Albany, New York is not only the capital of New York State, but the nation’s oldest incorporated city which stands at the crossing of the historic routes that link Boston with the “Near West” and Montreal with New York City. St. Mary’s in Albany was New York State’s second, and upstate New York’s first Roman Catholic parish. Due to its close association with Albany since its incorporation in 1796, St. Mary’s has had a rich and interesting history as one of America’s oldest Catholic churches and the first cathedral parish of the Catholic Diocese of Albany.
St. Isaac Jogues, Jesuit missionary and prisoner of the Mohawk Iroquois, crept away from his Indian captors during a visit to the Dutch Fort Orange (Albany). With the aid of the Dutch colonists he was hidden in a barn which stood on the spot of our present church. Escaping by boat to New York City, he returned to his Iroquois and eventually was killed by the Mohawks on the site of Auriesville, New York.
One month after St. Isaac Jogues’ escape, the Iroquois brought to Fort Orange another Jesuit captive, Fr. Antoine Poncet de la Riviere. This time the Indians were more careful about their prisoner. But Fr. Poncet did have the opportunity to administer the Sacrament of Penance – for the first time on the site of Albany. He heard the confessions of a merchant from Brussels and a young man who was on the way to becoming a picturesque frontiersman and explorer – Pierre Espret Radison.
October 5th 1785
On this date the corner-stone of St. Peter’s Church in New York City was placed. St. Peter’s was not only the first Catholic Church in New York City but, it was the first permanent Catholic Church building in the whole State.
April 30th 1789
General George Washington was inaugurated in New York as the First President of the United States under the federal constitution. On November 6th, Pope Pius V1 named Fr. John Carroll founding Bishop of Baltimore. The Diocese of Baltimore embraced all of New York State and the whole of the United States as it then existed.
October 6th 1796
Albany Area Catholics met to organize as a congregation. Seeking legal status, they incorporated as “TheRoman Catholic Church in the City of Albany,” and their certificate of incorporation was recorded on October 13. The state law by which they secured this status was that of April 6, 1784, which vested full control of church administration in a board of lay trustees. The first Board elected for St. Mary’s was Thomas Barry, LouisLaCouteulx, Daniel McEvers, Terence O’Donnell, James Robicheaux, Jeremiah Driskil, Michael Begley, William Donovan and Philip Farrel. (LaCouteulx later moved to Buffalo and became a pioneer Catholic leader there.)
Shortly after the incorporation in 1796 the trustees moved to build a church in Albany. (Mass had already been offered there occasionally in the homes of Mrs. Margaret Cassidy and William Duffy. The celebrant was quite likely a Capuchin priest, namely Fr. Thomas Flynn, who was doing missionary work between Fort Stanwix – the future Rome, New York and Albany in the period 1796 – 1804.
September 13th 1797
As the plans for building of the first church of St. Mary’s unfolded, the City Corporation of Albany, by unanimous vote, made the new congregation the gift of a church lot on Pine Street, between Barrack and Lodge Streets. Albany’s Catholics were still few, and most of them were not prosperous. The trustees had therefore to look to others for donations such as Protestants at home, Catholics in other locales. Thomas Barry even turned to Canada for donations. Their drive was not completely successful, but most of the costs were covered. There being no priest on hand, apparently Thomas Barry laid the cornerstone on September 13, 1797 .
July 31st 1798
The Government of the State of New York officially designated Albany as the State Capitol. In the Fall, St. Mary’s (though not fully completed until 1807) was opened for use. It was the second permanent Catholic Church built in New York State, and it served as the parish church of Upstate New York. It was the first church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in post-revolutionary New York State.
Fall of 1798
The original St. Mary’s Church was very modest. The building was brick and about 50 feet square. The door opened on Pine Street. There was no belfry; only a cross on the pyramid roof identified it as a church. The sanctuary inside was no more than 12 feet square while galleries ran along the south and west walls. In the west gallery, there was a small organ donated by Mrs. Margaret Cassidy. It was reputed to be the first organ installed in any Albany church. Over the main door was set a marble tablet decorated with a skull and crossbones and inscribed: “I.H.S. Thomas Barry, Louis LaCouteulx, Founders. E.C. Quinn, Master Builder. A.D. 1798.
Fall of 1798
While the new St. Mary’s was being built, the missionary rector was the Rev. John Thayer. He was a former Congregationalist Minister who had been converted in Italy in 1783, having been impressed by circumstances surrounding the death of the “Beggar Saint” St. Benedict Joseph Labre. Fr. Thayer was ordained in Paris in 1789. He remained at St. Mary’s only a short time before he was sent by Bishop Carroll to Boston – before St. Mary’s was opened. Among the early parishioners were the French Marquis and Marquist de la Tour de Pin.
December 14th 1799
President George Washington died. When the news arrived, December 23, the City Government ordered that the bells in the city be tolled for two hours that afternoon. St. Mary’s could not comply, since it had no bell. The parish did take part in the memorial service held on the President’s birthday, February 22, 1800. On order of Bishop Carroll, the pastor, Fr. Matthew O’Brien, held a special service at 9:00 am in a crepe-hung church. At 11:00 am there was a civic parade followed by a service in the Dutch church and a mass meeting in City Hall.
The second pastor of St. Mary’s, Dr. Matthew O’Brien, after only a short tenure, was transferred by his bishop to St. Peter’s Church in New York City. Albanians mourned his departure. He was one of the ablest of Bishop Carroll’s clergy. In 1805 he received St. Elizabeth Seton into the Catholic Church at St. Peter’s. While in Albany (1797-1800) he had taken his turn with the other local clergy in offering the opening prayer of the Legislature. He was a good theologian and excellent preacher, and many of the Protestant statesmen of the Capital had attended St. Mary’s because they enjoyed his doctrinal sermons. When it was rumored in 1797 that the Bishop intended to reassign Dr. O’Brien to Natchez, Mississippi, the parish trustees protested and won their suit, but he was finally transferred to New York City.
