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New York, City of

1910 New Catholic Dictionary

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The Catholic Church had no foothold in New York until the end of 1664, as in the earlier period of its history public worship was not tolerated, although Blessed Isaac Jogues, S.J., had been hospitably received by Governor Kieft, Dutch Governor of New York. The first Mass is believed to have been celebrated, October 30, 1683, in a chapel located on the present site of the custom-house. Thomas Dongan, Catholic Governor of New York enacted, 1683, the first law establishing religious liberty passed in New York, and, 1685, the first Catholic educational institution in New York State, the New York Latin School, was established by the Jesuits Father Thomas Harvey, Father Henry Harrison, and Father Charles Gage. The law enacted by Governor Dongan was nullified by the New York Assembly, 1691, and a Bill of Rights passed which excluded Catholics from its provisions; in 1711, another law was passed barring Catholics from office and from franchise. The severity with which these laws were enforced, and the intensity of the anti-Catholic feeling of the Revolution period practically abolished the Catholic colony there. The few remaining were ministered to by Father Ferdinand Steinmayer (or "Father Farmer") who celebrated Mass in such places as a loft in Water Street. On the restoration of peace the number of Catholics increased rapidly. On June 10, 1785, largely through the instrumentality of the Spanish minister, Don Diego de Gardoqui, an act of incorporation was secured for the "Trustees of the Roman Catholic church of the City of New York," and November 4, 1786, Saint Peter's Church at Barclay and Church Streets, the first permanent structure for a Catholic Church erected in New York, was opened. A Dominican, Father William O'Brien, famed for his relief work in the pestilence, 1795-1798, is considered the organizer of it. In 1808 when Father Anthony Kohlman, S.J., was its pastor the congregation numbered 14,000, of which the majority were Irish and the remainder French, German, and Italian. The increasingly large number of Catholics necessitated the building of another church and, May 4, 1815, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, on Mott Street, was formally dedicated by Bishop Cheverus of Boston. The present Saint Patrick's Cathedral, occupying the block between Fifth and Madison avenues, Fiftieth and Fifty-first streets, was dedicated May 25, 1879. It is eleventh in size of the great churches of the world.

The first bishop appointed was Father Richard Luke Concanen, an Irish Dominican, consecrated April 24, 1808, at Rome; he died, however, before reaching the United States, and the first bishop in residence was another Irish Dominican, Reverend John Connolly consecrated at Rome, November 6, 1814. Bishop John Hughes the fourth bishop and first archbishop of New York is the really great figure in the constructive period of New York's history; he abolished church trusteeism, caused the overthrow of the Public School Society subversive of Catholic interests, and was honored by presidents and statesmen for his patriotism and comprehension of American statesmanship and government. In his successor Archbishop John McCloskey, New York claims the honor of having a native son made, 1875, the first American cardinal. In conjunction with Saint Patrick's Cathedral a parochial school was opened, 1815, and this with Saint Peter's parochial school founded, 1801, was the pioneer of the Catholic system of free parochial schools throughout the United States. The arrival of various religious orders, e.g., Ursulines, 1812, Sisters of Charity, 1817, Religious of the Sacred Heart, 1841, gave an impetus to the foundation of numerous other schools. Under the able supervision of the Jesuits a college known as the New York Literary Institution was in operation until 1813, when due to the uncertain status of the order at that period it was disorganized. The foundation of several institutions of higher education followed rapidly; among these may be mentioned Mount Saint Vincent Academy and College, Manhattanville College, Manhattan College, Fordham University, and Saint Francis Xavier College. Out of the Xavier Alumni Sodality which was established, 1863, by students of the last named college grew the Catholic Club of New York City. It is a social and cultural organization and its membership comprises preeminent personages in the community who are active in sponsoring movements for the advancement of the Church. Worthy of mention are its early presidents Joseph Thoron, Franklin H. Churchill, Charles G. Herbermann, Edwin T. Slevin, William Lummis, R. Duncan Harris, and Robert J. Hoguet, all outstanding figures in the city. The club possesses a valuable library of over 50,000 volumes including several rare manuscripts.

