This Day in Brooklyn Catholic History

On this day in 1887, the first Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section. It was the second Italian parish founded in Brooklyn, the first being Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Carroll Gardens, in 1882. Still a center of Italian American life in Brooklyn, for over a century the parish has hosted the famed Mount Carmel Festival every July. The following article from the Brooklyn Eagle details the origins of the parish:
Now in Course of Erection in the Eastern District

The large increase in the past year or two of the Italian population in the Eastern District was a matter of deep concern for the Catholic Church, for the new immigrants belong altogether or nearly so to that faith. As there was no church for them to attend in which an Italian priest officiated, scarcely any of them went to services in the temples of the denomination or elsewhere. A feeling of religious isolation took possession of them, and they were fast drifting away from the church, if not from Christian belief altogether. A mission was opened in North Fifth Street, St. Michael’s, under the auspices of Christ Church, on Bedford avenue, and a High Church service is conducted there Sunday mornings by an Italian clergyman, and an Italian Sunday school was organized. Bishop Loughlin had for a few years contemplated having an Italian place of worship in that section, but he was slow in taking action until the Episcopalians had assumed the initiative. The result was that the bishop sanctioned the erection of an Italian church in the Fourteenth Ward and named Rev. Peter Saponara as the pastor. The new pastor is an energetic young man, who was born in Italy and was ordained there ten years ago. He has been in this country only two years, but he speaks English well. After being made a pastor the young priest conducted services for six weeks in Holy Trinity Church on Montrose avenue, for his countrymen, but it was too far for the North Second and North Fifth Street colonists to go, so Father Saponara commenced with zeal to collect money to erect a new church. Meantime, Father Hauptman, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation, gave him the use of his Sunday school hall, at North Fifth and Havemeyer Streets, where he now celebrates mass and holds Sunday school Sundays. Enough money was collected several months ago to enable Father Saponara to purchase a site for the proposed edifice. Lots at North Eighth and Havemeyer Streets were auctioned off at Taylor and Fox’s office, on Broadway, and a plot for the church and a pastoral residence was purchased by a private gentleman and turned over to the church. Mr. Edgar Halliday bought the plot inside of two months at an advance of $2,000 for the purpose of erecting an extension to his factory on it. Father Saponara next bought a plot of ground, 88 x 100 feet, at North Eight Streets and Union avenue, only a block distant from the first site, for $2,800, and ground was broken a few weeks ago for the erection of a church. The basement will be of stone and the remainder of wood. The edifice will be a substantial one and sufficiently large to accommodate the growing Italian population for years to come. The basement of the church will be used as a Sunday school and on week days as a secular school. Adjoining the church will be a two story frame dwelling, which will be used as a pastoral residence. It is expected that both buildings will be completed before the end of the year. The church will be the leading Italian one in this city. Father Saponara has a large mission field before him, and he fully realizes its importance and is equal to the task. There are over 300 Italian families in the immediate neighborhood.

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