September 5th 1807
The “Clermont” a pioneer side-wheel steamboat invented by Robert Fulton, arrived in Albany, completing its firstcommercial trip from New York. Albanians flocked forth to see “Fulton’s Folly” docked not far from St. Mary’s Church. The voyage inaugurated a new epoch in Hudson River transportation, and had the remote effect of bringing more Catholic immigrants through and into the Albany area.
April 8th 1801
Pope Pius V11 established the new Diocese of New York, which included Albany in its jurisdiction. The first Bishop of New York was an Irish Dominican Father who was a resident of Italy, Richard Luke Concanon. Unfortunately, he died in Italy while waiting for transportation to the United States. His successor did not take over until 1815.
June 19th 1812
The United States declared war on England. Among Catholic residents of Albany who had reached a degree of prosperity and prominence was a wholesale grocer, James Maher. Maher organized the Republican RifleCompany, or “Irish Greens.” He was captain and fellow parishioner John Cassidy was lieutenant. In 1813, Maher took part in the Battle of Sackets Harbor and led his troops in the capture of Little York, (now Toronto) Canada. On his return to Albany he was hailed as a hero.
Parishioners of St. Mary’s now numbered over 300, but Catholics made up only one-twentieth of the Albany population. Although a few older Catholic families were prosperous, most of the congregation was composed of poor immigrants, principally Irish. New upstate parishes breaking off from St. Mary’s were launched under New York’s second Bishop, John Connolly – St. John’s, Utica (1819); St. Patrick’s Rochester (1820); Holy Family, Auburn (1820); St. James, Carthage (1821)
Bishop Connolly toured a large part of the up-state district of his diocese which included a visit to St. Mary’s. This was his second visit since he first came in 1816 after his installation in New York.
September 18th, 19th, 1824
The romantic Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, stopped off at Albany during his nostalgic tour of the United States. He visited Albany a second time in 1825, on the weekend of June 11 and 12. Parish tradition at St. Mary’s says that while in Albany he attended Sunday Mass at St. Mary’s. However, the ample press reports of his sojourn in Albany say nothing of his Mass attendance. They record only that on June 12, 1825 he was present at a service held in the Reverend Doctor Chester’ Second Presbyterian Church.
October 26th – November 4th 1825
Formal opening of the Erie Canal which brought Albany new commercial importance. Governor Clinton and his official party commemorated the event by making a trip from Buffalo to Albany and New York. Cannons were fired at each stop on the canal route to announce to the next port town that the Governor would soon arrive. There were jubilations all along the line. Alderman John Cassidy of St. Mary’s parish was involved in planning the observance at Albany; and the Albany clergy and the St. Patrick’s Society (founded 1807) marched in the City’s parade.
The Church of St. Peter’s was established in Troy.
A banner year for Catholic education at St. Mary’s. Sunday school was organized on the strong recommendation of a devout Protestant woman, Mrs. Margaret Annesley, who consented to join the Catholic women and volunteer as a teacher. The first lay superintendent of the Sunday school was French born Peter Morauge, upholsterer, church trustee, organist and poet (and father of William, Albany’s “poet laureate”). The Sunday school worked so well that St. Mary’s soon decided to start a parochial school.
Shortly after the Sunday School became a success, the parishioners asked the Third Bishop of New York, John Dubois, to enlist nuns to run the school and take care of the parish orphans. The Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg accepted Bishop Dubois’ invitation and in October of 1828 sent three of their Sisters to Albany. They opened a school in a rented building and took in a few orphans to live with them in their convent.
When the second St. Mary’s Church was finished in 1830, the newly arrived Sisters of Charity moved their classes to its basement. They taught the girls in half of the room; laymen, James Maloney and John Flinn, taught the boys in the other half. After the opening of a separate orphanage in 1832, the Sisters also began a private school in a section of that building. The tuition, paid by the parents – Catholic and Protestant helped pay the expenses of the parochial or “poor school.”
One of the original group of nuns, who subsequently, as superior, opened the separate orphanage and the convent school was Sister Mary DeSales Tyler. This very capable, religious (who lived until 1899) was a sister ofWilliam Tyler, later the first Bishop of Hartford. Both were converts to Catholicism and belonged to the Barber-Tyler clan of New England, whose group conversions to Catholicism attracted international notice in the early nineteenth century.
October 12th 1829
The cornerstone of the second St. Mary’s Church was laid. Designer of the new building, which was meant to replace the overcrowded original church, was Albany’s top-flight architect, Philip Hooker. An expert in the Federal Style, he drew plans for a rectangular building, set high, with a portico of four columns. Walls and columns were to be of brick, but the whole exterior was to be covered with stucco. An ample basement was included as was a three-tiered belfry. The trustees signed the agreement with Albany contractor Henry Peers on September 15, 1829. Cost of construction amounted to $12,000.00.
The new second church was built on the same site as the old. Thanks to trustees of nearly Lancaster School, St. Mary’s was permitted to hold services there while the second church was being built. Demolition of the original church began on September 14th . A hill had to be cut away and Steuben Street had to be opened above Chapel Street. Men of the parish gladly set to with pick and shovel, under the direction of a man called “Yankee” White. A drive for funds brought in gifts from many prominent non-Catholics, including $100 from the “last Patroon,” Stephen Van Rensselaer; and $50 from Governor (later United States President) Martin Van Buren.
