This Day in Brooklyn Catholic History

This Day in Brooklyn Catholic History January 21, 2009

Today marks the dedication of St. Paul’s Church in 1838, the second Catholic church founded on Long Island. (The first was St. James Cathedral in downtown Brooklyn, founded 1822.) Among Brooklyn Catholic churches, St. Paul’s (renamed St. Agnes and St. Paul in 2007) bears the distinction of being the oldest standing building. The original structure went up in 1836, and additions were made over the years. With its balcony and its rood screen over the sanctuary, St. Paul’s is one of the few New York churches that has preserved a distinctively nineteenth century style of church architecture. We don’t much about the architect, but the man who designed the altar was Patrick C. Keely (1816-1896), who designed some 700 churches throughout North America. The parish’s primary benefactor was the irish-born philanthropist Cornelius Heeney (1754-1848), who’s buried on the parish grounds. Buried near Heeney are members of the Parmentier family, some of Brooklyn Catholicism’s earliest benefactors. They left their downtown Brooklyn home to the diocese, and since 1908 it’s been St. Joseph’s Commercial High School (whose yearbook is titled The Parmentier.) A number of Sisters of Charity, who ran the parish school and an orphanage there for many years, were also buried there in the early years.

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