In The Beginning...
Following the American Revolution, large land holdings of British sympathizers were broken into individually owned farms, and villages were established to bind their population into communities. The villages of Shrub Oak, Mohegan Lake, Jefferson Valley and Yorktown Heights were incorporated in the Town of Yorktown in 1788. There were only a dozen or so Catholics in the area and in time their needs were met by priests coming from Assumption Parish in Peekskill (established in 1850) to celebrate Sunday Mass in private homes. A storefront church was established in Mahopac in 1889 and occasionally visiting priests from Mt. Kisco said Mass in private homes, a rented room in the Whitney House across from the railroad station, and at Conklin's Boarding House, now under the Croton Reservoir!
St. Peter's Church
The Catholics of Shrub Oak and Yorktown welcomed their first pastor, Fr. John McEvoy, in 1896. He traveled the area on horseback with a growing sense of the need for a church in Yorktown. This became a reality when he purchased land in 1897 and oversaw the building of a small wooden church. In 1898 the Archdiocese of New York established the parish as St. Peter's . Its first house of worship was the modest wooden structure that cost $1200 and stood on the present site of the Rexall Drugstore in Yorktown Heights. Under its first pastor, Fr. John McEvoy, it served the handful of Catholics then registered.
Fr. William Connolly became pastor in 1904 and realized that, as the population grew due to the improved roads, expanding industry and an increasing number of vacationers, the storefront in Mahopac was most inadequate. With a $10,000 gift from Aimee LaFarge Heins, widow of a well-known church architect, a Norman-style stone church was built on what is now Route 6 and was named St. George's (after her husband), thus providing two sturdy churches for the Catholics of the area.
The area grew in population under the next three pastors, Fr. Michael Walsh (1916-1920), Fr. Francis Kinery(1920-24) and Fr. William Ryder (1924-27), and then Fr. Patrick O'Leary arrived in 1927. Still without a rectory, he lived with the Wisey Family using St. George's as the main church and St. Peter's as a mission. However, in light of the continuing population growth, this was soon reversed and Fr. O'Leary planned construction of a new stone church in Yorktown Heights.
St. Patrick's Church
In spite of the Depression following the 1929 Stock Market crash, he purchased land at the corner of Church Place and Hanover Street in 1932, and demolished the no longer used Yorktown grammar school that was standing there. With the determination and sacrifice of the 850 Catholics now in the area, the new church, cloister walk and rectory were completed a year later in 1933. At the dedication, Patrick Cardinal Hayes described the new complex as "the most beautiful rural church in the archdiocese" and, on the spot, changed its name from St. Peter's to St. Patrick's. Whether it was in honor of the patron saint of the archdiocese, the pastor, or himself, no one knows, but the parish history has been a glorious one ever since!
(It is interesting to note that in response to those who objected to the "Irish look of the place," Fr. O'Leary built another church, this one in Putnam Valley, after the fashion of an American Indian longhouse with all interior appointments to match the style. When it was opened, he was reported to have stated, "You want an American Church, there's your American church!" It is now the Church of the North American Martyrs, a mission of St. Columbanus in Cortlandt Manor.)
Four important events took place in 1939: World War II began in Europe, the first priestly vocation from St. Patrick's was ordained (Fr. Edward T. Finnerty of Jefferson Valley), Msgr. O'Leary was transferred to Our Lady of Mercy in the Bronx, and St. Patrick's first assistant pastor, Fr. Wilfred Diamond, was assigned to help the new Pastor, Fr. Daniel Fant, surely a sign of continuing growth. The faith and patriotism of the parishioners manifested itself throughout the Second World War, not only by the large number who served in the Armed Forces but also by the prayer services, fund raising and daily sacrifices that were made. Throughout that period a series of pastors led the parish: Fr. Fant for four years, Fr. John J. Warren for one, Fr. Ernest Badecker for three years, and Msgr. John Bingham for another three. A new assistant Pastor, Fr. Vincent Gregorowitz, arrived in 1949.
St. Patrick's School
Beginning in 1950 with the appointment of Msgr. Robert Delaney as Pastor and Fr. Gerard Bliss as Associate, the growing population called forth significant advances. With a membership of over five hundred Catholic families, many of them being ex-GI's and their young families, the parish actively embraced people in both Somers and Yorktown. This led to the monumental decision to start a school.
The Cash Farm on the corner of Moseman Road and Hanover Street was purchased and the farmhouse converted into classrooms by parishioners. The Missionary Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Peekskill were enlisted to teach and Sr. Mary Robert became the first principal. Construction of a real school building began in 1952, but it was not ready in September of 1953, so a partition was put up to divide the church hall into two rooms. Sr. Mary Robert taught forty students in grades 3 and 4 in one room, and Sr. Ann Michael taught fifty students in grades 1 and 2 in the other!