August 29th 1830
The new Second Church was open. A few years later its belfry was provided with a 1300 lb. Bell that cost $390.00. Perhaps the construction of the church building had been too rapid, for it was not long before certain structural weaknesses began to show up.
December 25th 1829
On December 25th of this year, pastor and trustees signed and sent a letter of greeting to Charles Carrol of Carrolton, as the only Catholic and the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence. They had included in the new cornerstone, they said, “their tribuit (sic) of grateful thanks to a Christian patriot who pledged his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to secure for his Countrymen the disinterested enjoyment of Religious and Political Freedom.”
July 3rd 1832
First recorded case of cholera was reported in Albany – the dread plague that was to sweep the nation that summer, and again in 1849 and 1854. As a transportation center, Albany was especially exposed to infection. Other immigrants, who had settled in Albany and lived in the cheapest housing, suffered much from this epidemic. Fr. Charles Smith, the Pastor, showed unselfish concern for the stricken. Remaining at his post when many Albanians were taking flight, he served the needs of both his own parishioners and those of other faiths. He also aided Sister M. DeSales in opening a separate orphanage building to give shelter to the children of cholera victims.
June 29th 1836
Fr. John Nepomucene Neumann (1811 – 1860), an Austro-Hungarian national lately ordained a priest of the Diocese of New York, stopped off at Albany enroute to his first assignment in western New York. (He served in St. Mary of the Cataract Church in Niagara Falls) and celebrated Mass at St. Mary’s. Subsequently, Father Neumann joined the Redemptorist Order, became its American Superior and then served as fourth Bishop ofPhiladelphia.
July 6th 1836
The Rt. Rev. John Dubois, S.S. (1764 – 1842), French-born third Bishop of New York, came to Albany in July; and on July 6 he confirmed at St. Mary’s Church around 150 people, some of them adults. His traveling companion, Rev. Dr. Charles Constantine Pese, preached at that time on behalf of St. Mary’s New Orphanage. Fr. Pese was one of the best-known Catholic orators and writers of the day. In 1832 he had been elected Chaplain of the U.S. Senate – the first Catholic priest ever chosen for that post.
St. John’s Parish was established in Albany. Its territory cut off from the territory of St. Mary’s. A second parish was sliced from St. Mary’s in 1843 – St. Joseph’s. The successive divisions reflected the growth of the local Catholic population. (Most of these Catholics were Irish, but some were German. The Germans started a parish of their own in 1842 – Holy Cross.)
Lay trustees of St. Mary’s parish had their last election, placed their books at the disposal of the parish and adjourned for good. Earlier that year the Rt. Rev. John Hughes, as fourth Bishop of New York, had launched a campaign in his diocese against the continuance of the trustee boards set up according to the Law of 1784. He admitted that theoretically it was good to have laymen mind the finances so as to give the priests more time for their spiritual tasks. However, few trustee boards had taken a fully Catholic view of their roles. When they first learned of Bishop Hughes’ order, the trustees of St. Mary’s were of a mind to fight the ruling. The fact that they finally reconsidered proves that despite their occasional officiousness, St. Mary’s vestrymen were basically men of Catholic metal.
April 23rd 1847
Pope Pius IX established new upstate dioceses with centers in Albany and Buffalo. He appointed as First Bishop of Albany the then Coadjutor Bishop of New York, Rt. Rev. John McCloskey (1810 – 1885). St. Mary’s was chosen as hisCathedral Church. Here, Bishop Hughes installed John McCloskey on September 19, 1847. Many state officials and justices of the Court of Appeals were in the congregation. Bishop Hughes’ installation sermon (according to the “Evening Journal”) lasted an hour and three quarters!. The newspaper praised McCloskey for his “great goodness of heart, gentleness of manner and purity of life.” The First Bishop of Albany remained in office until 1864, when he was promoted to Archbishop of New York.
August 17th 1848
A disastrous fire destroyed 600 buildings in Albany with a total loss of three million dollars. That same year Albany’s first conference of the St. Vincent DePaul Society was founded to assist the poor. Influential in launching this layman’s society was young Fr. Edward Putnam, a convert, assistant at St. Mary’s. Another active promoter after his ordination in 1850 was Fr. Edgar Wadhams, also a priest-convert who assisted Bishop McCloskey at St. Mary’s. A second Vincentian conference was set up at St. John’s Church in 1852; a third at the new Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in 1853. By 1886 the conferences in Albany had distributed $100,000 worth of clothing and provisions, and their members had made tens of thousands f visits to homes and prisons.
February 2nd 1848
The Two Year war with Mexico was concluded by a peace treaty. It is likely that there were some parishioners of St. Mary’s in the regiments recruited around Albany, especially the company organized by Captain John P. Frisbie, of the First Regiment in 1846.
Fr. Theobald Mathew, a Capuchin friar noted in Ireland as a preacher of temperance, visited Albany in the course of his American tour. Fr. Mathew’s eloquence moved many to take the pledge against alcohol. In September 1851, the Capuchin was back in Albany again. Long before Fr. Mathew came, however, the Albany Catholics had their own temperance unions. Fr. Schneller was a temperance advocate. He founded a tee-total organization in 1840. The Hibernian Temperance Association had been founded in 1832 by his predecessor, Fr. Charles Smith.
November 2nd 1852
Solemn opening of the new Church of the Immaculate Conception, which henceforth became the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Albany. Archbishop Hughes of New York preached at the Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop McCluskey in the presence of the Archbishop of Bogota, Columbia, the Bishop of Montreal, Canadaand three American bishops. After the opening of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, St. Mary’s lost its earlier status as Albany’s principal Catholic Church.
