Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, December 08, 2017

St. Catharine's Rev. Father McNichol Was Honored in 1909

St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church stands at 25 Second Avenue in the Village of Pelham, New York.  In 1895, the Village of Pelham had not yet been incorporated within the Town of Pelham.   In the tiny little hamlet of Pelhamville there lived more than fifty Catholic families.  The area was within the parish of St. Gabriel's Church, New Rochelle that was led, at that time, by Rev. John Anthony Kellner, Rector.   

Families in Pelhamville asked Father Kellner to allow the construction of a church in Pelhamville.  Father Kellner, in turn, sought the sanction of then New York Archbishop Michael Augustine Corrigan.  Archbishop Corrigan granted the necessary permission.  According to an announcement published in The New York Times on Christmas day the same year, a beautiful edifice was planned.  The report said, in part: "The church will be Gothic in style. It will have a seating capacity of 350 persons. The dimensions will be 35 feet by 76 feet. It will be a frame structure, with a bell tower over the sacristy.  The basement will be of stone."  Catholic Church For Pelhamville, N.Y. Times, Dec. 25, 1895, p. 16.   

The 100 x 100 lot for the building was a gift of Patrick Farrell and was located near the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Blessed Redeemer.  Residents raised five hundred dollars toward construction of the building and obtained crosses and seven stained glass windows for inclusion in the new edifice.  Id.  Plans were made for a ground-breaking in January 1896 with an expectation that the building would be completed six months later in June.  On July 5, 1896, Archbishop Corrigan led the dedication of the new church building in Pelhamville.    

On December 8, 1897, Pelham was made a separate parish, the Rev. Francis P. McNichol being made the first pastor.  He completed the furnishing of the temporary church, which seated about 100.  At the time there was a mortgage of $3,500 on the church.   

Father McNichol purchased land and in 1899 built a rectory.  The present school building was erected in 1903.   

Father McNichol arranged to have the Sisters of St. Francis, with whom he had been associated at Mount Lorette, Staten Island, come to teach the children the Christian doctrine.  His next work was the building of the convent for the sisters.  They occupied it on December 8, 1906, and opened the parish school in February, 1907.

Rev. Father Francis McNichol clearly was an energetic young man with a vision and the ability to achieve it.  He attracted the attention of his superiors in the Catholic Church.  Consequently, he was selected for a robust and important honor in 1909, not long after opening the new parish school as well as a convent for the Sisters of St. Francis who oversaw administration of the new school.  

The Catholic Church was engaged in an initiative to support the Church in Cuba and to rebuild church infrastructure there after its damage and destruction by the United States during the Spanish-American War.  

Pope Pius X appointed Archbishop Aversa to rebuild the Catholic Church in Cuba.  He consecrated bishops in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

In February, 1909, Archbishop Aversa selected Rev. Father Francis McNichol of St. Catharine's Church in the Village of North Pelham to accompany him to Puerto Rico to oversee redevelopment of the church organization and infrastructure in those localities.  

On July 10, 1909, Rev. Father Francis McNichol sailed with Archbishop Aversa on the steamship Carolina.  They arrived on July 15 and were met by Bishop William Jones who succeeded the Spanish prelate after the Spanish-American War.  

The pair attended to church matters in Puerto Rico for nearly a month.  They returned to New York on the Steamer Coamo on August 16, 1909.  The pair reported that they "
found the church in excellent condition under the new bishop, William Jones, who, he stated, came from America."

The growing young Catholic Church in the Village of North Pelham and its Rector, the Rev. Father Francis McNichol, were on the map and had caught the eye of senior officials of the church, though the little church was barely a decade old. 

Saint Catherine's Church in April, 2011.

I have written regarding the history of Saint Catharine's on numerous occasions.  For a few examples, see:

Wed., Apr. 09, 2014:  Brief History of St. Catharine's Parish Published in 1927.

Fri., Feb. 28, 2014:  Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926.

