The Rev. Dr. Patrick Francis McSweeny, the present pastor of St. Bridget’s, was born in Ireland, July 9th, 1838. He came to America with his parents in April, 1849, in the eleventh year of his age. He was educated principally at the Jesuit College in Sixteenth Street, New York. In October, 1856, he entered the College of the Propaganda, in Rome. During his stay in that world-renowned institution he was created Doctor of Philosophy in 1858, and Doctor of Divinity in 1862. Having been ordained priest on June 14th of the last named year, he returned to New York, and was appointed by the late Archbishop Hughes to the assistant pastorship of St. Joseph’s. In July of the following year he was transferred to the Cathedral.
Here he remained until January, 1870, when he was sent as pastor to Peekskill, New York. In January, 1871, he was appointed pastor of St. Peter’s, Poughkeepsie. There he divided his large parish, and founded the present St. Mary’s parish, having purchased the new church from the Universalists. He built a spacious pastoral residence, enlarged the convent, and repaired and improved St. Peter’s Church, without incurring any debts there.
In 1872, he succeeded in placing the large Catholic schools of Poughkeepsie under the Public Board of Education as to secure their maintenance from the public funds and their greater efficiency in the secular field of education, while rather increasing than diminishing the advantages previously enjoyed in a religious point of view, and this without running counter in the least to the laws of the State or the principle of undenominational education in schools supported by the public taxes.
In the actual position of the school question in America, every expedient that seems to offer a means of putting an end to the wicked and inhuman justice that taxes a large portion of the community for an unreligious system of schools, when in conscience they cannot avail themselves of any but a system in which religion holds a part in forming the mind and heart of the young, is worth being tested. Catholics, so long as they believe in God and eternity, can never accept the present schools as they stand. Yet as a body they are powerless to effect any radical change, and meanwhile have to expend millions of dollars in affording an education for which the State taxes them; but, instead of an egg, tenders the child a serpent.
In November, 1877, the Rev. Dr. McSweeny was appointed to his present position; his assistants being, in 1878, the Rev. Hugh McCabe and the Rev. J. Byron.
John Gilmary Shea, The Catholic Churches of New York City (New York, 1878), 233-234.