John Christopher Drumgoole

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Fr. John Christopher Drumgoole (15 August 1816 – 28 March 1888)[1] was an Irish Roman Catholic priest, who founded the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto, for orphaned and abandoned children.


John Drumgoole was born in Granard, County Longford, Ireland, August 15, 1816. His father, who worked as a cobbler, died in 1822. John came to America at the age of 9, to join his mother, who had emigrated previously. His mother worked as a maid, and John became a shoemaker to help support her. In 1844 became sexton/janitor of St. Mary's, the city's third Roman Catholic parish, founded in 1826. Drumgoole grew concerned for some of the thousands of homeless and orphaned children who lived on the streets of New York City after the Famine and then the Civil War. For twenty-one years he provided shelter in the basement of the church.[2]

Drumgoole became a United States citizen in 1838. He had long wished to enter the priesthood, but postponed until provision could be made for his mother. In 1863 he commenced his studies, first at St. John's College in Rose Hill, and then at St. Francis Xavier's.[which?] He entered the seminary of Our Lady of Angels, near Niagara Falls, in 1865.[1] He became an ordained priest at the age of 53.[3] He worked tirelessly to help homeless youth in New York City. In September 1871, he was placed in charge full of the “Newsboys’ Lodging House” and circulated handbills advertizing the Home. He also became the Chaplain of the St. Vincent’s Home for Homeless Boys at 53 Warren Street that provided accommodations for 100 boys.[4]

He founded the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin in Manhattan in 1871 to provide light and air to each resident so as to avoid the spread of influenza and tuberculosis, which was common in the tenements. Drumgoole felt that the general environment of the City at the time was not healthy for the younger children, so he sought out a more rural setting. He purchased land on looked Staten Island and founded Mount Loretto, named as a tribute to the Sisters who accompanied him there to teach the children. Mount Loretto was designed to be a self-sufficient farm.[2]


Father Drumgoole used to alternate his time between days at the City House and at Mount Loretto and the facilities on Manhattan. On Sunday, March 11, 1888, he took a train at Pleasant Plains for the ferry at St. George, but upon arriving found he could go no further, because no ferries were running due to the heavy snowstorm. He decided to return to Mount Loretto, but the train was no longer running due to the blizzard. Great Blizzard with wind velocities of 85 miles an hour. He hired a horse and gig and drove through "the Blizzard of '88" to get back to Mount Loretto. Fr. Drumgoole developed a cold that later pneumonia, but continued to work. He collapsed on March 28, while preparing to say Mass at the NYC Mission. Drumgoole's will left everything he had to the Mission.[4]


Drumgoole Plaza

Father Drumgoole was a hero of the newsboys who thronged the area when Park Row was the headquarters of New York City's major newspapers, including The New York Times, and was named the unofficial patron saint of the homeless, orphans, and the less fortunate.[citation needed] In 1894, a statue was erected in Fr. Drumgoole's honor at Lafayette Street, the site of the Manhattan Mission.[5] It was later moved to Mount Loretto in 1920. The Mission of the Immaculate Virgin has been on its current site in the Pleasant Plains section of Staten Island since 1883. Mount Loretto, an orphanage for boys and later girls as well, was run by the mission for many years.[2] Mount Loretto was completely self-sufficient, not dependent upon any outside resources.[4]

In tribute to Fr. Drumgoole, several things were also named in his honor. Drumgoole Plaza, a New York City park, is named in his honor, as are the service roads (Drumgoole Road West/East) of the Korean War Veterans Parkway on Staten Island. In 1973 in honor of Fr. Drumgoole Public School 36 was changed to Fr. John C. Drumgoole Annadale School.[6]


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