100,000 Attend Jesuit Parish Mission in Brooklyn, 1876


Labors of Father Damen and the Jesuit Fathers at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul.
The Brooklyn Eagle, October 11, 1876, 4.

One of the most successful and numerously attended missions ever presented in this city, was that concluded yesterday at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, in North Sixth Street, of which the Rev. Martin Carroll is the parish priest. The very Rev. Father Damen and six Jesuit Fathers conducted the mission, which was in progress two weeks, and the attendant ceremonies most impressive in character. It required the constant and strenuous labors of the officiating clergy from beginning to accomplish the gratifying results effected, and during the mission more than a hundred thousand communicants were in attendance.

Each daily service began at five o’clock in the morning with the holy sacrifice, to which hundreds of people flocked daily, and the attendance was thus marked until the last mass at 8:30 A.M., every day, at which hour the Rev. Father Bronageest delivered a discourse to the congregation. In the afternoon at 3 o’clock the church exhibited a similar aspect as in the morning as to the number present, the majority of whom indulged in prayer and meditation upon the mysteries of the Passion, or the way of the Cross. The crowning efforts of the good fathers appeared evident at each evening service when the edifice was invariably crowded to its utmost capacity, so much so that standing room could not be found outside the portal even sufficiently near to hear a word uttered inside.

This was the result of the energetic eloquence and sentiments expressed by Father Damen. At the first week’s services, which were exclusively for women, that sex did themselves credit by their faithful attendance upon the Gospel ministrations; and the same statement will apply to the services for the males which followed the succeeding week. Nothing of the kind, so it is said, was ever witnessed in Brooklyn. On the evenings of Sunday and Monday last each communicant renewed his or her baptismal vow, and allegiance to the Almighty. Twenty-seven little girls, dressed in white, on Monday evening read the baptismal vows aloud, after which the Rev. Father Damen pronounced a papal benediction. During the progress of the mission Father Damen devoted his energies to the delivery of several controversial discourses, by means of which forty converts were secured to the church and faith.

A special lecture was delivered by Father Damen last evening, the subject being “Popular Objections to the Catholic Church.” The attendance was in keeping with previous occasions. He began by reading from St. Matthew, chapter fifth, and remarked that Jesus had said those who believed and followed Him shall be saved, and those who did not should be damned. The reverend speaker dwelt at length upon the text, and as to the objections raised against the Catholic faith, said that Protestants attributed to Catholics that which they were in no sense culpable of. The derided confession—the forgiving of sins—they say—but, said Father Damen, addressing himself to unbelievers, if there were such present, if you ever become a Catholic you will never be called upon to credit the nonsensical objections raised. All that was required was repentance, with humility and a contrite heart.

In concluding, Father Damen spoke upon the articles of faith, and finally gave his hearers his blessing, asking them to pray for the missionaries. To a large degree the success of the mission was due to personal efforts of Father Carroll and his assistant priests of the church. It should also be stated that upward of 4,000 persons, youthful and aged, have been invested in various orders connected with the church during this mission.

Born in Holland, Arnold Damen (1815-1890) emigrated to the United States as a young man and joined the Jesuits here. Ordained in 1844, he became one of the most important Catholic preachers of the nineteenth century. He spent most of his priesthood based in Chicago, where he founded what is now Loyola University (1870). (The “various orders” referred to at the end of the article probably refer to parish societies such as Holy Name or Rosary societies.)

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