Thu., Sep. 13, 2007:  Dedication of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in the Village of Pelham in 1896.

Wed., Sep. 12, 2007:  Announcement of Planned Construction of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in Pelhamville in 1895.

Tue., Dec. 06, 2005:  The Origins of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in the Village of Pelham, New York.
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North Pelham, Feb. 11.  --  A great honor has been accorded the Rev. Francis McNichol, pastor of St. Catherine's [sic] Church of this village.  He will sail on either February 20, or March 6, for Porto Rico and Cuba as companion and secretary to Archbishop Aversa, papal delegate to Cuba and Porto Rico.  The Rev. Francis McNichol announced this fact at the masses in St. Catherine's church last Sunday.  

Rev. Father McNichol is the first pastor of the church and has made in a few years a model parish, having built a church, rectory, convent and school.  The school, under the regents of the state of New York, has taken honors in its examinations.  In the absence of Rev. Father McNichol, the Rev. John F. Morgan, professor in Cathedral College, New York, will officiate at the local church.

Archbishop Aversa was appointed by Pope Pius X, to reconstruct the church in Cuba and Porto Rico after the war between the United States and Spain.  He consecrated bishops in Cuba and Porto Rico, and has settled the temporal affairs of the church amicably with the United States government.  He now goes to these countries to make his official visit as the representative of Pope Pius X.

His Excellency, Archbishop Aversa, is a most distinguished embassador [sic], graduating in Europe's greatest universities with the triple doctorate of civil law, canon or church law and divinity.  He entered the papal diplomatic corps and rose to be assistant secretary of state under that great statesman Leo XIII and the famous secretary of state Cardinal Rampolla.

He was then sent by Pope Leo XIII and Pius X on important embassies, in all of which he has been successful.  He is a man of handsome presence and speaks fluently a half dozen languages.  He dedicated the new church in North Pelham last November."

Source:   HONOR BESTOWED ON REV. FATHER McNICHOL OF NORTH PELHAM, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY],  Feb. 11, 1909, p. 3, col. 2.


North Pelham, August 17.  --  Rev. Francis McNichol, rector of St. Catherine's [sic] church this village, returned yesterday afternoon from Porto Rico, where he had been as secretary to Archbishop Aversa, papal delegate to Port Rico and Cuba.

Rev. Father McNichol sailed on July 10, with the archbishop, for Porto Rico, on the Carolina, and arrived at San Juan on the afternoon of July 15, where they were met by Bishop William Jones, who succeeded the Spanish prelate after the war.  On the steamer was Governor Post of Porto Rico.  

The local clergyman stated yesterday that the purpose of the archbishop's visit was to attend to matters of the church in Porto Rico.  The archbishop had concluded certain financial matters with the United States government, and was received with great acclaim in various parts of the island.  He found the church in excellent condition under the new bishop, William Jones, who, he stated, came from America.

Speaking of the chance from Spanish to American priests, Rev. Father McNichol said:  'We are having installed on this island up-to-date American priests who are organizing and establishing everything on a good American basis.  The priests are being educated in American ways and are instilling those ideas in Porto Rico.  The United States priest is the kind they want in Porto Rico and they are going there as fast as possible.'

Rev. Father McNichol and Archbishop Aversa arrived on the Coamo in New York yesterday morning and which docked at 10 o'clock.  They were met at the pier by Monsignor Hayes, chancellor of New York, representing Archbishop Farley, and were driven to the archbishop's residence in New York, where they had breakfast.  

The papers in Spain, Italy and the United States speak highly of Archbishop Aversa and refer to him in very complimentary terms to his appointment to the Austrian court.

The North Pelham rector has returned to this village considerably improved in health.  He has a fine brown color on his face, caused by the tropical sun.  He was sick for a few days upon his arrival there, but after he became acclimated, improved in strength and vigor."

Source:   HOME FROM HIS TRIP TO PORTO RICO, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 17, 1909, p. 5, col. 2

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