Extreme Parish Makeover: Lourdes Edition

The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes offers a good opportunity to pay tribute to a local parish named (or rather renamed) in her honor. In 1872 the Fathers of Mercy, a French-based religious community, started a parish in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section for a growing Catholic population. Named for St. Francis De Sales, the parish started with a two-room schoolhouse and an old frame building for a church. During the 1890’s, the French-born pastor, Father Eugene Porcile, organized the first diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes. (The parish, known as the “French Church” for its name and its priests, actually had a large Irish congregation, who called their pastor “Father Purcell.”) It was Father Porcile who built an impressive Gothic church, replete with a grotto inside the Church. In 1897, Father Porcile petitioned Brooklyn’s Bishop Charles McDonnell to change the parish’s name to Our Lady of Lourdes. McDonnell, who visited the grotto whenever he was in Europe, readily agreed. The parish was renamed, and so was the street name: DeSales Place. It was the first Shrine Church in America dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. For decades the parish and its grotto were a center for local devotions. (In 1974 the church building burned to the ground, and the parish been merged with others nearby.)

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About Pat McNamara
  • carol

    I recall representing The School Sisters of Notre Dame, Motherhouse, Wilton, Connecticut, as I processed, along with others, one "Mission Sunday," circa 1966… the memory shall live on in my soul, eternally…

  • Lenny Piazza

    My Friend John Corrie and I were the first musicians to play guitars at the "Folk Masses" we help to organize in that beautiful chruch in the late 1960's. Having graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in 1964, the church and school was the central point of our lives growing up in Brooklyn. As a choir boy who sang from the church's high loft, it was always thrilling to look down upon the main altar and hear our young voices soar high above the pews with that grand echo surrounding us. The large Stations of the Cross, magnificant statue of Saint Peter, the silent Grotto and remarkable paintings on the ceiling all combined to make weekly attendance at Holy Mass something to cherish. When that magnificant chruch burned to the ground in 1974, it left a hole in many of us which remains vacant to this day. Lenny PiazzaColorado Springs, COSeptember 30,2010

  • Alicia Cirillo

    I too remember that beautiful church and was very sad to hear it burt down …I also graduated from OLOL in 1969…Lenny do you have a sister by the name of joy piazza that lived on DeSales pl? I lived on Desales # 65 and she lived two doors down next to a woman by the name of Collins who lived there with her son. Joy at the time was dating a kid by the name of Nicky. this is in the mid 60's and you are Joy's brother Lenny. My name is Alicia Cirillo in 71 my family moved to Staten Island…I use to hang out with the massari kids from around the corner…

  • Marty Courtney

    In the fifties I was a student at Lourdes. The Pricipal for the boys school was a Franciscan Brother known as Brother Justinian who was also the church organist and choir director. I was lucky enough to be the soloist in the boys choir for 8 years, coming back to sing even after I graduated and moved out of the area. Of course, in those days we sang in Latin so I usually didn't have the slightest idea what I was singing about. Now, after becoming a Viet-Nam veteran, living for years on Long Island, then for over 20 years in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, I am now retired and living in Winter Springs, Florida. I have five children, five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild and another due in March of 2011. I still have fond memories of my time at Lourdes.Marty Courtney

  • Anonymous

    My mother and uncle attended OLL Church and School in the 1930s. They both sang solos and duets on Sundays and at Midnight Mass on Christmas. I remember going there with her in 1969 for my grandfather's funeral, and marveling at the crutches and wheelchairs behind the altar, once belonging to people who had been cured. What a beautiful church is was. I wish there were more pictures by which we could remember it.

  • Jeanne Grimm McNamara

    I grew up on MacDougal St, which ran right in front of Our Lady of Lourdes church. I remember when the people in the community melted theyre gold jewelry to line the blessed mothers dress. The church was the heart of the community, the church bazaars were great, and the whole community came out. Many of us have fond memories of that neighborhood.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13173634415605532429 waspranger

    Seeing this site reminds me of my Dad, we lost him one year ago this December 5th. My whole family on my fathers side where parishioners of OLL and went to school there in the 1920s, 1930s.They lived nearby on tiny Stewart Street, I was told if you look out the kichen window you could see the L train platform at Broadway Juntion. the building is no longer there,there is a warehouse of some sorts there now. By the late 1950s there was only my Grandma and one aunt (unmarried)living there, once a large Irish family, everyone else had moved on (Two of my other Aunts where Nuns,LOL)they relocated to Maspeth, first in their own apartment, then in with my other Aunt, she was married, with her and my uncle being homeowners, they move in together downstairs from them. I only was at my fathers old Nabe back around 1966, he took me on a bus ride, we at this point lived in Glendale, I don't remember much other seeing alot of Black people around that area. In the fall of 2006, I went over to that area, I had to go to a asbestos removal job site in BED STY, I had to get there by taking the A train, we now living in Ridgewood, I took the M train at Fresh Pond road to the L, here I got off at Broadway Junction to switch to the A Train, since it was early and I had some time on my hands, I looked for my fathers old block, I found it no problem as I looked at those Neibourhood maps that are in the stations, I was,nt aware how small this block was, there is in fact only one remaing house there, a two family one, all the rest are gone, if I have the chance of getting rerouted on the trains and wind up at Broadway Junction, I have to in order to get back home take the L Train, I find myself alawys walking to the edge of the platform and look where my father and his family lived all those many years ago, even though there is no longer a building there any more and I never was there while they all lived there, in my minds eye I can see them all, my father as a little boy looking out his window at the trains. In closing how did the church burn down ? i recall hearing some distubing things in this regard.

  • Anonymous

    Graduated from Lourdes in 1961. Brother Declan taught 64 boys from grade 5 to grade 7,grade 8 teacher was Brother Arnold who Dennis Sgambati and I named "Arnie" we caught a good beating in the clothes closet for that. School was great we had slapball tourneys played stickball at Aberdeen Park . We went grocery shopping for the brothers at Einhorns Market. The Franciscans were great guys they fed us ice cream after working to clean the church. Sisters of St. Joseph spoiled all us guys. If you remember being in OLL school 1953-61 e mail me at latasal@aol.com

  • Anonymous


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07580538831805465426 Regina

    I went to Our Lady of Lourdes from 1st to eighth grade graduating in 1964, My brother John attended too. It was a great time I remember my Mom walking us home for lunch and back every day. The Sisters of St. Joseph were wonderful teachers as were the brother although the were much stricter with the boys. I walked home every day with a girl named Ellen Paschal. I would love to know what happened to her…

  • Mary

    I made my communion on the same day as my brother’s baptism. I also was a participant in Mission Sunday. I have the beautiful pictures from my parents’ wedding, which is a blessing, because they are both gone now. My family moved after I finished 2nd grade, in 1961. Would love to hear from anyone who was there then. My best friend was Mary Kammerer

  • Eather M. Greene

    I attended Our Lady of Lourdes, as did my brother. I graduated in 1961. I sang in the choir with Brother Justinian. Father Neufeld was the pastor. I was baptized, confirmed, made my First Communion and was married in that beautiful church. I visited the neighborhood a few years ago and was moved to tears. How could a stone church burn to the ground? Now I live in Atlanta Georgia and I belong to Our Lady of Lourdes in Atlanta.