Tag Archives: Catholic cemeteries

Mount Loretto Cemetery

Mount Loretto Cemetery, May 2017 (Mary French)

In 1908, the New York Tribune published the following verse from a poem entitled “A Visit to the Old Home”:

I stood within the graveyard, boys,
Among loved ones at rest;
And peered within the marble vault
Where lay our friends the best.
The Reverend Father Dougherty
And “Father John” Drumgoole,
Whose minds and hands both worked and planned
To teach the Golden Rule.

The Tribune reprinted this stanza from the December 1908 issue of the Mount Loretto Messenger, the class journal of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin of Mount Loretto, which was dedicated that month to the 25th anniversary of the Mission’s opening on the south shore of Staten Island. The Mission of the Immaculate Virgin was founded in 1883 by Father John C. Drumgoole as a facility to house and train homeless boys. Operated by the Archdiocese of New York, the main buildings were located north of present-day Hylan Boulevard and west of Sharrott Avenue. Girls were admitted beginning in 1897 and lived in St. Elizabeth’s, a Victorian building on the south side of Hylan Avenue.

This snippet from a 1907 map shows the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin complex and the Mount Loretto Cemetery (arrow)

By 1947, the facility at Mount Loretto spread over 700 acres and had 42 buildings—including the Church of Sts. Joachim and Anne— that housed 700 boys, 360 girls, 85 Franciscan nuns, and five priests. By that time, it had been the home of over 50,000 children and was the largest childcare institution in the U.S. As foster care emerged and orphanages declined, Mount Loretto transitioned in the 1970s. The Mount Loretto campus, much reduced in size, is now run by Catholic Charities of Staten Island and is home to numerous educational, athletic, and service programs that aid children and teens, the disabled, and those living with addiction and mental or physical challenges. 

The poem quoted above was written by Thomas J. Reynolds, one of the former “mission kids,” and describes a visit to the cemetery at Mount Loretto. The small graveyard is located in a clearing in the woods at the back of the Mount Loretto grounds, down a road east of the main buildings. The earliest known interments here were husband and wife Louis and Louise De Comeau in 1885. The De Comeaus were a wealthy local family that made generous contributions to the Mission. Their daughter Yolande donated $100,000 for the construction of a home for blind girls on the property. She later joined the Sisters of St. Francis and became Superioress of the motherhouse at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin in 1900. 

Mausoleum erected in 1899 for interment of Father Drumgoole’s remains (SI Advance)

Father Drumgoole was buried in Mount Loretto Cemetery when he died of pneumonia in 1888. In 1899  his body was moved from his grave to a mausoleum built by his close friend and successor as head of the Mission, Rev. James J. Dougherty. Rev. Dougherty is also laid to rest in the tomb, which stands on a gentle rise in the center of the cemetery. Msgr. Mallick J. Fitzpatrick, who headed the Mission from 1907 until he died in 1936, is interred beside his predecessors.

Mount Loretto Cemetery is the final resting place for children who died in the facility and for alumni raised at the Mission who died after they went out into the world but were returned to their old home for burial. Notable among these is U.S. Marine Angel Mendez, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Mendez died saving the life of his platoon commander Ronald Castille, who would later become the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Obituary of 10-year-old William Mulligan, who died at the Mount Loretto boy’s home in 1902 and was buried in Mount Loretto Cemetery

Dozens of rows of simple, flat headstones at Mount Loretto Cemetery mark the graves of the Franciscan nuns who taught at the Mission. Among them is the grave of Sister Mary Angela Flanagan, a Superioress of St. Elizabeth’s, the girl’s home at Mount Loretto. She died at age 40 of burns she received when candle flames ignited her robes as she knelt before a shrine for prayers on a December night in 1898. The Mount Loretto Cemetery is still actively used for interments of Sisters of St. Francis who were formerly connected with the Mount Loretto campus. One of the most recent burials is Sister Mary Beatrice Campbell, who entered the Order of St. Francis in 1928 and taught at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin from 1937 to 1945. She died in 2015 at age 105.

Flat headstones mark the graves of the Sisters of St. Francis interred at Mount Loretto Cemetery (SI Advance)

Today the old graveyard at Mount Loretto is maintained by staff of Resurrection Cemetery, which is located just east of the Mount Loretto campus and was created in 1977 from a large swathe of land transferred from the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin. Few know of the cemetery’s existence at Mount Loretto; no signs point the way to this historic burial ground beyond the modern school buildings and athletic fields. And those who stumble across are out of luck; it is protected by an iron fence and gate that is kept locked with a “no trespassing” sign warning away intruders.

