the November 6, 1892 cornerstone ceremony Father McCarthy of Saint Augustine's
Church gave the sermon. It is a treasure of the parish archives and
the past hundred years has enhanced the beauty of the words.
"Dear Brethren - The condition of the weather is hardly favorable for
any extended remarks, here in the open air, and, though I have much
to say to you, I will only make a short address. In the beginning of
a new church and in the laying of its cornerstone, religion takes another
step in advance, another lamp is lighted that will cast its brilliant
rays into the darkness; another pathway of light begins to appear between
God's throne in heaven and God's church on earth, up with the angels
will carry the petitions and heart breakings of the many who are needy
and afflicted on earth and come back laden with help and grace to bear.
The solemn ceremony which takes place here this afternoon mean this
and much more. This event is of the most intense importance to the present
and to the future, to society at large and to the church of God. Every
good Christian is a blessing to the world. He radiates a good effect
on society in favor of order, just as fire emits heat. As sunshine smiles
on this earth, just so does real goodness communicates itself and make
itself felt, and any organization, no matter of what character, which
has for its motive the betterment of society is doing an incalculable
good to that society. Here will be given the great marriage sacrament.
From the citadel of truth went out the mandate, many centuries ago,
one for one only and the principle of monogamy, and when a good Christian
man takes that sacrament and enters into the martial state, he should
transmit. So far as it is in his power, the goodness he possess and
help the one he takes unto himself to go with him to heaven. In time
children come to them and these will need the most careful care and
teaching. Their steps must be set in the right path and they must be
guarded so that they do not stumble and fall.
So I say this occasion is the utmost importance for the future as well
as today. Society thinks it is doing great things toward reforming
mankind and society is doing its best, the legislative body of this
state does great things and enacts wise laws with the same end in view
and they do the best they can, but to what purpose, if what they do
is not sustained by institutions like this, whose cornerstone, thank
God, is being laid to-day. The legislatures pass laws to protect society,
they strain every nerve, but they need the help and support of Christian
institutions. Institutions like this virtually quench the fires which
would burn men's souls forever and raise men to a place where they are
in perfect safety here and hereafter. Therefore, when a Catholic church
is started a favor is conferred upon the country and thinking men will
acknowledge this. We place an angel at the front door, not like those
with flaming swords who stood at the door of the gates of Eden, but
to beckon them to come in, and St. Benedict Labre stands before the
great throne in heaven interceding for you and all whom you may be called
upon to assist into the light. Here in this holy place God's people
will be ministered to. Is it not well for us to know that when we are
crushed to earth by different circumstances God's saints in heaven are
interceding for us? Is it not a good thing that St. Benedict Labre is
chosen as the patron of this church, showing that all the saints were
not canonized years ago, but here was one, taken from a lowly walk in
life and canonized by the present pontiff? In this place God's word
will be preached and will evoke sentiments of goodness. Here waters
of regeneration will be poured on the heads of young and old; here the
sacraments of the mass, with its governing objects to give glory to
the Eternal One, to offer up sacrifice for the wrongdoing of the people,
both here and abroad, and to ask mercy for us. We say to you that we
congratulate you upon the appointment of him who has been sent here
to carry on this noble work. I must refrain at this time from saying
anything in his presence, but if what he has done in the past means
anything, then we can truthfully say to you that his tongue has, indeed,
been touched with eloquence, his heart filled with zeal and his mind
imbued with the full knowledge of what he has undertaken. For your sake
may this building last for years; may God strengthen all connected with
it and bring eternal salvation to pastor and people alike."
Next, Bishop McDonnell stepped to the podium: "I must confess that I
come forward with great difference in the hope of adding anything to
the very able adage that you have already heard. I should not, however,
allow this occasion to pass by without thanking you all for the interest
you have shown in being present to encourage Father Maguire and on the
success you have undertaken, for I have no doubt that this venture will
be a success. Your patron saint, Benedict Labre, although canonized
only a few years ago, has already done something for this country. There
was in Rome a distinguished Protestant minister, the Reverend John Carey
of Boston, who, by the death of Benedict Joseph Labre, was brought…
into the faith, and he came back to this country to work in the missions
of New England.
