Diocesan News

Our Lady of Angels: 125 Years of Keeping the Faith in Bay Ridge

The Bay Ridge parish that has spawned six other Brooklyn parishes is concluding its 125th birthday celebration.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio visited Our Lady of Angels Church Sept. 24 and was the main celebrant of a Mass of thanksgiving marking the milestone in parish history.

“The parish is the place where God’s kingdom is built,” said Bishop DiMarzio, as he praised the parish for “its continuing service to the people who are here in Bay Ridge.”

He gave special thanks to the priests, the Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of Charity of Halifax who have served the parish.

“We also congratulate the lectors, the deacons, educators and those who work behind the scenes, all those who make this parish work.”

Bishop DiMarzio also expressed a special welcome to the Spanish-speaking parishioners whose numbers have grown in recent years.

“Because there are many Spanish-speaking people in the area, you now have a Spanish Mass. We welcome them. The New Evangelization means going out and preaching the message to all who are here. No matter what the ethnic make-up of Bay Ridge is, we are here to stay.”

Msgr. Kevin Noone, a native son of Our Lady of Angels, who is now the pastor, points out that the parish was carved out of the boundary of St. Patrick’s parish. As time went on, five other parishes came from the original bounds of Our Lady of Angels: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Ephrem, St. Anselm, and St. Andrew the Apostle.

Msgr. Noone says that the parish serves about 1,650 families. He explains that at its peak, when most of Bay Ridge was Catholic, there were 7,800 families.

A similar trend can be seen in the number of students in the Catholic school. Our Lady of Angels School, which had an 85-year run before giving way to Holy Angels Catholic Academy, run by a separate board, once educated 2,400 students. Today, the academy has slightly more than 200, but is doing well under the leadership of Rosemarie McGoldrick, principal, and Michael Long, chairman of the board.

The parish school was under the tutelage of the Sisters of Charity, Halifax, and who in 1958 were joined by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn.

Today, there are no sisters in the parish, but the Franciscans maintain a presence with their retirement house located in a former parish building.

Active societies include the Boy Scouts and Brownies, senior citizens, sports organization, men’s and women’s book clubs, and a new youth group organized by parochial vicar, Father Jason Espinal.

Our Lady of Angels was established as the 153rd parish of the Diocese of Brooklyn on Sept. 24, 1891 by Brooklyn’s first Bishop, John Loughlin. The first Mass was celebrated by the founding pastor, Father Martin J. Loftus, in a firehouse on 67th St. between Third Ave. and Ridge Blvd.

The second Bishop of Brooklyn, Charles McDonnell, dedicated the original church, the first to be built under his supervision, on Sept. 24, 1893.
In 1928, Msgr. Francis J. O’Hara, the third pastor, began construction of the current church building. It was completed in 1929, replacing the original church which stood where the current rectory is.

Two auxiliary bishops have served as pastors: Bishop Edmund J. Reilly 1946-58, and Bishop John J. Boardman, 1959-70.

In 2009, Msgr. Noone, Class of 1958, became the parish’s 10th pastor.

As a response to the attacks upon the World Trade Center in 2001, the parish church became the rallying point for many in the community when then-pastor Father James Devlin celebrated an unscheduled Mass that was attended by more than 1,000 people.

A few years later, Father Devlin arranged for some pieces of steel from the World Trade Center, mangled into the shape of a cross, to become a 9/11 Memorial Shrine in the parish’s courtyard.

Because of its size and magnificence, Our Lady of Angels Church has been the scene of several important diocesan events such as the ordinations and funerals of bishops.

When former pastor Auxiliary Bishop John J. Boardman died, the funeral Mass was celebrated there with the famous TV evangelist, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, preaching the homily. The two men were friends because of the work they did together at the national office of the Propagation of the Faith.

The most recent diocesan celebration there was the ordination to the episcopacy of Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Chappetto and Paul Sanchez in 2012.

(Photos: Ed Wilkinson)

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Pastors of Our Lady of Angels

Father Martin J. Loftus 1891 – 1900

Father Matthew J. Flynn, 1900 – 1926

Msgr. Francis J. O’Hara, 1926 – 1946

Bishop Edmund J. Reilly, 1946 – 1958

Bishop John J. Boardman, 1959 – 1970

Msgr. Francis B. Donnelly, 1970 – 1976

Msgr. Peter L. Altman, 1976 – 1981

Msgr. James M. Cavanagh, 1981 – 1998

Father James E. Devlin, 1998 – 2009

Msgr. Kevin B. Noone, 2009 – Present

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A 1964 photo of a class at Our Lady of Angels School. In the upper right of the photo is Sister Joseph Ambrose, S.C., later known as Sister Mary Slavin, S.C. See yourself in the photo? Send your remembrance to ewilkinson@desalesmedia.org.

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