History of the Catholic Church

History of the Catholic Church

The article below, extracted from Smith's History of Broome County, attempts to convey the history of the Catholic faith in the area. Source citation at end of article.

" St. Patrick's Church. -- Rev. Dr. Hurley, of Philadelphia, was the first Roman Catholic clergyman who visited Binghamton, having come here in 1834 to perform the marriage ceremony of a Catholic gentleman and a Protestant young lady, the daughter of Hon. Thomas G. Waterman.

In the previous year the Right Rev. Bishop Kenrick (late archbishop of Baltimore) made Binghamton his route to New York, by invitation of Rev. Mr. Adams, then rector of Christ Church, and who had spent a day or two in the society of the bishop at the hospitable and beautiful residence of Dr. R. H. Rose, Silver Lake, and and at Fairy Lawn, the residence of P. Griffin; the Right Rev. Bishop being then making his episcopal visitation in northern Pennsylvania. A few children were baptized by the bishop on this occasion.

In 1835 a Catholic family made Binghamton their residence. By permission of the Bishop of Philadelphia they were visited by the late Rev. Mr. Wainwright, of Pottsville. On Sunday a small altar and canopy were erected on the lawn attached to their dwelling, as also benches to accommodate some hundreds of persons, all of which were occupied during divine service and the delivery of a sermon; and in the afternoon, when the reverend gentleman preached again, amongst those assembled were the principal citizens of the place. At the early service a piano was judiciously placed, the performance on which, accompanied by a few voices, added not a little to the interest of a scene so novel in Binghamton.

General Joshua Whitney, who may justly be regarded as the father of Binghamton, was an influential pew-owner in the Episcopal church; and learning of the embarrassment of the Catholics, owing to their having no place where Mr. Wainwright, on his arrival, could celebrate mass, etc., voluntarily tendered to them the use of the church of his parish; but he forgot that there was a by-law regarding Protestant Episcopal Churches, which excluded all other denominations from worshiping in them.

It would be ungrateful to omit a matter unknown to the Catholics of the present day in Binghamton, viz.: The proffer, as a gift, of an ample site on Oak street for a church by Hon. Thomas G. Waterman to his son-in-law, a Catholic, on being informed that an effort would be made to secure a lot and build a church; to this generous offer he added the tender of his own personal services to raise subscriptions. But this Christian-like act was declined, the site proffered on Oak street not being so elevated as that on which the church stands on Le Roy street. He then subscribed most liberally, as did his father-in-law, General Joshua Whitney, Hon. Daniel S. Dickinson, Judge Bosworth, and other Protestants. An appeal made to the Catholics of Limerick, Ireland, and to a resident of Havana, Cuba, for aid, was generously responded to.

A contract was made with Mr. Ross W. Esterbrook to erect the church, by a selfconstituted committee of five persons, that being the number of actual Catholics then residents of Binghamton. It may be interesting to know something of this self-same committee and their fund of cash. One was a very poor blacksmith, scarcely able to support his family; another paid of his subscription $1.37 1/2; a third paid $5; the fourth was a minor and law student; the fifth paid $50. A mortgage was given to the builder, who faithfully fulfilled his contract, for a balance of about $1,000 due on the completion of the work. The Right Rev. and benevolent Bishop Dubois, and the very Rev. Dr. Powers, of St. Peter's, paid off the mortgage.

During this time, while prayers and sermons were read on Sundays by lay persons, children were catechised, and testaments and catechisms distributed, Rev. Walter Quarter took an active benevolent part in promoting the interests of the infant mission, coming from Utica, a distance of ninety miles, to celebrate mass. This good priest collected money to promote the building of the church, and made a journey to New York to meet a member of the Binghamton congregation to collect in that city money to meet the first installment due on the mortgage. Bishop Dubois could not allow the collection to be made, but assumed the payment of the mortgage.

Christopher Eldredge kindly gave the free use of a large building for about two years, at the end of which time the Catholic church was completed.