October 30th 1853
Fr. John Loughlin (1817 – 1891) was ordained first Bishop of Brooklyn in New York City. Consecrating prelate was Most Reverend Gaetano Bedini, Papal Nuncio to Brazil, who had been sent by Pope Pius IX to the United States to make a tour of inspection. Bishop Loughlin, named to the See of Brooklyn on July 29th, had grown up in Albany as a parishioner of ours.
November 13th 1853
Archbishop Bedini came to Albany on November 13th. He consecrated altars in the new Cathedral, dined withGovernor Horatio Seymour in his home on Elk Street and, quite likely, visited St. Mary’s.
The Know-Nothing Movement, anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic, rose to sudden importance in Albany in 1854. In the municipal elections of 1855, Albanians gave as many as 3000 votes to the candidates of the know-Nothing or “American” party. But even though some shrill nativist voices were raised, Albanians in general showed themselves very tolerant. The prominence of the city’s Irish leaders argued against the allegations of anti-immigrants. William Cassidy, a journalist, lawyer Peter Cogger, a manufacturer, John Tracey and insurrectionalist-historian-physician Dr. Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan were respected exemplars of Irish assimilation. All were connected with St. Mary’s parish.
1858 – 1859
St. Patrick’s parish was cut off from St. Mary’s. On May 19, 1859 William Smith O’Brien gave an address in Albany. Introduced by Attorney General Tremaine, he declared among other things that while he had remained neutral on American issues since his arrival, he would nevertheless not hesitate to criticize the Know-Nothings for they were guilty of an “innovation upon the Constitution of the United States.” O’Brien was a Protestant Irish Nationalist who had been exiled by the British for treason because of his part in the abortive Irish Revolution of 1848. Many parishioners of St. Mary’s had chosen to attend the lecture.
February 18th 1861
President-Elect Abraham Lincoln, slowly enroute to Washington for his March 4th inauguration, stopped off at Albany. (It is said that John Wilkes Booth was playing that same evening at a local theatre.) Addressing the Legislature in the Capitol, Lincoln declared himself “the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the Presidency.” But he added, “I have a more difficult task to perform than any one of them.” On April 21stLincoln’s “difficult task” began.
With the opening of the Civil War, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. On April 22 Albany’s people gave a great send off to Col. Michael Bryan and 25th Militia. Many men from our parish, some of them former members of the local Irish military companies, donned the uniform of the United States. Of the parish casualties, two were buried from St. Mary’s: James DeLacey (killed at Antietam) and John McGuire (killed in North Carolina.)
May 1st 1863
One hundred forty girls of St. Mary’s parish celebrated May Day. At 9:00 am, dressed in white and wearing wreaths and ribbons, they attended Mass and received Communion. Then, they crowned the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and listed to a “beautiful lecture” by their pastor, Fr. Thomas Doran. After breakfast in the vestry they marched to the home of Bishop McCloskey to receive his blessing and marched back to the Church. All along the line of the procession people came to the windows and doors to watch this sight. “Too much praise cannot be given to our dear, kind sisters” wrote the reporter to the New York Freeman’s Journal.
April 14th 1865 GoodFriday
Five days after the war ended at Appomattox John Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Fr. Thomas Doran expressed the sad sentiments of the parishioners. Parishioner William Cassidy, wrote one of the nation’s best editorials on Lincoln in his influential Albany newspaper, the Atlas and Argus. “The day which commemorates the Crucifixion of the Savior of Man,” he wrote, “ is henceforth made darkly memorable by a new crime against God and humanity. The assassin’s blow will rank him in the memory of millions among the martyrs of liberty.”
A new and notable pastor arrives - Fr. Clarence Walworth (died 1900). A native of Plattsburg, New York, he grew up in Albany where his father, Reuben, was Chancellor of the State of New York. (The last man to hold that now obsolete office). Of wealthy Yankee and Presbyterian lineage, Clarence graduated from Union College, practiced law briefly and then became an Episcopalian and entered General Theological Seminary in New York to study for the ministry. But in 1845 he and a number of fellow student entered the Catholic Church.
Clarence Walworth and another recent convert, Isaac Hecker, enter the Redemptorist Order. After ordination and several years as missionaries Pope Pius 1X dispensed them from their Redemptorist vows in 1858. Fr Hecker founded the Paulist Fathers, and Fr. Walworth became a secular priest of the Albany Diocese. In his very first years at St. Mary’s he arranged for Fr. Hecker to come up and deliver a lecture on December 30, 1866 for the benefit of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
August 11th 1867
The cornerstone of the third St. Mary’s (present structure) was laid. This time it was a priest who presided – a former assistant pastor from St. Mary’s and now the Diocesan Vicar General and later to be the first foundingBishop of Ogdensburg – Fr. Edgar Wadhams. Governor Reuben Fenton was also on hand.
August 11th 1867
The new St. Mary’s Church was Fr. Walworth’s great project. On December 7th 1866 he had reincorporated the parish under the name “St. Mary’s Church in the City of Albany.” Incorporation was granted according to a new law of 1863, far more favorable to Catholic usage than the old trustee law had been. The Board of Trustees now comprised the Bishop, Vicar General, pastor and two lay trustees. This is still in practice.
August 11th 1867
To build our present building Fr. Walworth engaged Charles C. Nichols of Nichols & Brown, Albany architects, to draw plans for a new structure to replace, on the same site, Hooker’s crumbling and undersized second St. Mary’s Church. Once again, contributions were solicited. Bishop Conroy gave $1,000 and did John Tracey, the local spirits manufacturer. The two lay trustees, State Senator Thomas Behan and Thomas Noonan gave $500 apiece. Protestant Mayor George Thacher gave $100 a year for three years.