But the cemetery does have occasional visitors. Each September, alumni return to Mount Loretto to reunite and reminisce on the grounds of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin. The cemetery is a favorite spot for the former “mission kids” and their families to visit on these annual Alumni Days, offering them a time to reflect on the hallowed ground where the Mission’s founder is laid to rest, along with others who served at the Mission or were raised there.

This 2012 aerial view shows the Mount Loretto complex today, north of Hylan Blvd. Arrow identifies location of the cemetery, shown in greater detail below (NYCityMap)
2012 aerial view of Mount Loretto Cemetery (NYCityMap)

Sources: Robinson’s 1907 Atlas of the Borough of Richmond, City of New York, Pl 21; Children’s Shepherd: The Story of John Christopher Drumgoole (Burton 1954); Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island (Salmon 2006); “The Death of Mrs. De Comeau,” New York Herald, Dec 15, 1885; “Father Drumgoole’s Funeral,” New York Herald, April_3_1888; “These Boys Get Along,” The Sun, May 11, 1890; “Nun at Prayer Mortally Burned,” New York Herald, Dec 7, 1898; “Father Drumgoole’s Body Moved,” New York Tribune, Dec 1, 1899; “Death Notices,” Richmond County Advance, Sep 6, 1902; “Its Silver Jubilee,” New York Tribune, Dec 10, 1908; “Msgr Fitzpatrick Buried on Monday,” The Tablet, Dec 12, 1936; “A Push to Get Staten Island War Hero the Medal of Honor,” Staten Island Advance, Mar 16, 2009; “Sister Mary Beatrice Campbell, O.S.F.,” Catholic New York, Jul 9, 2015; “’Mission Kids for Life’ Reunite and Reminisce at Mount Loretto,” Staten Island Advance, Sep 24 2017; “Mount Loretto” Staten Island Advance, May 15, 2018; Hidden Staten Island: Exploring the Secrets of Mt. Loretto

St. Paul’s Churchyard, Cobble Hill

Cornelius Heeney monument at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, Cobble Hill, Oct 2022 (Mary French)

In the back garden of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, are several vaults, all that remains of the church’s small original graveyard. One of these is the tomb of Irish-born philanthropist Cornelius Heeney (1754-1848) who donated the land, at Court and Congress Streets, where St. Paul’s was built in 1838. Though his name is unfamiliar today, Heeney made incalculable contributions to the growth of the Catholic Church in New York and was once considered the city’s greatest philanthropist. 

After immigrating to America in 1784, Cornelius Heeney made a fortune selling furs in New York City and at one time was partnered with John Jacob Astor in the fur trade. Heeney devoted his wealth to charitable causes. He was a founding trustee of St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street in Manhattan— New York City’s oldest Roman Catholic congregation—and gave money to build St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mott Street. With the soapmaker Andrew Morris, he donated the property that became the site of the present St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. He was instrumental in establishing a branch of the Sisters of Charity in New York City and in 1820 he became the patron and guardian of a fatherless 10-year-old boy from Brooklyn, John McCloskey, who later became New York’s second archbishop and the first cardinal in the United States. Heeney also was one of the first Catholics to hold public office in New York, serving in the state legislature from 1818 to 1822.

An 1849 map shows Cornelius Heeney’s Brooklyn estate, bounded by present Court, Congress, and Amity Streets and the East River. St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church can be seen on land he donated at Congress and Court Streets (arrow)

After the Great Fire of 1835 destroyed his mercantile establishment in Manhattan, Heeney chose not to rebuild and instead retired to his house and 17-acre farm in Brooklyn, where he continued his philanthropic work. He donated part of his Brooklyn estate for St. Paul’s—the second Catholic church in Brooklyn—and for an orphanage and industrial school that adjoined it. In 1845 he formed the Brooklyn Benevolent Society to which he left a bequest enabling it to distribute more than $2 million to the poor and homeless of Brooklyn. When Heeney died, aged 94, in 1848, his funeral was held at St. Paul’s and afterward his remains were committed to their last resting place at the rear of the church.

