McDonnell set father John O'Neill to administer the affairs of the parish
until a pastor would be appointed. He came on February first and remained
a little over a month until the arrival of Father Henry Zimmer who was
appointed to the pastorate. But Father Zimmer's health was delicate
and after two weeks he requested the Bishop to relieve him of the assignment.
Father O'Neill returned on March 17th and remained until April 24th
when Father Patrick J. Fahey took
possession as the new pastor.
Father Fahey was born in Galway, Ireland on March 17, 1857 and was ordained
in Westminster Cathedral, London in 1884. Soon after his ordination
he joined the Josephite community in England and was sent on a mission
to Africa. In 1887 the work of the order was extended to the United
States and Father Fahey found himself doing mission work in Richmond,
Virginia. Objections were made to the work of the Josephites, largely
because of the refusal to segregate whites from blacks. Father Fahey
found similar problems in his next mission in Baltimore, and eventually
was transferred to Brooklyn. He first served at Saint Cecilia's parish
in Brooklyn and then to the Church of the Sacred Heart, before he was
assigned the pastorate at Saint Benedict Joseph Labre. He fitted admirably
into the life of his new parish and he proved to be a worthy successor
to the popular Father Maguire.
As the years rolled by, the parish increased in numbers and the church
could no longer accommodate the crowds. Gradually other parishes were
formed within its original boundaries. The first daughter parish of
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Parish was Saint Mary, Gate of Heaven established
Father Fahey endeared himself to his congregation quickly and dove into
many dreams for his parish. He celebrated his Silver
Jubilee in 1909 with much fanfare by the parishioners. It was
extensively covered in the local papers and much preparation was made
to show their devotion to their pastor. A letter was published in the
paper as to how they wanted to celebrate this event.
"On April 18, 1909, our esteemed pastor Father Fahey celebrates the
twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the sacred priesthood.
We deem it fitting on this occasion to unite with him in giving thanks
to God for the manifold favors of which he has been the recipient and
which enabled him to discharge the onerous duties of priest and pastor,
especially during the nine years in our midst. Therefore at this time
of his silver jubilee we feel it our duty to join him in his thanksgiving
and to tender him some substantial token of our gratitude and esteem
for his successful labors among us. We ask your cordial cooperation
for the success of this celebration. By united efforts success will
It was requested in the Richmond Hill Record newspaper that the residents
decorate their homes on April 18 when the jubilee parade would be held.
On that day a solemn high mass was celebrated followed by a grand parade
through the streets of Richmond Hill. Included in the parade were the
St. John's Senior Military Band, a uniformed corps of the First New
York Regiment of the Knights of Columbus, and a procession of hundreds
of parish children marshaled by the Sunday school teachers, followed
by male members of the church. Almost every home was decorated, each
more elaborate than the last, as though the neighborhood competed with
each other to see who would make the grandest display.
Father Fahey reviewed the parade from the rectory's front porch, which
was also decorated for the occasion. He received a bouquet of Flowers
from the children, and declared that, although someone suggested that
he might someday have charge of a larger and wealthier parish, he desired
nothing better than to stay in Morris Park. On April 19 a reception
was held at Dauer's Hall. Thomas McDermott, representing the parish,
presented Father Fahey with a purse of $500 in gold.
In October of that year the parish mourned the loss of Thomas Lally,
the man who had first petitioned the Bishop for the establishment of
the parish and who was also the son in law of Timothy Deehan. He was
found drowned in Jamaica Bay and was only 45 years old and left behind
a wife and ten children.
In 1910 the parish of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre was rocked to its
foundation by a change that forced many to leave. In December of that
year Bishop McDonnell carved a new parish out of the original boundaries
of the parish. The daughter parish of Holy
Child Jesus was founded with Rev. Thomas A. Nummey appointed
pastor. It included all that was the original settlement of Richmond
Hill extending to Union Turnpike to Atlantic Avenue west of Greenwood
Avenue (111th Street) and to Fulton Street east of Greenwood Avenue.
Many parishioners of the existing church, Saint Benedict Joseph began
to boycott the new church.