After the pews were removed from the old church, a fair was held there which netted $11,000 for the construction fund. The basement of the new church was available from February 16, 1868.
“The Luck of Roaring Camp,” a short story, brought its author, Bret Harte, into prominence as a writer of western fiction. Old parishioners of St. Mary’s who read this and his later story, “The Outcasts of Poker Flat,” probably recalled that the writer’s father, Professor Henry Harte, a Protestant schoolmaster in Albany, had sung with St. Mary’s choir at the dedication of the second St. Mary’s in 1830 and on other occasions.
March 14th 1869
The Second Bishop of Albany, Rt. Rev. John J. Conroy, solemnly dedicated the third and present St. Mary’s Church. The altar (now the Altar of Reposition) valued at $3000 was consecrated at the same time. The new St. Mary’s was designed in the style of the Romanesque revival. It had cost $100,00 to build.
1869 All Saints Day
On this day, St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany opened. The prime benefactor of the hospital was the estate of a St. Mary’s parishioner, attorney Peter Cagger. Mr. Cagger had been killed July 6th 1868 in a carriage accident in Central Park, New York City. He had earlier spoken of the need for a Catholic hospital in Albany. His family gave $10,000 to found one named after Cagger’s patron saint.
July 2nd 1870
Since Bishop Conroy was attending the First Vatican Council in Rome, Vicar General Wadhams dedicated the new marble, “Our Lady’s Altar” in St. Mary’s. It was the gift of a parishioner, Dr. Edmund O’Callaghan, historian of New York State.
May 5th 1872
St. Mary’s close friend and assistant, Fr. Edgar Wadhams, was ordained as First Bishop of Ogdensburg. The chief consecrator was Archbishop McCloskey of New York who performed the ceremony at Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Fr. Wadhams had been a fellow student of Fr., Walworth’s for the Episcopal ministry and had become a Catholic a year after Fr. Walworth, in the course of that same American “Oxford Movement.” John McCloskey, then Bishop of Albany, had ordained Wadhams a priest on January 1st 1850 in St. Mary’s Church. He was assistant at St. Mary’s until 1852 when named Rector of the new Albany Cathedral. Fr. Walworth preached t his consecration.
March 15th 1875
Pope Pius IX created Archbishop McCloskey “Cardinal Priest of the title of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.” The Archbishop sailed to Europe later that year, on September 27th received from the Pope the cardivalitial – “red hat” and three day later took formal possession of his titular Roman parish. He, thus, became the first American prelate elevated to the rank of Cardinal. The people of St. Mary’s were happy to have Pope Pius honor a man who had begun his career of residential bishop in their church years before.
December 22nd 1879
A benefit fair opened at St. Mary’s. According to custom, the promoters of the fair, the Young Men’s Sodality, issued a tabloid paper called, “Journal of the Fair.” It contained information about the fair itself, a bit of parish history, some poems, some witticisms and a number of paid advertisements. Regarding the fair itself, the Journal announced that there would be four tables, each supervised by a different parish organization and offering items for sale. The Sodality table was to sponsor balloting for the most popular military guardsman of the parish, the winner to be awarded a handsome dress sword. The advertisers for the parish benefit fair were: a glover, William E. Walsh (“dogskin and flesher” gloves and buffalo robes); a shoe dealer. James DeVine(Gents French Calf and Kip Boots” at $2.50 a pair); and a dyer, Mrs. John McDuffie (“Always Dyeing and Yet Living”). A column labeled “Humorous” presented such items as the following: “We admire square men. There is a man living in town who is so square that he can never get round to pay his pew rent.”
Annual river excursion of St. Mary’s parishioners. Each year the Church chartered barges and tugs to convey some 2,500 men, women and children to either Prospect Grove (24 miles away) or Baeren Island (13 miles away). Dinner was served there by the parish women. Music, candy tables, ice cream tables and soft drinks tables were set up. This annual jaunt remained popular for the next ten years.
March 4th 1885
Grover Cleveland was inaugurated as the 22nd President of the United States. For his Secretary of Treasury he chose a native of St. Mary’s and former altar boy, Daniel Manning. Manning was a self-made man who had begun as a reporter on the Albany “Argus” and worked out from there into Democratic politics. He was the man chiefly responsible for Cleveland’s receiving the 1884 presidential nomination. Cleveland’s close victory was due in part to the attack on the Democratic party as the party of “rum, Romanism and rebellion.” Cleveland named a Catholic to his cabinet. As only the fourth Catholic ever to be promoted to cabinet rank, Manning held this position for two years.
July 18th, 23rd 1886
Albany’s Bicentennial as a city enlists the help of Fr Walworth as a member of its planning committee. Forty-two bronze markers were attached to historic Albany buildings including St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s celebrated a Military Mass in the church to commemorate this event. In the capacity congregation sat not only many state and local officials but some thirty Catholic Mohawk Indians. The Indians came down the day before and were welcomed with a military escort and parade. During the Mass they occupied places of honor in the sanctuary. In a notable sermon Fr. Walworth traced the story of Albany Catholicism from the day St. Isaac Jogues was taken captive by the Mohawks down to the City’s 200th birthday.
August 20th 1887
The small parish school appointed Ellen Harden Walworth as Principal of St. Mary’s. She was succeeded by Miss Annie Moran around 1890. However, the small school closed some time before 1897. In July 1897 Fr. Walworth had given a lecture on “School Education” in the Albany Capitol, and he was awarded an honorary L.L.D. by the Regents of the University of the State of New York.