What is now known as "Building A" was completed early in 1955 along with a gymnasium. As the classes grew in size, "Building B" was erected in 1959. That same year witnessed the building of a convent so the Sisters would no longer have to commute each day from the motherhouse in Peekskill. By the end of the 1950's the enrollment soared past 500!
By 1960 the parish had 2000 registered families, so the archdiocese decided to establish a separate parish in Shrub Oak. In June of 1963, St. George's became the parish of Blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton and a whole new church and school complex was begun under the leadership of Msgr. Arthur Nugent. Its families numbered 300, while 1450 stayed with St. Patrick's. Then in 1963 Msgr. Delaney was replaced by Msgr. Daniel Daley.
The Effects of The Second Vatican Council
With the end of the 1960's came the beginning of the post-Vatican II era. There followed the establishment of a Parish Council, a basic education policy for the School, CCD and Adult Education programs, numerous changes in the church building to accommodate the new liturgy, the commissioning of Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors, and various forms of Music Ministry. Msgr. Daley, with the capable assistance of Frs. Mulleedy, Gerard Bliss, Joseph Martin and Edward Barry, led the parish through these changes fostering The Spirit of St. Patrick's which would become the inspiration for enthusiastic growth up to the present.
Early in 1973, Msgr. Daley suffered a heart attack and passed away on January 25th; just two days later, Fr. Bliss was transferred. Fr. Clement Krug was assigned as administrator. The school had fallen on hard financial times, but the Parish Council and the Mothers Club led a program of widespread involvement by parishioners in Fund raising events to restore financial stability. May of 1973 brought the appointment as pastor of Msgr. James J. Lynch; the parish now numbered 2400 families. Frs. Martin, Barry and Duffell and priests from Maryknoll all assisted him, celebrating thirteen Masses in four different locations each weekend, and Fr. Gregory Lyttle joined the staff as CCD Director.
To accommodate the growing priest staff, a house was purchased at 1772 Hanover Street and called the Rectory Annex. By the 1980's, Frs. Martin, Duffell and Barry were replaced by Frs. Joseph Faraone, James Burke, Robert Surace and Daniel Fogarty, and the greatest challenge facing the parish was the need for enlarged worship space.
The New Church
The town's Catholic population continued to grow so rapidly that by the 1980's Mass was being celebrated not only in the Stone Church, but in the church hall, the school auditorium, and even a local movie theater. When the New York Parish Mission Team held an annual mission and 1500 parishioners filled its tent to overflowing, it was impossible to ignore the need for an even larger church building.
Under the leadership of Msgr. James J. Lynch, a major fund raising campaign was conducted, architectural plans drawn, and construction begun. In November 1984 John Cardinal O'Connor dedicated the New St. Patrick's Church and the Msgr. James J. Lynch Parish Center. With a seating capacity of 850 in the church and fine meeting facilities in the Center, it quickly became the hub of almost all parish activities. The Stone Church remained in use, so the 3200 families of the parish had two places to worship.
Suffering increasingly poor health, Msgr. Lynch was transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ardsley in October, 1985, and was succeeded by one of his former students, Fr. Dermot R. Brennan. His Associate Pastors have been Frs. Michael Cichon, Leo Prince, Louis Jerome and Alan Travers. Fr. Brennan became Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) on June 7, 1990. Msgr. Brennan was installed as Vicar of Northern Westchester and Putnam and Investiture as a Monsignor was
October 13, 1990.
During that time a number of changes have occurred:
All of this was possible because of the encouragement and extraordinary generosity of the People of God at St. Patrick's.
Our Vocations and Ministries...
Since its inception, St. Patrick's has made noteworthy contributions in the area of religious vocations. Over a dozen priests, four Sisters and six Permanent Deacons from our parish have served in and beyond the archdiocese.
Our Parish Directory lists fifty different organizations and activities in which parishioners can participate. And this is just an outline of our remarkable story! We continue to be optimistic about the future and know that many more good things will originate with or be adopted by the People of God at St. Patrick's.
May the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Patron Saint Patrick continue to bless us abundantly and guide us into deeper spiritual growth and expanding works of charity in the next one hundred years.
Changes in our Pastoral Staff since our Anniversary in 1998:
The Spirit of St. Patrick's The Spirit of St. Patrick's has been active in our area for over one hundred years and guided us through the many changes. Today our registration is over 4,700 families who are served by our dedicated Priest, Deacon, Sisters and Staff, along with our many ministries and organizations.
The Spirit of St. Patrick's never rests. It continues to inspire a large and enthusiastic army of staff and volunteers who serve our community in so many ways.
May the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Patron Saint Patrick continue to bless us abundantly and guide us into deeper spiritual growth and expanding works of charity in the next one hundred years.
Ad multos annos!