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Brooklyn’s first Catholic church celebrates 200th anniversary

Cathedral Basilica of St. James marks 200th anniversary with special mass this Sunday

August 8, 2022 Francesca Norsen Tate, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The parish of St. James, which played a significant role in Brooklyn’s religious history, marks its 200th anniversary with a special Mass that the Most Reverend Robert Brennan, bishop of Brooklyn, will lead this Sunday.

The parish, which pre-dates the Diocese of Brooklyn by 31 years, was founded in 1822.

Prior to the construction of St. James, there was no established church on Long Island, which, in the early 19th century, consisted of Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Residents of the Village of Brooklyn, weary of commuting by boat to Manhattan in order to attend Mass, decided to build a church on what is now on Jay Street near Tillary Street.

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New York Bishop John Connolly traveled from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan, on the Feast of St. James, on July 25, 1822, to bless the cornerstone of the Church designated as St. James.

The oldest Catholic church on Long Island, the Cathedral Basilica of St. James on Jay Street, which recently celebrated its 200th Anniversary.
Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Eagle file photo by Josh Ross

St. James’ building is a Neo-Georgian Church which features a spire, a large gallery and a nave. From above, the church building reflects construction in the shape of a cross, referred to as cruciform, an architectural style customary for many cathedrals. The stained-glass windows of this brick church were made in Germany.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, established in 1853, continued to build churches and schools throughout Long Island from Brooklyn to Montauk. Bishop John Loughlin, the new diocese’s prelate, suspended plans to build a bigger cathedral, due to financial concerns.

When, in 1957, the Diocese of Rockville Centre was established in 1957, the boundaries of the Brooklyn Diocese were altered to encompass just Brooklyn and Queens.

In 1972, Bishop Francis Mugavero officially designated St. James as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Until that time, St. James had been a pro-cathedral, as it was the first church of the Diocese.

St. James Cathedral did get elevated in 1982. Three years after his 1979 visit, Pope John Paul II officially designated the Cathedral as a Basilica.

Joining Bishop Brennan at the bicentennial commemorative Mass will be Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York and Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

DeSales Studios has produced a documentary on the 200th Anniversary of St. James which will premiere on NET-TV on August 14 at 5 p.m. To view the trailer, click here: https://vimeo.com/735611541/fdb168a0d0


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