Church of the Holy Rosary
Pastor: Rev. Robert J. Sweeney
41 Windermere Avenue
Greenwood Lake, NY 10925
Phone: (845) 477-8378
Fax: (845) 477-7238
Religious Education: (845) 477-0906
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History 1954-1979

Among the first Catholics in the Greenwood Lake area were the Germans who worked in the iron mines and furnaces of Sterling Forest, before the Revolution. They were ministered to by Father Theadore Schnider, who journeyed on horseback disguised as a doctor because priests were outlawed and subject to arrest. He carried a hand written copy of the Roman Missal, which people thought was a medical book, since all medical literature was in Latin.

Father Ferdinand Steinmeyer, better known as Father Farmer, made irregular visits to the southern New York iron region, during and after the Revolution. There were few Catholics in Orange and Ulster Counties. The region as is evident from the names being settled by Presbyterians from the North of Ireland. Priests made occasional visits during the half century after the Revolution and the Catholic settlers frequently made long journeys to go to confession and hear Mass. St. John's in Goshen was opened in 1837 but that was a days journey and it was not until 1889 that St. Stephen's in Warwick was founded, with Greenwood Lake as part of the parish.

Many traveled to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Lake at Sterling Forest after it opened in 1907. In order to reach the chapel, it was necessary to drive along the east shore of the lake. The road was primitive and hardly suited for horses and carriages. The way was hot and dusty in summer, cold in the winter and dangerous at any time. The mission was attended by Franciscan Fathers from Butler, New Jersey.

Most people preferred to travel by steam boat of which there were a number on the lake. On Sunday morning the boats were frequently crowded, and at times people were forced to stand with scarcely enough room to move. The ships when full were low in the water and the trip in inclement weather could be very unpleasant and even hazardous. The steamers Milford and Arlington which were ordinarily used to transport passengers from the railroad station at Sterling Forest made a number of stops to pick up church goers. Mountain Springs, Windermere Dock, Inknown The Brandon, Lakeside, Woodlands, Ferncliff, were some of the places where Catholics gathered for their sail to church. The trip took at least an hour depending on the number of stops made.

Mary Blesch and her son Charles, a seminarian at Dunwoodie, in 1921 asked the Franciscans who attended Our Lady of the Lake if Mass could be said in Greenwood Lake. It was suggested that since the village was in the Archdiocese of New York and the parish of Warwick that the person to ask was Father James Talbot (1921-24) the pastor of St. Stephen's Church. There was some delay and before anything could be accomplished, Fr. Talbot was replaced by Father Matthew Duggan (1924-39).

Father Duggan, when he heard of the hardships endured, especially by those who lived at a distance from the lake, investigated further and found in many cases families spent four hours in fulfilling their obligation to hear Mass. The journey involved not only time but great expense. Fr. Duggan said if one hundred signatures could be obtained he would approach the Chancery Office of the Archdiocese about building a mission church. Charles Blesch went about the village on a bicycle and on foot to obtain the necessary signatures.

During the years 1925-26 the moving picture theatre on Jersey Avenue was used for Mass on Sunday. The altar was set up on the stage and the box office served as a confessional. A series of card Parties and Bazaars were held to raise money for the new church. The Ten Eyks Pavilion, later known as Kelly's Casino in Lakelands was the scene of many of these gatherings. The committee responsible was composed of Mrs. Lance Relyea, Mrs. B. Foley, and the Misses Marie & Mildred Blesch. Success was chiefly due to the summer residents including the Mastersons, Caufields, Shaws, Kennealys, Grecks, Kemps, Blesches, Mahoneys, Conklins, O'Byrnes, Foleys, Rileys and many others.

Property was secured on Windermere Avenue at Wright Street and ground was broken early in 1927. When the site was being cleared a stone was found in the shape of a cross. Fr. Duggan considered it a good sign and the cross was set aside to be put on the church when it was completed. The corner stone was set later in the year and the sturdy field stone walls began to rise.