Parishioner Edward A Mahar was elected Mayor of Albany. He served two years. In February of 1892, because of multiplying physical ailments and diminishing vision, Fr. Walworth asked Bishop McNeirney to name as administrator of the parish Assistant Pastor Fr. John J. Dillon. The Bishop consented and gave to Fr. Dillon the title of Vice-Rector. Walworth retained the nominal rank of Rector.
September 1st 1895
St. Mary’s was solemnly re-opened at the conclusion of a program of remodeling that had extended over four years. Presiding was the new and fourth Bishop of Albany, Rt. Rev. Thomas M. A. Burke. A major phase of the reconstruction had been the building of a bell tower. It was crowned with a weather vane – a large statue of St. Gabriel the Archangel blowing a trumpet as the “Angel of Judgment.” The idea belonged to Fr. Walworth. He had seen a similar weather vane on a European church so he suggested this to Fr. Dillon and paid for it himself. The installation of electricity gave St. Mary’s the distinction of being the first church in Albany to enjoy electric lighting.
November 5th, 7th 1897
St. Mary’s parish centennial was described as the greatest religious demonstration held thus far in Albany’s history. On Friday morning, November 5th, Bishop Burk celebrated a Pontifical Mass, and in the evening administered the Sacrament of Confirmation. That evening there was a splendid parade. Most of the parish societies were in the march which moved along streets bright with flags and bunting. Fireworks greeted the marchers and floats as they passed by the reviewing stand in front of the Church.
Centennial of St.Mary’s 1897
On Saturday, November 6th Bishop Burke offered Mass for the deceased of St. Mary’s. On Sunday Archbishop Martinelli, Apostolic Delegate, presided. He was accompanied by Fr. Frederick Rooker (priest of the Albany Diocese who later served as Bishop of Jaro, Philippine Islands.) In the evening the preacher was a Jesuit priest, Fr. Henry Van Rensselaer, Albany native and direct descendant of Kilian Van Rensselaer. The Archbishop gave the congregation a Papal Blessing.
April 21st 1898
The Spanish-American War officially begins. The United States flag floated from St. Mary’s belfry from the time the war began. On July 1st, 6000 American troops under General H.W. Lawton and A. R. Chaffee conquered El Caney, Cuba defended by 500 Spanish soldiers. The American forces won but a 24 year old U.S. officer, who was a parishioner of St. Mary’s was killed in action. Second Lieutenant Thomas A. Wansboro was first buried in Cuba. Subsequently, his body was brought back to Albany and reburied from St. Mary’s on November 10th1898 in a military funeral that befitted a West Point graduate.
September 10th 1900
St. Mary’s School was reactivated with 120 girls and 90 boys, and it opened in the new St. Mary’s “Centennial Building” across the street from the Church. The teachers were six School Sisters of Notre Dame. The Centennial Building was the parish monument to its 100th birthday which was designed by the firm of Fuller and Wheeler. Site of the new building was the corner lot on Pine and Lodge Streets. Bishop Burke laid the cornerstone on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th 1898. The hall, which had a capacity of 700, was ready for use in October 1899.
March 21st 1901
A grand civic service was held at Oddfellow’s Hall in memory of the late pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. Clarence Walworth. Fr. Walworth, blind and an invalid for months, had died on September 19th 1900, and after a funeral on September 22nd was laid to rest in his family plot in Saratoga. No more would Albanians see this silver-haired clerical patron, clad in cassock and skull cap, walking painfully along Lodge Street. He had been a man to reckon with in churchly and civic life. One of his most memorable sermons “The Rights of Labor (1886)” had evinced his concern about social ethics. It was he who translated from the German, the words of America’s most popular Catholic hymn: “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”
January 5th 1904
Alfred E. Smith, newly elected in New York City to the State Assembly, arrived in Albany to begin his work as a legislator. An Assemblyman until 1915, he was elected Governor in 1918. Nominated Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 1928 – the first Catholic to run for a major party – he was defeated by Herbert Hoover. On October 4th 1944 the former Governor died in New York. A few weeks later a group of veteran State employees who had known him gathered at St. Mary’s, along with Mrs. Edith Smith Warner, the late Governor’s daughter, for a memorial mass for the repose of his soul.
May 10th 1909
Sister M. Regis McManus, SSND, died on this date. She was Principal of St. Mary’s School since the arrival of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1900. Buried in St. Agnes Cemetery, Sr. Regis was deeply mourned by the parishioners, particularly by the school children.
July 5th 1915
Pope Benedict XV named Thomas Francis Cusack as the Fifth Bishop of Albany to succeed the late Bishop Thomas M.A. Burke. Bishop Cusack had been Auxiliary Bishop of New York. An apostolic man, he had been director of the Archdiocesan mission band. Parishioners of St. Mary’s joined their fellow diocesans in welcoming the new Bishop. Unfortunately, he died after only three years in office.
April 6th 1917
United States declared war on Germany. Bishop Cusack pledged the support of all diocesan churches and institutions to the national effort to “make the world safe for democracy.” St. Mary’s did its part. At St. Mary’s School the “Boys Brigade” was established with over 100 young men wearing the U.S. uniform. One of them,Nicholas Fitzgerald, entered the seminary after the war, was ordained a priest and subsequently assigned to his home parish. John Paul O’Brien, a parishioner, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for military heroism. John George Jenkins was killed in action.
March 10th 1919
Pope Benedict XV appointed Bishop Gibbons as the 6th Bishop of Albany. Bishop-elect Gibbons grew up in Albany and served on the altar at St. Mary’s. His father was a stone-cutter who worked on the State Capitol. After his installation Bishop Gibbons chose St. Mary’s to administer, for the first time as Bishop, the Sacrament of Confirmation. He, himself, had been confirmed at St. Mary’s. Edward Skelly of St. Mary’s parish became the first boy to receive the sacrament from the new Bishop, Margaret Haggerty was the first girl.