So that saint, on whose virtues the church has placed her stamp of approval
by canonizing him, is well selected as the patron of this church. It
is necessary that I should ask you to help your pastor in the work he
has taken up, because I feel that when you see him laboring with untiring
energy for this parish I know tat you will come to his assistance and
hold up his hands and show him nothing but kindness and… generosity
in all his endeavors. And now in bringing this service to a close, I
pray God to bless you and all your families now and in the future in
all your undertakings."
In less than a year's time the church building was completed and it
was dedicated by Bishop Mc Donnell on October 8, 1893. When it was ready
the local papers gave a glowing account of its beauty. One describing
its location said, "The new temple of worship is situated on Johnson
Avenue, nearly opposite the Morris Park Station of the Long Island Railroad,
and is surrounded on all sides by very neat looking villas, showing
much prosperity." It presented a "very cheerful appearance". "The steeple
(one hundred and forty feet high) is mounted by a large gilt cross which
is visible for many miles." A vivid description of the church was given
by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
"However pleasing the appearance of the exterior, it does not prepare
the visitor for the surprise of the inside, for in place of a neat but
humble little country church, the richness of the fittings, the elaborate
decorations are so striking, so ornate, that the people of many long
established city parishes might well envy those Morris Park.
The pews are of highly polished ash with cherry trim, and are surprisingly
comfortable. The pew ends have tastefully carved Gothic panels. In the
apse behind the main altar are three stained glass windows depicting
figures of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph. Sparing
no expense, Father Maguire hired the distinguished artist Leon Dabo
to decorate the church's interior.
The dome of the apse contains a painting showing two angels in adoration,
a very rich and skillful composition by Mr. Dabo. Between the windows
are the busts of the four evangelists by the same artists. The walls
of the church have been painted in warm olive tints, relieved by a colder
ornamentation, which, together with the really beautiful carpet of rich,
warm hues, produces a most pleasing effect. Over the side altars, of
which there ate two, are life size statues of Saint Mary and St. Joseph
and above these are mural paintings, depicting scenes from the life
of St. Benedict.
The walls of the body of the church have been left their natural colors
at present, but the eye is agreeably relieved by the grand fresco depicting
three angels holding a scroll, on which are the words "Gloria in Excelsis
Deo" over the organ gallery and forming a vis-à-vis to the altar. Mr.
Leon Dabo, the artist who added a great deal to the ornamentation of
this building, is one of the most distinguished figure painters of the
younger school and is at present engaged in the gigantic task of decorating
the basilica of St. John the Baptist of this city (Brooklyn) and St.
Paul's church. New York. The Stations of the Cross depicts the agony
of the Saviour in a befitting manner and fill up the inter-sections
between the stained glass very well."
Father Maguire was very pleased with the reception his church received.
The high altar of the church once belonged to the Church of the Nativity,
Father Maguire's first parish. He arranged with his good friend and
pastor of Nativity, Father Moran, to have the entire altar dismantled,
rebuilt, and elaborately decorated in rich colors, embellished with
The Church has sufficient land to erect to the left a school and house
for the sisters and to the right a parsonage. It is expected that Father
Maguire will begin the erection of the latter this fall, as the debt
of the church, which cost all told $15,000, is regarded as very small."
Richmond Hill - The
Richmond Hill Historical Society with authors Carl
Ballenas and Nancy Cataldi have written
this comprehensive book on the history of Richmond Hill. Read
more about this book and how to purchase it for your collection.
Children's Tale and Coloring Book -
Carl Ballenas created a coloring book
on the history of Richmond Hill including rare photos, text and stories.
What better way to enjoy while learning and appreciating our community.
Read more about this book and
how to purchase it for your collection.
Slideshow of Victorian Richmond Hill - Thanks
to Joseph DeMay, Jr. for his enormous contribution in creating
this fascinating slideshow of
images that show many locations of early Richmond Hill from the turn
of the 19th century along side its corresponding present day image from
2003. View and enjoy the slideshow here.
the Living Spirit" - Thanks
to Joseph DeMay, Jr. for creating this slideshow
of the Walking Tour at Maple Grove Cemetery, where students portrayed
the notable people who have been laid to rest at this historic cemetery.
and enjoy the slideshow here.