A pathway along the side of St. Paul’s leads to the small yard with Heeney’s burial place and his monument that is set into the rear wall of the church. Beneath the garden is essentially one subterranean vault with subdivided walls creating separate tombs. In addition to Heeney’s tomb, among the others is that of the family of noted horticulturist André Parmentier. Parmentier came from Belgium to Brooklyn in 1824, where he established a botanical garden and was a founder and trustee of St. James, Brooklyn’s first Catholic church. He died in 1830.

The Parmentier vault at St. Paul’s, Oct 2022 (Mary French)

Parmentier’s widow and two daughters spent most of their time and income on works of charity; when Heeney laid out the vaults at the back of St. Paul’s, he insisted on donating one to the family. The remains of André Parmentier, his widow, daughters, and son-in-law are in this tomb. The last interment was Rosine Parmentier, who died in 1908, aged 79. Several Sisters of Charity that died between the 1840s and 1880s are in other vaults in the tiny garden burial ground behind St. Paul’s.

This detail from an 1886 map depicts St. Paul’s Church and the orphanage and industrial school (now the site of apartment buildings) that adjoined it.
Cornelius Heeney’s monument attached to the rear wall of St. Paul’s, Oct 2022 (Mary French)
A view of the back garden and vaults at St. Paul’s, Oct 2022 (Mary French)
A 2018 aerial view of St. Paul’s; arrow indicates back garden and burial vaults (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Map of the City of Brooklyn (Colton 1949); Robinson’s 1886 Atlas of the City of Brooklyn, Pl 3; The Catholic Church in the United States of America (Catholic Editing Co. 1914); “A Village Churchyard,” Historical Records and Studies 7 (Meehan 1914); Cobble Hill Historic District Designation Report (Landmarks Preservation Commission 1969); An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn (Morrone 2001) Encyclopedia of New York City, 2nd ed. (Jackson et al 2010); “A Card to the Benevolent Philanthropists of Brooklyn,” Brooklyn Evening Star Jan 11, 1842; “Died,” New-York Freemans Journal and Catholic Register, May 13, 1848; “Obituary,” Brooklyn Standard Union Feb 2, 1908; “Last Body to be Interred in Church Vault,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 5, 1908;  “Parmentier Home on Bridge Street Once Center of Great Charity Work,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 6 1918; “Heeney’s Charities Keep Memory Alive,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle,Apr 6, 1931; “New Rectory in St. Paul’s Parish,” The Tablet, Mar 11, 1939; “Do You Know the Way to Philanthropist Cornelius Heeney’s Cobble Hill Grave? Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 28, 2018

Catholic Cemetery, Williamsburg

The Catholic Cemetery on North Eighth St and First St (now Kent Ave) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1868

In 1840, Rev. James O’Donnell bought a parcel of land on the northeast corner of North Eight Street and First Street (now Kent Avenue) to establish the first Roman Catholic church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A small frame church was erected in the center of the property and the land all around it was reserved for a cemetery. The church, called St. Mary’s, was dedicated on June 27, 1840. This humble wooden building served the 500 Catholics of the parish, which at that time had a vast territory stretching from Hallett’s Cove on the north, Myrtle Avenue on the south, the East River on the west, and Middle Village on the east.

The number of Catholics in the parish grew quickly, and soon the little church was too small for the congregation. Fr. O’Donnell’s successor, Rev. Sylvester Malone, secured ground on Wythe Avenue near South Second Street for a new parish church, which opened in 1848. To avoid confusion with St. Mary’s parish in Manhattan, the diocese renamed the parish after Sts. Peter and Paul when the new building was dedicated. Sts. Peter and Paul parish endures in present-day Williamsburg, now worshipping at McCaddin Memorial Hall on Berry Street.

A newspaper announcement of the opening of the Catholic church and cemetery in Williamsburg in 1840

Many pioneer Catholics of Williamsburg were laid to rest in the burial ground on North Eighth Street, which the parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul kept on using for some time after they relocated to their new building and their original church building in the middle of the cemetery, St. Mary’s, was torn down. The last known burial here was in 1855. The Catholic cemetery with its headstones was for many years a Williamsburg landmark, but after it closed it became an eyesore, the graves overgrown with grass and weeds, the stones broken and their inscriptions obliterated.

In 1890, Bishop Loughlin of the Brooklyn diocese ordered the removal of the old Catholic cemetery at Williamsburg. The parish requested people who had relatives interred there to arrange for transfer of their remains; those that were unclaimed were dug up and reburied at St. John’s Cemetery in Queens. Once cleared, the former cemetery ground was sold and a factory was built on the site. In 2007, the property was redeveloped for residential use; the luxury condo building North8 is now on the site of Williamsburg’s first Catholic cemetery.

