Blessed Sacrament Church (New Rochelle, New York)
|Church of the Blessed Sacrament|
June 2016 view of the church
|Location||15 Shea Place,|
New Rochelle, New York
|Website||Blessed Sacrament Church|
|Archdiocese||Archdiocese of New York|
The Church of the Blessed Sacrament is a Roman Catholic parish located in New Rochelle, New York. Blessed Sacrament was founded in 1874 and its present-day church building was constructed in 1897. Its predecessor, St. Matthew's Church, was founded in 1848. Blessed Sacrament Church is listed as a New Rochelle Historic Site.
As of 1998[update], the church served 2,000 families. It educated students in the Blessed Sacrament School until a 1985 merger with St. Gabriel's High School to form Blessed Sacrament-St. Gabriel High School, which closed in 2013. Blessed Sacrament Church also serves four local nursing homes and maintains Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
The first Catholic to settle in the hamlet of New Rochelle was Bernard Rooney in 1826. The first Catholic mass in the New Rochelle-area was celebrated in 1836 by Rev. Eugene Cummiskey at the house of George Govers on Huguenot Street near Memorial Highway. With greater numbers of Catholics settling, Irish priest Fr. Matthew Higgins from St. Raymond's Church in the Bronx petitioned Archbishop Hughes to establish a church in New Rochelle in 1845. Archbishop Hughes agreed and purchased land on Drake Avenue, in the middle of the largest settlement of Irish immigrants in New Rochelle. In 1848, the church was constructed and named St. Matthew's Church in honor of Fr. Higgins. Fr. Edward O'Reilly was assigned in 1849 as the parish's first pastor. Four years later, Fr. Thomas McLoughlin succeeded Fr. O'Reilly as pastor and opened St. Matthew's Academy, the first Catholic school in New Rochelle, which was staffed by the Sisters of Charity, though it remained open for only one year. To accommodate more parishioners, the church was expanded in 1851. Blessed Sacrament began in 1853 a mission to Tuckahoe, which eventually became the Immaculate Conception Church.
Recognizing the growing population of German Catholics in the Dutch Hill section of New Rochelle, a smaller, wooden church dedicated as the Church of the Blessed Sacrament was also built on Centre Avenue in 1874. Another school was constructed five years later with bricks salvaged by parishioners from the dismantled St. Matthew's Church, which later closed for financial reasons. Fr. McLoughlin opened Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Highland Avenue in 1886.
In 1890, lightning struck and set fire to the Blessed Sacrament church. The building was destroyed, with only the bell and cellar surviving. St. Matthew's School was used for church functions in the interim. The parish began construction on the present-day stone, Gothic Revival church, which was completed and dedicated in 1897. This building was made larger to account for a growing number of Italian immigrants now living in the West End of New Rochelle. The interior of the new church was decorated with 53 oil paintings by reputed artist Francesco Baraldi, while the depiction of the Blessed Sacrament above the altar was painting by G. Caponi.
Fr. McLoughlin died while saying mass at the foot of the altar in 1902 and his nephew, Fr. Thomas P. McLoughlin (who parishioners referred to as "Young Father Tom"), assumed the role of pastor. During his time, a new school building was constructed in 1923. "Old Father Tom" was buried where the church bell fell during the fire that destroyed the original wooden building.
In 1940, Fr. Matthew Delaney became pastor and founded a boys' high school, which was staffed by Christian Brothers. Msgr. Francis Shea took over as pastor in 1947. He purchased and renovated a building on Beauchamp Place in 1963, which came to be the new location of the high school. Because Msgr. Shea was well-liked in New Rochelle, Beauchamp Place was eponymously renamed Shea Place. One year later, Msgr. Shea died and was buried near Fr. McLoughlin on the grounds of the church.
The Blessed Sacrament School was merged with St. Gabriel's High School in 1985, forming Blessed Sacrament-St. Gabriel High School. At its peak, Blessed Sacrament enrolled 250 students in its elementary school, 277 students in high school and educated 600 public school students in its CCD religious education program. The school was closed in 2013 along with several other schools in Westchester County by the Archdiocese of New York.
Recognizing several structural deficiencies and the notable aesthetic value of the church, a major restoration project was undertaken by the parish with the assistance of the Archdiocese in 2011, which cost just under $1 million.
- Davis, Barbara (2006). "New Rochelle: A Tour Guide to Historically Significant Sites". New Rochelle Historical and Landmarks Review Board. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
- "New Rochelle' s Blessed Sacrament High School Closes For Good". New Rochelle Daily Voice. June 21, 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
- Lafort, Remigius. The Catholic Church in the United States of America, Vol. 3: The Province of Baltimore and the Province of New York, Section 1: Comprising the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Buffalo and Ogdensburg Together with some Supplementary Articles. (New York City: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), p.419
- Godfrey, Peggy (Fall 2004). "Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church". The Preserver. 3 (1). City of New Rochelle Historical & Landmarks Review Board. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- Poust, Mary Ann (November 5, 1998). "An Institution: Blessed Sacrament marks 150 years as a New Rochelle landmark". Catholic New York. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
- Godfrey, Peggy (September 12, 2011). "Restoring the Most Beautiful Church in Westchester". New Rochelle Talk. Retrieved November 23, 2015.