Fun Facts About Catholicism in the Hudson Valley
Did you know some of these facts about local Catholic history?
By Rosemary O. Fernandez
Did you know...
- The number of Catholics in the Valley spiked in the late 1800s with the influx of Puerto Rican immigrants and families trading the city for the suburbs.
- In the 1850s, many Irish Catholics moved to Marlboro and did not have a parish of their own. They had to take a horse-powered treadmill ferry across the river to Poughkeepsie or Wappingers for Mass.
- St. Mary of the Assumption church in Newburgh was dedicated in 1880 — but the building had no pews. The pastor commissioned a local brick company to transport new pews, which came from the city, on their barges up the Hudson. One Sunday after Mass, he asked all the men to go home, change, and meet him at the dock to install them.
- St. Mary’s Church in Orangeville was first erected in 1872, but was moved to a more central location in 1914. However, it sat on pulleys in the middle of the town for weeks after movers encountered a historic elm tree in their path, which needed to be cut down, and environmentalists protested. The church eventually won and was installed in its new location.
- In 1920, Yonkers resident William H. “Pussyfoot” Anderson claimed that since many Catholics opposed Prohibition, they wanted to unravel Protestant America. Archbishop Cardinal Hayes took offense and called Anderson “a sinister figure in American politics, a sower of strife [and] a brewer of bigotry.” Anderson in turn verbally attacked the Cardinal every chance he got, only letting up when he was arrested in 1924 for grand larceny.
- Close to 150 alumni of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers served as military chaplains during World War II. During the conflict, New York Archbishop Cardinal Spellman traveled to Europe and celebrated Mass for the soldiers in the battlefield.
- In 1949, Cardinal Spellman and Eleanor Roosevelt traded words because she supported a bill that denied federal funding to Catholic schools for school buses and health care. They reconciled after he visited her in Hyde Park.
- The Church of St. Philomena in Lake Katrine was built in 1959 after an explosion of Catholics arrived in the area to work at IBM. In 1962 the name was hastily changed to St. Catherine Labouré after St. Philomena was dropped from the Church’s official list of saints.
- In 2013, the Archdiocese closed three local schools — St. Augustine’s in New City, St. Peter’s in Haverstraw, and St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties — in an effort to restructure the archdiocese. Regina Coeli in Hyde Park escaped the chopping block thanks to a sound financial plan and a few rallies.
Correction: The original text included St. Joseph’s in Kingston as one of the local schools that were shut down. Thankfully, St. Joseph’s was saved.