The rôle played by New York Catholic publishers in Catholic education is important, for from early times New York has been a great producing and distributing center for Catholic literature of all types. The first Catholic book published in New York was an edition of Pastorini's "History of the Christian Church", which was published by Bernard Dornin, the first publisher of exclusively Catholic works in the United States. The first American Year Book, the "Catholic Laity's Directory to the Church Service with an Almanac for the Year 1817," was published by Matthew Field. In 1837 the great firm of Sadlier was founded and commenced its career with an edition of Butler's "Lives of the Saints," and the Bible in monthly parts; Benziger Brothers opened a New York branch of its famous German publishing house in 1853, and the Catholic Publication Society was founded, 1866, by Father Isaac Hecker, C.S.P. Other well-known Catholic publishing houses of more recent foundation in the city are the America Press, publishers of the weekly review "America," P. J. Kenedy and Sons, The Universal Knowledge Foundation, Inc., publishers of the Catholic Encyclopedia, and of Universal Knowledge, and the Home Press. Several Catholic periodicals are published in New York, among them: The Catholic News; Catholic Missions; The Catholic World; The Commonweal; Messenger of the Sacred Heart; The Official Catholic Directory; The Rosary Magazine; The Truth Magazine; La Voce dell' Emigrato, and many others.

In Catholic charitable work New York may be considered the pioneer city, and as early as 1809 a subscription for the relief of the poor was raised under the direction of Father Kohlman. In 1817 an orphan asylum was founded in charge of the Sisters of Charity and the "New York Catholic Benevolent Society" for its supervision was incorporated, 1817, by the legislature, the first Catholic 8Ociety in the state to be so legalized; in 1829 the Union Emigrant Society, the forerunner of the Irish Emigrant Society and the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, was founded, and was followed by the establishment of several other societies for immigrant aid. Saint Patrick's, the first New York Conference of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which was established 1849, has exercised a widespread influence on charitable work and was largely responsible for the foundation of the great Catholic Protectory. The city has several Catholic hospitals, reform schools, fresh air homes, settlement houses, prisoner aid societies, day nurseries, foundling asylums, etc.

That Catholics have figured prominently in the cultural, civil,scientific and social life of New York City may be further attested by tHe following list which includes only a few of the numerous renowned New York Catholics: Gunning S. Bedford, famed physician who organized University Medical College, "first professor of obstetrics who ever held an obstetric clinic in the United states"; John R. Brady, first Catholic judge of the Supreme Court; Charles G. Herbermann; Francis Kernan, statesman and United States senator, 1876-1882; Bruno Oscar Klein, famed pianist; John La Farge, artist, sculptor, lecturer, discoverer of American art glass, famed for his glass work, e.g., the "Peacock Window," in Worcester Art Museum, and for his murals, e.g., "The Ascension" in the Church of the Ascension, New York; Dominick Lynch, the merchant philanthropist who brought the first Italian opera troupe ever heard in the. United States to New York; William J. MacNeven, professor at College of Physicians and Surgeons, first Catholic physician to attain eminence in America; John Newton, engineer, famed for renowned work on Hell Gate; Lorenzo da Ponte, first instructor of Italian at Columbia and first in the United States to point out the beauties of Dante; Denis O'Brien, first Catholic judge of Court of Appeals; Thomas O'Conor, a pioneer American Catholic editor, published "Shamrock, or Hibernian Chronicle," 1810, compiled a history of the War of 1812; Conde Pallen poet, philosopher, and educator; Thomas Fortune Ryan, financier.

Bibliography Information
Entry for 'New York, City of'. 1910 New Catholic Dictionary.​dictionaries/​eng/​ncd/​n/new-york-city-of.html. 1910.