This left Father Fahey with only the south part of Morris Park and took
away from him nearly all the wealthy Catholics in that part of Queens.
It was reported in the local paper that most of the Richmond Hill Catholics
refused to desert the old church. Father Nummey had a map prepared and
sent it to all the Catholics in the two parishes. The map did not prove
efficacious in drawing the Richmond Hill Catholics away from the Morris
Park church when Father Nummey had the map printed in the local paper
with the following letter: "After due deliberation and with only one
object in view - the welfare of souls - the Right Reverend Bishop has
assigned to you the task of the erection of a new church. As your spiritual
head he has the right to impose this obligation upon you, and as loyal,
obedient subjects he expects and it is a duty necessary for salvation
to obey him whom the 'Holy Ghost has appointed to rule the Church of
God.' 'Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power
but from God, and those that are ordained of ordinance of God. And they
that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that
resist purchase damnation to themselves.' (St. Paul, Rom. XIII. 1 and
"We naturally expect opposition from those who have no faith, but when
it comes from those whose sympathy and encouragement we ought to have,
especially in a struggle like ours at present for the mere necessaries
of life, to deprive us of the little we should get and sorely need is
unkind, disheartening, not Christ-like and selfish. But to oppose a
work of this kind is to oppose Jesus Christ." "He that is not with me
is against me. He that gathered not with me scattered." (Matthew XII.,
The following year in 1912 a grand Parish Fair was held at Saint Benedict
Joseph and was dedicated to raising money for the completion of a dream
that Father Fahey had envisioned many years before, to build a school
and convent. The local paper the Richmond Hill Record reported. "The
object of the fair is the erection of a parochial school. The congregation
hails the advent of this school with delight, and intends to make gigantic
efforts to help their beloved pastor, The Rev. P. J. Fahey, in his desire
to have the school completed by September 1913." All the parish societies,
as well as most of the parishioners, labored diligently to make Father
Fahey's dream become reality. The children of the parish sold each family
bricks for five cents apiece so, according to one parishioner recalling
that time, "all the neighborhood owned a brick in Saint Benedict's school."
Mr. Thomas H. Poole of the Catholic University was the architect and
Mr. Frank Doresch, the builder. There were eight classrooms but when
opened in September of that year only four rooms we used. On September
8, 1913 the school was opened. The building was not quite finished and
the teachers and pupils were put to some inconvenience. The school was
staff by the Sister of Saint Joseph, there were four teachers, including
the principal Sister M. Alipius. The convent was not completed until
the following December and the Sisters traveled everyday from Saint
Malachy's Convent in Brooklyn until their home was ready. Mass was said
in their chapel for the first time on December 8, 1913. One of the first
teachers at the school was Sister M. Agatha Hurley, whose hand written
accounts of that first year is a treasured moment in the archives of
Saint Benedict Joseph. "One stormy day we had some trouble getting to
school. The Long Island trains were tied up and the Jamaica Trolley
was not much better. After about an hour's time we reached Richmond
Hill and walked along Church Street to the school. Occasionally a head
popped out looking for us. When they got a glimpse of us a loud cry
went up - 'Here they are!' - and all were in perfect order on our arrival
- Father Fahey was happy to be relieved of his task. He was exhausted."
She also wrote that Father Fahey was so proud of his school that every
visitor he had was taken through the classes at any time. We were well
inspected." Later on she would describe with great sorrow the death
of her first student, "George Kennedy - who stole a ride on an ice cream
truck while on his way to school. On jumping off he slipped and was
crushed by the wheels. He died in Mary Immaculate Hospital. All the
school children attended the mass and four of his classmates carried
On September 29, 1915, Father Fahey made one of usual pastoral calls. He left his horse and carriage standing in the street. Two little girls climbed into the carriage, and an exceedingly loud toot of an auto horn caused the horse to start to run. Father Fahey returning to the carriage saw the horse start and threw himself at the head of the animal, checking his speed, but being thrown down sustaining a broken arm. The girls escaped injury. The horse was stopped before any further damage had been done. Father Fahey was removed to Saint Mary's Hospital for treatment.
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.