The architect was named Beardslay and the general contractor was the Dymock Construction Company. The work proceeded slowly and was still going on in 1929. Local materials were widely used in the building and local labor was employed. There is a story that all the stone was purchased for $175.00 and that it was brought to the site by the members of the parish. There are records of payments being made for stone. William Hunt received $73.50 and E. Palsen was given $20.00 but we cannot be sure that other payments weren't made. The haulage was done by Kain & Sons and the cost of cartage was $514.00. The slate was secured from the Vendor Slate Company and at least some of it was carried to Greenwood Lake by the Orange County Express Company. Most of the building materials were bought through John C. Minturn. Some of the stone work was done by a sub-contractor but just what work he did is not clear. The steel for the roof trusses came from Bethlehem Steel. The trusses were shipped on the Erie Railroad to Sterling Forest and brought up by the Orange County Express Co. James Healy did the placement work and riveting. The windows were the work of the George Hardy Payne Studios. Among the local men employed were Bill and James Bain, both of whom have died during the past four years and were buried from the church they helped to build. In 1930 the belfry over the side door of the church was constructed and the red stone cross, which Fr. Duggan had originally intended for the top of the church was placed over the belfry. Carmen C. Perna did the stone work and the bell was secured from the McEverly Bell Co.

At this late date it is difficult to estimate the cost but it would seem that including furnishings and the interest on loans that it came to about $103,000.00. There were some who did not appreciate Fr. Duggan's foresight in building such a large stone structure as a mission church and for a time Holy Rosary was known among them as Duggan's Folly.

In the 30's one Mass was said during the summer months. It is not clear in what month the Masses were begun but it would seem they were terminated after Columbus Day in mid-October. This policy was continued during the administration of Father Duggan until the summer of 1938 when he asked Father Francis Schwartz if he would say a second Mass on Sunday during the summer months, and when October came, Fr. Schwartz was asked to continue saying Mass during the winter.

As the autumn advanced and more and more of the summer people stayed away from the lake, the attendance fell off more and more. The heating was inadequate and when Fr. Schwartz said the first Christmas Mass, on Christmas morning there were about twenty people in the church and it was so terribly cold that after the New Year, Fr. Schwartz celebrated Mass in the boiler room! The numbers attending during the winter increased but still remained small during the winter of 1945-46, the largest number present being on February 24th when there were 135 adults and 25 children. The number of people attending continued to increase under the following pastors: Fr. Eugene McDonald (1939-41), Fr. Joseph Grunder (1941-52), and Fr. Joseph Kennedy (1952-54). Among the priests who helped at Holy Rosary during these years were Fr. Roland Burke, Franciscan, Fr. Kevin Flood, Jesuit, and Fr. Joseph Henry of the Tegaste Monastery in Suffern and a Recollect Augustinian.

A group of ladies met in the parish hall under the church in February 1951 and after some further meetings Fr. Grunder was asked if a chapter of the Catholic Daughters of America could be formed. Fr. Grunder, at the March meeting, suggested that the organization be known as the Altar Society of Holy Rosary. The church at this time was still a mission of Warwick with a full schedule of Masses during the summer and one Mass during the winter. The ladies secured the opening of the church on Good Friday and during the month of May for the recitation of the Rosary, a practice still continued after the 8:30am Mass on weekdays during May and October. Fr. Grunder was delighted with these efforts and a May procession was held for the first time that year. Miraculous Medal donations were begun on Monday nights and a second Mass was added on Sunday.

There was a demand for Midnight Mass at Christmas to which Fr. Grunder agreed provided that it was sung in Latin. A choir was formed and under the instruction of Sister Gerard of St. John's, Goshen, the Latin Mass was rehearsed until the singers were perfect. The first Midnight Mass was held in Holy Rosary on Christmas Eve 1951.

Early in 1954 Holy Rosary was made a parish with Fr. Joseph Kennedy, who for two years had been rector at Warwick, as it's pastor. One hundred of his new parishioners greeted him with a welcoming dinner at the Hotel Continental on Tuesday, June 15, 1954. Arthur Lynch acted as toastmaster and present at the head table with William B. Phillips, Mayor of Greenwood Lake, Harry Brooks Malcom, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Father Thomas Gartland, who had been one of Father Kennedy's altar boys, and is now Monsignor Gartland, in charge of High School Finance for the Archdiocese of New York.

With a resident pastor the parish began to make progress, with the help of the ladies auxiliary. The parish hall was renovated with the help of the men in the parish and an improved heater was installed. Monsignor Kennedy lived in a small house beside the church, where the offices were located. It is now the home of the Olsen family on Felter Street.

The new rectory was announced in January 1955 but it was several years before it reached completion. The rectory and offices were constructed on lots which were bought in 1935 and 1936. The rectory is a handsome and spacious building capable of housing three priests, but it is more suitable for a city parish and does not harmonize with the beautiful field stone church and its rural surroundings.