Excerpt from an article about Edward Neville, buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Williamsburg in 1855. Neville was the proprietor of Williamsburg’s Kings County Hotel; the discovery of his body in Gowanus Bay after a two-week disappearance created a sensation in November 1855.
A 2018 aerial view of the North8 condo building that is now on the former site of the Catholic cemetery (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Higginson’s 1868 Insurance Maps of the City of Brooklyn, Pl 67; Kings County Conveyances, Vol 93 p504-507, “United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975,” FamilySearch; Memorial of the Golden Jubilee of the Rev. Sylvester Malone (Malone 1895); The Eastern District of Brooklyn (Armbruster 1912); The Catholic Church in the United States of America (Catholic Editing Co. 1914); “A Village Churchyard,” Historical Records and Studies 7 (Meehan 1914); “Burial of Mr. Neville,” Brooklyn Evening Star, Nov 26, 1855; “Coroner’s Inquest on the Body of Mr. Neville,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 26, 1855; “Body Found,” Brooklyn Evening Star, Mar 6, 1856, [The Body of Sarah Lake], Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 26, 1882; “An Old Landmark Doomed,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan 27, 1890

Resurrection Cemetery

Dorothy Day’s grave at Resurrection Cemetery, 2017 (Dorothy Day Guild)

When Pope Francis made history in 2015 by becoming the first pontiff to speak before a joint session of the United States Congress, he lauded four Americans as examples of dignity, justice, and service to God: President Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Catholic monk Thomas Merton, and Catholic social activist Dorothy Day, the last of whom is buried in Resurrection Cemetery on Staten Island. Day was laid to rest in this Roman Catholic burial ground in 1980, just a few months after it opened on the Island’s south shore. 

Resurrection Cemetery is noteworthy as the last major cemetery developed in the city’s five boroughs, created by the Archdiocese of New York as the supply of new graves in Staten Island’s older Catholic cemeteries diminished. Responding to this need for more burial space, in 1977 the Archdiocese acquired 127 acres of land from the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin of Mount Loretto in the Pleasant Plains section. The New York City Council, which for decades had prohibited the creation of new cemeteries within its limits, approved the Archdiocese’s plans in this case because the land was already tax-exempt. Resurrection Cemetery is divided into two parcels on either side of Sharrott Avenue, with 84 acres remaining to be developed for future gravesites.

Obituary of firefighter Carl Molinaro, one of many 9/11 victims buried at Resurrection Cemetery

Since its opening, more than 42,000 Catholics have been interred in graves, mausoleum crypts, and cremation niches at Resurrection Cemetery. Among them are at least two dozen victims who died in the September 11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center site and hundreds of infants laid to rest in the Garden of Angels section for children. Also at Resurrection Cemetery is mobster William Cutolo, Sr., whose headstone marked an empty grave in Section 37 until his body was found in 2008—nine years after his murder. Resurrection Cemetery currently averages over 1,000 interments per year, making it one of the city’s busiest burial places.

Stillborn infants are buried in the Garden of Angels section at Resurrection Cemetery, Dec 2020 (SI Advance)

Dorothy Day is interred in Section 10 of the east parcel of Resurrection Cemetery. A native New Yorker raised in the Episcopal Church, her conversion to Catholicism came in the 1920s after she moved to a beach cottage on Staten Island, not far from her burial place. After her conversion, Day co-founded the Catholic Worker movement and helped establish “houses of hospitality” in New York City and farms to house the poor. The movement quickly spread, and today there are nearly 200 Catholic Worker communities worldwide.

Following her death on November 29, 1980, Catholic Church historian David J. O’Brien called Dorothy Day “the most important, interesting, and influential figure in the history of American Catholicism.” In 2000, Cardinal John O’Connor formally requested the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome consider Day’s canonization and she was declared a Servant of God, the first step towards sainthood. And just this year a new Staten Island Ferry boat was named in her honor; it is scheduled to be ready for passenger service on November 8, 2022, the 125th anniversary of Day’s birth.

