If there could be one description of Our Lady of Victory parish whose glorious grounding withstood the test of time as a beacon of faith for 150 years, it would be entitled labor of love.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, former pastors, parishioners and Our Lady of Victory school alumni, gathered at the Bedford-Stuyvesant site for a sesquicentennial closing Mass June 10.
“These churches, cathedral-like as they are, have been left for us by the preceding generations,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “We are the generations now that must fill them.”
Descendants of some of the first parishioners attended the event, including members of the James McMahon family, a philanthropist from the late 1890s who donated the parish’s first altar. The stone altar still stands intact as the focal point in the church.
“It reminds us that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that is given to use in that altar is what saves us from sin,” he added. “So we thank them (the McMahons) for their presence.”
The theme for the anniversary year was “Coming Back Home to Our Lady of Victory.” Invited to join the faithful were former pastors who cared for the flock dating back to the late 1970s. Msgrs. Joseph Nugent, Paul W. Jervis and Father Martin J. Carter, S.A., concelebrated the Mass alongside the current pastor, Father Alonzo Q. Cox; and parochial vicar, Father Daniel O. Kingsley. Deacon Balfour Thompson served on the altar.
A Special Place
Also returning back to a special place for her and her family was Lucille Cadiz. Not only did she attend elementary school at Our Lady of Victory at the time when Father James McCabe was pastor in the late 1940s, but she also received the sacraments of communion, confirmation and marriage at the parish.
“Father McCabe was our pastor, he was so wonderful!” recalls Cadiz. “He used to come to our classrooms and tell us jokes before class began.”
In 2007, Our Lady of Victory merged with Holy Rosary and St. Peter Claver parishes to form St. Martin de Porres parish with Our Lady of Victory as one of three worship sites. Msgr. Jervis was the pastor then.
Father Cox said that the anniversary was a great example of the beautiful things that can happen when all three merged parishes come together.
“It’s a diverse community – African-American, Caribbean, West Indian, Hispanics and everything in between,” explained Father Cox.
“It’s an amazing flock. We have our ‘come to Jesus’ moments, but the mission remains the same of preaching and evangelization. It’s how we do it and we do it in a dynamic way here at the parish.”
Founders Made A Way
In a stark contrast, the parish’s first parishioners in 1868 had to trek through Brooklyn’s unpaved, less traveled and muddy grounds to attend Mass. In those times, pastors were assigned to oversee not just parishes, but areas of land that encompassed the surrounding area.
When the diocese’s first bishop, Bishop John Loughlin, declared Father Patrick Creighton as the shepherd of the flock, the labors of love came alive through the leadership of the parish’s first pastor.
Yet, as Father Creighton stated in his memoirs, the parish withstood the tests of time because of the “grace that acts in the souls of those who labor only for God.”
Our Lady of Victory parish began from the overflow of parishioners from St. Malachy in East New York. Between the 1865 and 1868, the congregation increased very rapidly and the diocese deemed it necessary to divide the congregation in two. With the consent of Bishop Loughlin, the present site of Our Lady of Victory on the corner of MacDonough St. and Throop Ave. was purchased.
Some of St. Malachy’s first parishioners were Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War because the church was close to the camping grounds for the soldiers, a large number of whom were Catholic.
The organization and building up of a new congregation was placed under Father Creighton’s discretion. The first chapel was built in 1872 and cost about $30,000.
The church was completed during critical circumstances of financial uncertainty, unemployment and economic adjustment to the Industrial Revolution.
Pastors of Our Lady of Victory
Father Patrick Creighton, 1868-90
Msgr. James Woods, 1890-1926
Msgr. Thomas J. O’Brien, 1926-39
Father William J. Walsh, 1939-46
Father John F. Donovan, administrator, 1946-48
Father James McCabe, 1948-69
Father Joseph Buckley, 1969-70
Father Edward J. Nolan, administrator, 1970-75
Msgr. Joseph Nugent, administrator, 1975-80; pastor, 1980-92
Father George Merolla, 1992-94
Father Martin J. Carter, S.A., 1994-2007
Msgr. Paul W. Jervis, 2007-15
Father Alonzo Cox, 2015-present