Monsignor Kennedy made many improvements during his long pastorate. An excellent heating system was installed when the rectory was built and the heating in the parish hall was improved. A new ceiling was installed in the church by parishioner Jerry Lalumiere and the structure was air conditioned for the comfort of the people during the summer months. At this time the windows were reconditioned, sealed and covered with protective glass. The cooling units were installed by Town Engineering Company of Hackensack, New Jersey.

Monsignor Kennedy remained an active and zealous pastor even though he had suffered several heart attacks which would have incapacitated a lesser man. He was greatly aided in his later years by Father Robert Hearn, a former chaplain of the armed forces, who contributed a great deal to the development of Holy Rosary. Fr. Hearn developed such a love for Greenwood Lake that in retirement he still lives in the village. Fr. John Smith, the brother of Ray Smith, was a frequent visitor and assisted Monsignor Kennedy. Monsignor Thomas Gaitland also came on many occasions to say Mass, especially during the summer months.

After the Second Vatican Council, when the changes were made in the Liturgy, Monsignor Kennedy made the necessary alterations in the sanctuary of the church. The original altar was removed and the entire sanctuary remodeled with the altar facing the congregation. The work was financed by contributions from members of the parish whose names are recorded on the plaque at the rear of the church.

When Monsignor Kennedy retired in 1973 he was given a testimonial dinner at the Elks. His parishioners decorated the hall, cooked and served the food. It was with deep regret that he departed from Greenwood Lake. When he left, a spark went with him which will be hard to replace. He had plans to return and live at the lake but unfortunately he was not spared to carry out his plans.

Monsignor Kennedy was succeeded by Monsignor Wilfred Riordan who, after long service at Our Lady of Solace in the Bronx, had been for some years pastor of St. Peter's Church in Monticello, New York. Monsignor became ill shortly after coming to the parish and asked Father James Trum of the Assumptionist Order to come and aid him in the administration of the parish. In December 1974 Monsignor became more seriously ill and was forced to go to St. Vincent's Hospital in New York for a series of operations. His recovery was slow and when it became clear that he would be convalescing for a long period of time, it was decided to appoint an administrator.

Monsignor Patrick D. O'Flaherty, who had been for many years a teacher and procurator at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, came to Holy Rosary as administrator. Negotiations at this time were going on to buy a piece of property on the far side of Windermere Avenue at the corner of Maple Street but on the advice of Mr. Jack Rader, the planning board at that time headed by Mr. Herbert Schoeck was consulted and it was found that building on this piece of land would be difficult and costly. Negotiations were discontinued and it was determined to buy the property adjourning the rectory on Windermere Avenue. In the fall of 1976 the property was purchased from Mr. Eugene Herzog. It contained two buildings. The larger house was fitted to serve as a Catechism Center for teaching children. The smaller building, formerly a laundromat, is used for storage.

In July 1973, shortly before he left Holy Rosary, Monsignor Kennedy recommended that Mr. Ralph Longo be accepted as a candidate for the permanent deaconate. Monsignor Riordan confirmed Mr. Longo as a candidate and in September 1973 he was accepted and began his studies at Dunwoodie Seminary. At the end of his studies Mr. Longo was ordained on June 7, 1975 to the order of permanent deacon and was assigned to Holy Rosary where he has performed valuable services for the parish.

In the summer of 1977 Monsignor Riordan, having recovered from his illness, was assigned to the parish of St. John the Baptist in Poughkeepsie and Monsignor O'Flaherty was appointed as pastor of Holy Rosary. The ceremony of installation was held on the afternoon of July 10, 1977 with Monsignor Murphy, Episcopal Vicar of Orange County presiding and Rev. Mr. Ralph Longo acting as Master of Ceremonies. The members of the parish held a celebration for Monsignor in the hall under the church following the ceremony.

In the fall of 1977 a gift was made of a rich drapery for the sanctuary. Several attempts were made to incorporate it into the decor of the church but none were satisfactory. Several decorators were consulted but their plans were either unsuitable or too costly. John F. D'Eletto of 77 Market Street, Park Ridge, New Jersey provided a plan which with a few changes proved suitable and the work on the sanctuary was completed in November 1978. The work was paid for by contributors who are memorialized in a plaque at the rear of the church. It is hoped that in the near future the stations of the cross will be brought into harmony with the decorations of the sanctuary.

The parish is now on its way to its fiftieth anniversary. Only the Lord knows the future, but with faith in Christ and the devotion of its loyal people, Holy Rosary will continue to teach the religion of our fathers, the faith of Christ, pure and undefiled.



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