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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.