A view of Resurrection Cemetery, May 2017 (Mary French)
A 2018 aerial view of the two parcels of Resurrection Cemetery on Sharrott Avenue in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Resurrection Cemetery; Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island (Salmon 2006); “Catholics Eye a Site on S.I. as Place for New Cemetery,” New York Daily News, Oct 16, 1977; “Catholic Cemetery on S.I. Approved,” New York Times, Nov 29, 1977; “Cooke Names New Cemetery,” New York Daily News, Dec 31, 1978;  “Death Notices,” New York Daily News, Oct 10, 2001;“Awaiting a Burial, This Time an Actual One,” New York Times, Oct 8, 2008; “S.I. Public Administrator Provides Dignified Burial for 9 Stillborn Infants,” Staten Island Advance, Dec 22, 2020; “The Pilgrimage of Dorothy Day,” Commonweal, Dec 19, 1980; “A Pilgrimage to Dorothy Day’s New York,” Aleteia, Nov 19, 2021; “Meet the Dorothy Day, the Latest Addition to New York’s Staten Island Ferry Fleet,” American Magazine, Sep 20, 2022; The Dorothy Day Guild

Polish National Catholic Cemetery

A view of the Polish National Catholic Cemetery, Apr 2017 (Mary French)

The Polish National Catholic Cemetery on Willowbrook Road in the Graniteville section of Staten Island is the parish cemetery of Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church of Bayonne, New Jersey. Other than its location, this cemetery’s Staten Island/New York City associations are limited—most of those laid to rest here lived and worked in New Jersey—but it is of interest due to its connection to an important period in Polish American history.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Church, Bayonne, New Jersey, ca 1914 (Bayonne Public Library)

During the late 19th century, many Polish immigrants were unhappy with the Roman Catholic Church in the United States for several reasons, including an absence of a bishop of Polish birth or descent, lack of services in the Polish language, and disputes over ownership of church properties. These resentments smoldered into open revolt in many parishes, mainly in the Eastern states, and led to the founding of the Polish National Catholic Church in 1897. This independent Catholic denomination, headquartered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, comprised about 20,000 Poles who left the Roman Catholic Church. 

The Polish National Catholic Cemetery on Willowbrook Road was established during this time of conflict. In 1898, Bayonne Poles founded the Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; shortly after it was incorporated, a schism in the parish resulted in a group breaking off to incorporate as St. Mary Carmelite Roman Catholic Polish Church. A dramatic struggle over church property ensued between the two corporations, including several church raids and a lawsuit that was decided in favor of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel delegation. In the aftermath, St. Mary Carmelite  became a parish of the Polish National Catholic Church and reorganized under the name Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This snippet from a 1907 map shows the Polish National Catholic Cemetery—identified here as St. Mary’s R.C. Church property—on Willowbrook Road

On March 14, 1902, the parish—still incorporated at that time as St. Mary Carmelite Roman Catholic Polish Church—paid $1,200 for the tract of land on Willowbrook Road for “its successors and assigns forever for cemetery purposes.”  Today the half-acre burial ground is enclosed by a chain-link fence that separates it from Lake Cemetery and Rehoboth Pentecostal Church on its north side and a housing development on its south side. The well-kept site is still an active parish cemetery of Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church.

The Polish National Catholic Cemetery and surrounding properties in 1951
2012 aerial view of the Polish National Catholic Church Cemetery

View more photos of Polish National Catholic Cemetery

Sources: Robinson’s 1907 Atlas of the Borough of Richmond Pl 6; 1951 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Staten Island (Borough Of Richmond), Richmond County, New York; Richmond County Conveyances, Liber 289, p469-470, Richmond County Clerks Office; Bayonne Old and New (Sinclair 1940); Handbook of Denominations in the United States (Mead 1995); “Polish National Catholic Church,” Encyclopedia Britannica; “Church in Court,” The Jersey City News, Nov 19, 1901; “Parishioners Raid Church,” Passaic Daily News, Oct 23, 1903; “Louis Kubizna,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), Nov 23, 1926; “Joseph Jaworoski,” The News (Paterson, New Jersey), May 19 1954; “Michael Archdeacon,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), Nov 18, 1968; “Stanley Senkoski,” The Central New Jersey Home News, Feb 7, 1974; “Adolph S. Mager,” Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghampton NY), Nov 28, 1992; “Julia Obarowski,” Asbury Park Press, Apr 4, 2002; “Helen Bilinski,” The Jersey Journal, Nov 15, 2010; “Florence Vila,” The Jersey Journal , Dec 21, 2017; “Our Memorial Day Observance,” Heart of Jesus PNCC, June 2011