Fr. John J. Dillon founded the Church of St. Philip the Apostle on Sheridan Avenue within the parish boundaries to serve as a mission of St. Mary’s Church. In 1931 he opened St. Philip’s school nearby. Forty children enrolled in the school. The teachers were three members of the Sister Servants of the Holy Ghost and Mary Immaculate, a religious community dedicated to the education of Afro-Americans. At the outset some criticized Fr. Dillon’s project of St. Philip’s as “an old man’s dream.” Actually, the pastor had undertaken it as an apostolic “must”, and it proved to be of real service to the local Afro-American community for the next three decades.
January 1st 1930
On October 29th 1929 the stock market had crashed and a depression followed. Parishioners of St. Mary’s were no more immune to this tragedy. It was during the early thirties that the present St. May’s rectory was constructed and that a permanent school was built at St. Philip’s mission.
August 18th 1934
Fr. John J. Dillon, who had been in charge of St. Mary’s since 1892 was called to his reward. Bishop Gibbons named Fr. Thomas J. Loughlin to succeed the Venerable Fr. Dillon as pastor.
May 7th 1945
Pope Pius X11 named Msgr. William Scully to the post of co-adjucator Bishop of Albany with the right of succession. On October 24th Bishop Gibbons consecrated the Bishop-elect in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. On November 10th 1954 Bishop Gibbons, now 86 years old, resigned the Bishopric of Albany. Bishop Scully automatically succeeded him a Bishop of Albany.
April 20th 1955
Pope Pius X11 names the Pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. Thomas Loughlin, as Domestic Prelate. He, thus, became the first head of the parish to bear the honorary title of “Monsignor.”
February 23rd 1959
Started in Albany, the annual “Red Mass of the Holy Spirit” was held for members of the legal profession. Because of its closeness to office and judiciary buildings, St. Mary’s was the ideal church for this rite. In the presence of Bishop Scully and Bishop Maginn, the sermon was preached by Fr. Joseph Tinnelly, C.M., Dean of St. John’s Law School in Brooklyn. In later yeas Bishop Fulton J. Sheen delivered the homily.
March 30th 1959
Msgr. Loughlin, with the encouragement of Bishop Scully, introduced the Daily Mass League into the parish. Those who joined the League pledged to attend daily mass whenever possible. The noon mass was well attended.
Father James L. Lefebvre, in residence at St. Mary’s was head of St. Joseph’s School from 1962 to 1978.
April 13th 1962
It was announced that St. Mary’s and St. Philip’s schools would close the following June. The basic reason for closing was the decline in the number of resident parishioners and the further decline foreseen as a result of projected urban redevelopment. After the June closing Sr. M. Electa Molz and three other School Sisters of Notre Dame and the four Sister Servants at St. Philip’s returned to their Provincial house for reassignments. Centennial Hall, which housed St. Mary’s was sold to Albany County in 1964.
February 4, 1964
The former Cardinal McCloskey High School and other Diocese offices had to move so the Empire State Plaza could be built.
June 19th 1964
Bishop Gibbons died in St. Peter’s Hospital. He was just a few weeks short of his 96th birthday; and since December 6th 1963 he had been the oldest living Catholic Bishop in the world. St. Mary’s was grieved to lose one who had been its parishioner, its altar boy and its devoted shepherd.
January 5, 1969
Bishop William A. Scully died at age 74, having been installed on 11/10/1954/. Bishop Edward J. Maginn, having been named Auxiliary Bishop on June 27, 1957, served until the 8th Bishop was chosen. Bishop Maginn was born in Glasgow, Scotland on January 4, 1897, died August 21, 1984
March 18, 1969
Monsignor Thomas J. Loughlin, Pastor of St. Mary’s addressed the 38th Annual Communion breakfast for the employees of the Department of Labor, Division of Employment Mass at 9 AM prior to the breakfast at the Thruway Hyatt House when Rev. J. Robert Rioux, USC associate director at the Family Rosary crusade at the national office in Albany was guest speaker.
March 19, 1969
Bishop Edwin Broderick, installed as Auxiliary Bishop of New York Archdiocese on March 3, 1967, was appointed the 8th Bishop of the Albany Diocese on March 19, 1969. He resigned as Bishop to accept a position with the Archdiocese of New York on June 3, 1976.
September 18, 1969
Monsignor Thomas J. Loughlin died, with Funeral Mass held at 11 AM Monday September 22, 1969 with burial in the family plot in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands. He was Pastor at St. Mary’s from 1934 until August when he retired.
Monsignor Joseph P. Conway, Vicar General, was named Pastor of St. Mary’s and later transferred to a the parish of St. Pius X in Loudonville, NY.
Monsignor Edward L. O’Malley, who was elevated to Monsignor on September 8, 1962 had been the Diocese of Albany Director of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, was named Pastor of St. Mary’s Church by Bishop Edwin B. Broderick.
Father Paul Tartaglia became the Diocese Director of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, in residence at St. Mary’s Rectory.
Albany High has a new location, 700 Washington Avenue between North Main Street and Ontario Street. The property belonged to St. Mary’s Church as a cemetery. The remains were removed to St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.
Vincentian Institute and Cardinal McCloskey High School merged and became Bishop Maginn High School using Cardinal McCloskey building on Slingerlands Road. First graduating class in 1978.
February 2, 1977
Father Howard James Hubbard was appointed the 9th Bishop of the Albany Diocese and installed on March 27, 1977. 1978
St. Joseph’s School/Academy building, opened in 1906 on North Swan Street in Albany, NY was closed in 1978. It was opened in 1906 as St. Joseph’s Hall per marker on the side of the building. It was later closed in 1993 as a Community Center. It is in the process of being used as an Art School-Residence by The Albany Barn as of January 2014.