The occasion of its dedication, in 1838, was the first to bring to Binghamton the Right Rev. Bishop Hughes, then archbishop of New York, although Right Rev. Bishop Kenrick, of Baltimore, had often visited the mission; and Rev. Peter Kenrick, afterwards Archbishop of St. Louis, had spent several days in Binghamton. The dedication was a scene of unusual excitement. To accommodate the crowds which gathered on the occasion, stagings were erected outside the windows. In the course of the year the Right Rev. Bishop sent on Rev. Mr. Bacon, afterwards Bishop of Vermont, who made a short stay with the congregation; then came Rev. Father Beacham, late pastor at Rome, N. Y., and Rev. John V. O'Reilly, afterwards Vicar-general of northern Pennsylvania. The extreme zeal, punctuality and uncompromising hostility of Father O'Reilly to the sale of intoxicating liquors by Catholics, gave him great power and influence with his people; and so great was his fidelity in attending on the appointed days that he rode on horseback seventy-five miles within twenty-four hours to keep one of those engagements.

In 1843 or 1844 the Right Rev. Bishop Hughes gave the Binghamton mission in charge to Rev. A. Doyle, who was succeeded in the following year by Rev. John Sheridan; and, owing to the removal of the latter to Owego, Rev. James Hourigan, the present pastor, was appointed by Right Rev. Bishop Hughes in July, 1847. The letter containing his appointment to the pastorate reads as follows:--


"JOHN, Bishop of Axium,
"Coadjutor of New York."

It would be difficult to convey an adequate idea of the successful labors of this indefatigable priest. He began by paying off the interest and part of the principal due on the church property and purchasing all the adjoining lots unsold, thereby securing the finest and best located Catholic church property in the interior of the State, with a reduced debt of only $600.

The pastoral residence was next built; then an academy for males and females; then the church was enlarged at an expense of about two thousand dollars, and a fine organ placed therein, the old one being removed to the academy. His attention was now called to the purchase of about two acres of land for a cemetery, located about two miles out of town: the church-yard by this time having become crowded with graves. This cemetery is beautifully situated high on the bank of the Susquehanna, well fenced and contains a residence for the sexton.

The present St. Patrick's church edifice was finished and dedicated on the 28th of September, 1873. It cost about $170,000, and is said to be the finest church building in the southern tier. From the account of the dedication ceremonies in one of the local papers of the day following, we make a brief extract:--

"About half-past ten a procession of priests and bishops, seventeen in number, emerged from the side entrance of Father Hourigan's residence, and marched across the grounds in front of the church, and passing on around to the rear of the church, crossed over to the entrance of the old church on Oak street, where the solemn and impressive ceremonies of abandoning the old church were performed. These ceremonies occupied about fifteen or twenty minutes, when the procession re-formed and started down Oak street, around the convent on its way to the new church. The procession was led by the cross-bearers, supported on either side by two acolytes bearing each an unlighted candle in a tall silver candlestick. These were followed by forty altar boys with bare heads, thirty-four of whom were dressed in red robes with white lace capes, and six in robes of black and white, marching two and two and with hands pressed together in the attitude of prayer. These were succeeded by twenty-four bishops and priests in the following order: First after the altar boys were the clergy, marching two and two. Then followed Bishop Lynch, of Charleston, S. C., Most Rev. Bishop O'Hara, of Scranton, Pa., Most Rev. Bishop McQuade, of Rochester, Deacon Father Quinn, Vicar-general of New York, Rev. Father McManus, of Geneva, acting as deacon, Rev. Father Duffy, of Salina, sub-deacon, Rev. Thomas Bourke, of St. Joseph, Albany, master of ceremonies, and Most Rev. Patrick Lynch, preacher of the occasion. The three bishops were in robes of rich golden yellow, the remaining fathers, deacons and clergy being attired in robes of black with a long white lace cape reaching nearly to the knee. The procession moved slowly up the street to the main entrance of the church, where a halt was made and the altar boys, facing inward and opening their ranks, the clergy and bishop passed to the head of the line. The imposing ceremonies of the occasion are too lengthy to follow through; we, therefore, quote only the following, giving the names of those who participated: High mass was celebrated by Rev. Father McNierney, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese, assisted by Rev. Father McManus, of Geneva, N. Y., as deacon, and the Very Rev. Father Duffy, of Salina, as sub-deacon, and the Rev. William Quinn, Vicar-general of New York, acting as arch-deacon. After the gospel was chanted the Very Rev. Bishop Lynch, of Charleston, S. C., ascended the pulpit and delivered the dedicatory sermon -- a beautiful discourse on `The Vitality of the Church.' After the church had been dedicated to St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, the procession re-formed and marched to the parochial residence, whence they went to St. Joseph's Academy and partook of a bountiful repast." "

Source: Smith, H.P. History of Broome County, New York. D. Mason & Co. Publishers, Syracuse, NY 1885 pages 237-240.

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