Archbishop. On May 31st Father Poole sat down and wrote once more, expressing his anxiety about the burgeoning population and his disappointment at the Diocesan reluctance to form a new parish. This time Archbishop Farley responded by announcing a new parish with the founding pastor to be none other than Father Mulcahy. The people of Cherry Lane rejoiced and a new page of Staten Island history began to be written.
With great enthusiasm, Father Mulcahy went in search of a site for a new church and rectory, while still residing at St. Rose. “The Property,” he wrote to Archbishop Farley, “ consists of a large house and eight lots. The price is $6,000.” It was part of an old farm on the corner of Manor Road and Cherry Lane, and the people of the new parish were delighted with the location, so central and convenient.
Further correspondence was directed by Father Mulcahy to the Archbishop late in the same year. “I am occupying the DuBois House at the corner of Manor Road and Cherry Lane. I hold Mass on the first floor, and I am living above. The place seats about 150. My desire is to name it the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.”
The new pastor wrote his Archbishop again in May of 1911, expressing his desire to purchase additional property for $13,000 which would form a plot enclosed by Cherry Lane, Manor Road, Greenleaf Avenue and Delafield Avenue, and requested $8,000 to finish the temporary church.
In September 1917, under the direction of Sr. Mary Ildephonse Walsh and Sister Miriam Marguerite Egan of the Sisters of Charity, two classrooms were opened in the basement of the church. Registration was light, with a total of twelve pupils in the first four grades. Additional enrollments did not meet expectations, and after a few months, Sister Regina Mary was forced to tell Father Mulcahy that the Sisters would have to withdraw unless enrollment grew. He went out to the lanes and byways to persuade people to send their children to the school, and by summer recess, the enrollment had reached 94!
It is a long time since Father William Poole sat down at his desk on that cold January day to write to his bishop. The parish was born from that letter and celebrated its first Mass in the old DuBois Mansion has grown strong with the passing of the years. The people of Blessed Sacrament are filled with faith, and proud of their tradition. They love God, they love their families, and they love their Church
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