Father James L. Lefebvre, in residence at St. Mary’s Church, became the Head of School at St. Joseph’s School on North Swan Street in 1962 until the closing of the School in 1978.
Monsignor O’Malley retires as Pastor of St. Mary’s Church. Father James L. Lefebvre, in residence was named Pastor.
August 13, 1989
Monsignor O’Malley died and the Funeral Mass was held at St. Mary’s Church on Thursday August 17, 1989. 600 people filled the Church as a procession of 95 white robed Priests, including 3 Bishops, for the Pastor Emeritus. He was the “soul of downtown” remarked one attendee. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Oneonta.
St. Joseph’s Church on Ten Broeck Street was closed and absorbed into Sacred Heart Church at 33 Walter Street between N 1st St. and N 2nd St. in North Albany.
September 11, 2001
A Mass in memory of the firefighters, police and emergency workers killed in the terror attacks was held at 8:30 AM Sunday, September 23, 2001 at St. Mary’s.
December 19, 2009
After 15 years, Father Lloyd Rebeyro, Assistant Pastor, retiring at year end celebrates the vigil Mass with 50 altar servers and a packed Church with family, friends and parishioners.
December 26, 2009
Father Lloyd Rebreyo celebrates his final Mass before retiring with two seminarians. He had planned to go Puerto Rico to assist Franciscans there but instead headed to Haiti to help the people recover from a devastating hurricane.
December 31, 2009
Father James L. Lefebvre retires as Pastor but remains in residence at St. Mary’s rectory. Father David V. Berberian, former Pastor of St. Thomas in Delmar, becomes Pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
March 12, 2010
Father Capistran Hanlon, OFM and Father Julian Davies, OFM celebrated 50 years as Priests while celebrating Mass at St. Mary’s Church.
Most Rev. Bootkoski, Bishop of Metuchen, NJ celebrated Mass at the 4PM vigil on Saturday and administered the First Holy Communion to a 7 year old relative from the Albany area that he baptized years earlier.
Father David V. Berberian resigns a Pastor to accept a position as Administrative Advocate at the Diocese offices.
April 23, 2012
Father John T. Provost, former Pastor of St. Henry’s Church in Averill Park, becomes Pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
October 21, 2012
Kateri Tekakwitha declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday October 21, 2012.
March 13, 2013
The College of Cardinals picked a new Pope after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina and he chose the name of Francis, the First
August 2, 2013
Great Homily by Father John Provost per Blog by City of Albany Comptroller Michael F. Conners after attending Mass with grandchild. Michael F. Conners is the son of eight term State Assemblyman Richard J. Conners who served from 1976 to 1992.
September 22, 2013 Father John T. Provost, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church and Sacred Heart Church, celebrates 40 years as a Priest.
October 31, 2013
Bishop Howard Hubbard, reaching the age of 75, submitted his letter of resignation to the Vatican awaiting the announcement of a new Bishop to be named by Pope Francis.
November 9, 2013
Father George St. John, former Pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Troy and assistant at St. Mary’s Church during Monsignor Thomas J. Loughlin’s time as Pastor of St. Mary’s, was celebrant at the 4PM vigil Mass. Archbishop Harry Joseph Flynn (retired), born in Schenectady and a graduate of Siena, ordained a Priest in Albany in 1960, Bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana 1989-1994, and Archbishop of Minneapolis/St. Paul from 1995-2005 was in Sanctuary to attend Mass while on a visit to Schenectady and Albany.
January 1, 2014 New Mayor of the City of Albany sworn-in is Katherine M. Sheehan. She is the First Woman in the the 327 years in the history of the City of Albany. She follows Mayor Jerry Jennings, who followed Thomas Whalen who followed Erastus Corning. One of her first jobs in Albany was the Communications Director for the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese before enrolling at Albany Law School in 1991. She was elected City Treasurer in 2009.
February 1, 2014
Father Erasto Naakule, a native of Tanzania celebrated Mass at St. Mary’s at the 4PM vigil Mass and begins a year of assistance to both St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart Church. During this time the people of St. Mary's conduct a campaign to provide Fr Erasto with a well-driller and the necessary equipment to provide water to many villages in his home diocese.
February 11, 2014
Rev. Msgr. Edward B. Scharfenberger, a Priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn (Queens and Brooklyn) New York, has been appointed by Pope Francis to be the 10th Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. The Bishop-elect was born in Bushwick section of Brooklyn on May 29, 1948. He is installed on April 10, 2014 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. During this time St. Mary's hosted the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was representing His Holiness Pope Francis.
January 1, 2016
Bishop Scharfenberger names Father Provost to be the Episcopal Vicar of the newly established Beverwyck Vicariate.
August 1, 2017
Bishop Scharfenberger appoints Rev. Michael Flannery as Parochial Vicar of St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart Church. He is also asked to serve as Chaplain to those members celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy (Latin) at Eucharist and other sacramental celebrations at Sacred Heart.
March 13, 2018
Rev. James L Lefebvre, Pastor Emeritus, dies in his 50th year of residence at St. Mary’s. He has served not only as Pastor but also for 54 years as the Chaplain of the Albany Police Department having achieved the rank of Assistant Chief of Police. He is buried from St. Mary’s with full Police Honors on March 13, 2018. The church is filled to capacity with family, parishioners, clergy, ecclesiastic and civic officials and as well representatives form national law enforcement agencies and representatives from Police Departments across New York State. To honor his memory the Mayor of Albany and the Albany County Executive rename Lodge Street as “Reverend James L Lefebvre Way”.