Cairo Catholic Church Dedicated in July of 1896

By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail October 30, 1952


Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


(This is the 12th article in series on the history of the Town of Cairo.)

In the 11th article, which ended with the settling of Mr. and Mrs. Charles McWilliams in their home at Woodstock in the year 1840, we reported that Mr. Levi O’Hara, father of Mrs. McWilliams was a very ardent Roman Catholic and was instrumental in Father Myers coming to the town of Cairo.

Father Myers was the first priest to say Mass in the township. He had the three counties, Greene, Delaware, and Schoharie, under his care and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered only once a month here.

The Reverend E. O’Driscoll succeeded Father Myers. Father O’Driscoll’s labors were confined to a large section of Greene county, due to the erection of several parishes in this region.

After the death of Father Myers and the appointment of the Reverend William J. Finneran to the pastorate of this section of the diocese, Cairo developed rapidly, due to the settling of resident Catholics, coming especially from Brooklyn, and to the increasing number of summer visitors. Prior to October, 1925, the Sacred Heart Church here was a mission of St. Patrick’s Church of Catskill.

As recorded by old letters of the McWilliams family, during these years services were held in the McWilliams home; in an upper room in the Jenning’s Hotel, which was situated where the bank now stands; and later in the original Methodist Church on Bross Street, where Mr. and Mrs. Abram Bonesteel now reside.

Mr. John Long and Mr. Nicholas P. Young requested Father Finneran to build a church at Cairo. The proposal was gladly entertained. A new church was designed by Mr. Thomas F. Houghton of Brooklyn and ground was broken for the church October, 1895, and the cornerstone was laid with appropriated ceremonies on Sunday, May 10, 1896.

Dedicated July 12

The dedication of the church was on Sunday, July 12th, and the services were conducted by the Rt. Rev. M. A. Burke, D., D., Bishop of Albany. Mass was celebrated for the first time by the pastor, Father Finneran. The sermon was preached by the Reverend John Nash of Brooklyn.

The following priests as pastors and assistants have continued to care for the spiritual welfare of the Catholics of the Cairo section: Rev. William J. Finneran, 1884-1900; Rev. William H. White, Rt. Rev. William P Fitzgerald; Rev. Daniel J. McCarthy; Rev. Ernest P. Neville; Rev. Thomas P. Burns; Rev. John P. Moore; Rev. Edward H. Reilly; Rev. Benedict I. Gillon; Rev. Joseph M. O’Connor; Rev. John Rausch; Rev. James G. Ryan; Rev. John C. Carey; Rev. Joseph A. Madigan; Rev. John T. Cox.

The year 1921 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Church of the Sacred Heart. The church, however, was in need of many repairs and it was impossible to put the church in fitting condition in time. So the observance of the Silver Jubilee was postponed to the year 1922, (August 9th)

In the morning, Solemn High Mass was said by the Rt. Rev. William P. Fitzgerald, formerly pastor of Catskill and Cairo, assisted by Rev. William H. White, Rev. Ernest P. Neville, and Rev. Thomas P. Burns. The Rev. Daniel J. McCarthy delivered the sermon.

The Rev. Benedict I Gillion was the representative for the Rt. Rev. Edmund F Gibbons, D. D., Bishop of Albany.

In October, 1925, Most Rev. Edmund F. Gibbons, D. D., Bishop of Albany, appointed the Rev. Francis Kelly as pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. Francis Schatzlien, Rev. John Carroll and the present Rev. Leo B. Donovan.

Increase Rapidly

The congregation at Cairo increased rapidly due to the great influx of summer visitors. July 1, 1927, John Horgan, a pioneer of Acra, donated a parcel of land in Acra to the Sacred Heart Parish to be used as a site for a mission chapel.

Rev. Francis Kelly built the present St. Edmund’s Chapel, which was formally opened in August, 1927, and has served as a summer mission since that time.

In 1937, the chapel of the Sacred Heart Church on Mountain Avenue, was built and in 1944, Rev. Leo B. Donovan erected the Sacred Heart Recreational Hall, which can accommodate 200 guests. In 1950, he added a large bell to the church. Father Donovan has done much to beautify the church and the grounds and has added a large parking lot for the use of his parishioners.

Memorial Windows in the church were donated as follows:
In memory of the McWilliams Family pioneers, donated by Catholics of Greene Co.
Donated by Rev. Francis A. Kelly in honor of his mother, Mary A. Kelly.
John R. and Anna B. Sutter, donated by their children.
In memory of Samuel J. Taggart and children, John and Elizabeth, donated by his wife and son.
Donated by Anne E. Thompson and Elizabeth M. True in memory of the Emmet family.
Mr. and Mrs. J. Francis Campbell in memory of their parents.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Toumey, in memory of their parents.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. William Staker, Sr., in memory of their children.
Donated by Louise and Mary Noll in memory of the Noll family.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. William Damilio in memory of John and Mary O’Connell.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Wynne in memory of their son, James Gerald.
Donated by Eva St. Eve in memory of her family.
Donated by Margaret Dorn in memory of her husband, Louis B. Dorn.
By William and Josephine Ricci in memory of their parents, Carmine and Christine Ricci and Ann Papa.
In loving tribute to Serafinao Formace and his wife, Teresa, by their children.
Donated by Mrs. Rose Muelbauer in memory of her husband and children.
Donated by Mrs. Lucy Moran Duncan in memory of her parents.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mellor, in memory of their family.

The Stations of the Cross were given as follows:
Mrs. Evelyn Maher in memory of her mother, Bridget McDonough.
Mrs. Evelyn Maher in memory of her father, Patrick McDonough.
Mrs. Evelyn Maher in memory of her husband, John J. Maher.
Donated by Mrs. Evelyn Maher
Harold V. Nearey in memory of his sister, Grace K. Nearey.
Mrs. Michael O’Leary and son in memory of their husband and father.
J. Francis Campbell in memory of his father, James F. Campbell.
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kennedy in memory of Edmund and Mary Kennedy.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Sheridan in memory of James and Mary Sheridan.
Mrs. Joseph Sheridan in memory of her brother, Daniel Moran.
Loretta Dorris in memory of her mother, Jane Kelly Dorris
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. James O’Connell.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. James O’Connell.

Statuettes were given as follows:
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hanely.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Tunison and Mrs. Mary MacDougal.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Toumey.
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. James O’Connell.
Donated by Mrs. Helen Sherman and family in memory of George H. Sherman.

There have been many more gifts as well as time and money that has gone into the beautifying the Sacred Heart Church, and which show the love the members and their friends have for their church.

I wish to express my appreciation to Miss Josephine O’Hara for loaning the early letters, etc.; to Rev Leo B. Donovan; to Mrs. Rose Maggio; to Mrs. George True and all the others who have contributed in the gathering of material for this article. 


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