Our ParishHistory › Part 1 ~ 1887 to 1905


1887 A group of six Catholic families rent Walter Johnson’s blacksmith shop (located on Centre Avenue north of Jamaica Avenue [now called Merrick Road]) where Mass is celebrated.  (The anvil from Mr. Johnson's shop used as an altar is on display on the front lawn of the Cathedral.)  Father E. J. Connell of Rockaway Beach was assigned by the first Bishop of Brooklyn, Rt. Rev. John Loughlin, to visit Rockville Centre on Sundays and offer Mass although he could perform this duty only occasionally.  From the summer of 1888 until his return to New York in the fall of 1889, Father Thomas Robinson, a Paulist visiting Rockville Centre on sick leave, zealously ministered to the little congregation.

Too large to now fit in the blacksmith’s shop, this growing group of Catholics rent Gildersleeve's Hall in the Institute Building (located on the southern corner of Observer Street [now called Sunrise Highway] and Village Avenue).  Gildersleeve's Hall was well suited to serve the Catholic faithful having been used by an Episcopal Congregation from 1885 until 1889.  The rented hall was furnished with an altar and organ.  The Episcopal Congregation would go on to form the Church of the Ascension and build their parish church across the street from what would eventually become St. Agnes Convent.   Father Peter McGuire came from Hewlett every Sunday to celebrate Mass. 
1891 Father Patrick McKenna, who succeeded Fr. McGuire as Pastor of the Church in Hewlett purchases 3 adjoining plots of land at public auction. On one of these plots stands a school building which has now become too small to be used as a school. This is the property on which the present Cathedral and the parish’s buildings now stand. The former public school is turned into the first Church.
1894 Bishop Charles E. McDonnell, Bishop of Brooklyn, establishes the Parish of St. Agnes. The parish’s first pastor, Father Thomas C. Carroll, is appointed.  Beside the little frame church Fr. Carroll builds a modest rectory.
1897 The second Pastor, Father Patrick M. Fitzgerald, is appointed following the appointment of Fr. Carroll to rectorship at St. Brigid's in Ridgewood.
1902 The third Pastor, Father James J. Flood, is appointed. Another parcel of land adjoining the parish’s present holdings is purchased and plans are made to build a Church.  In 1903 Fr. Flood cleared the parish debt of $2,000 and started a fund for a new church building. 
1904 The cornerstone for a marble church is laid. (This is on the same spot where the present Cathedral stands.  This cornerstone can be found today on the southwest corner of the Cathedral.)  
1905 The marble Church is completed and dedicated on June 11, 1905.   Fr. Flood was so successful in parish administration that Bishop McDonnell selects him to found St. Saviour's Parish in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.  On December 19, 1905 St. Agnes’ welcomes her fourth Pastor, Father Peter Quealy, of St. Agnes Church in Greenport.  Fr. Quealy goes on to lead the parish as pastor and then as Cathedral administrator for over 50 years.

  Previous | Next
- "From a Blacksmith Shop To A Majestic Gothic Edifice", 1935
- Leonard, CSJ, Sr. Joan de Lourdes, "Richly Blessed, The Diocese of Rockville Centre 1957-1990", (Walsworth Publishing, 1991)
- O'Neill, James "To Believe In A Vision"  (Delmar, 1983)
- "Rededication Journal", 1982


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Parish of Saint Agnes Cathedral
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Rockville Centre, NY 11570
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