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Florence F. O'Shea


Rev. Florence F. O'Shea

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REV. FLORENCE F. O'SHEA, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church at New Castle, was born in 1863, in Ireland, in that beautiful section near the Lakes of Killarney. Father O'Shea was brought to America in boyhood and his education was acquired in the schools and colleges of this country. He began his classical course in Bacon Academy, Colchester, Connecticut, and continued his studies in St. Bonaventure's College, Allegany, New York, where he read rhetoric, philosophy and theology, and in 1889 was ordained to the priesthood by Rt. Rev. Stephen Vincent Ryan, Bishop of Buffalo. From the time of ordination until May, 1892, he was assistant pastor at St. Peter's Church, Allegheny; going from there to Huntington, Pennsylvania, as pastor of Holy Trinity Church. In the fall of 1892 he was transferred to St. James' Church, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, where he remained for fourteen years, meeting success in his labors. On October 31, 1907, he was appointed rector of St. Mary's Parish, New Castle, and took charge of the same on the fifteenth of the following November.

St. Mary's Parish has an interesting history and was never in a more flourishing condition than at the present time. As far back as 1831 records are at hand to show that there were faithful Catholics settled in and around New Castle, to the spiritual needs of whom priests came to administer from Pittsburg. In 1852 a frame church was erected west of the town by Father Reid, one of the pioneer priests. In 1854 he was succeeded by Rev. Peter McGarvey, who was the first resident pastor, and in June, 1855, he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas O'Farrell, who continued to minister to the congregation and missions until August, 1859. Rev. John C. Farren followed Father O'Farrell, and after his withdrawal, in 1862, the congregation was visited monthly by Rev. Thomas Walsh, of Brady's Bend, Armstrong County. The next resident pastor was Rev. James Canevin, and it was during his incumbency that, on account of the development of the iron industries of this section and the consequent settlement here of laborers from other points, many of whom were Catholics, a new church was found to be an absolute necessity. Father Canevin was a man of energy and executive ability, and shortly afterward he purchased a lot situated on the corner of Beaver and North streets, and began the erection of a church which was completed in 1871. It is built of brick 110 feet in length and 45 feet in width, has a well proportioned tower in the center in front and follows the Gothic style of architecture with some modifications.

Father Hayes succeeded Father Canevin and in April, 1871, he opened a school, and in the following month purchased a large frame building for a pastoral residence. Prosperity reigned over priest and congregation until the panic of 1873 affected the iron industries of New Castle, and many of the employes of the great works were obliged to seek employment in other sections. This threw many unexpected burdens on the members of St. Mary, but their faith never wavered nor their zeal diminished, and under the guidance of wise priests, the congregation weathered all the storms, and under the management of Father O'Shea and his two assistants it has become one of the best and most prosperous congregations in the Diocese of Pittsburg. Father Hayes was succeeded on February 8, 1879, by Rev. Joseph Gallagher, who served faithfully and well until his death, which took place August 11, 1906. He is remembered with esteem and veneration.

Since taking charge of St. Mary's, Father O'Shea has advanced the parish in many ways and has added to the efficiency of the working branches of the church already established. In 1876 the present school building was erected and during 1907 Father O'Shea built additions to it, necessitated by the large number of students, there being at present 475 on the roll. The school is under the care of eight Sisters of the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and their convent adjoins the pastoral residence on North and Beaver streets. The advantages afforded pupils in St. Mary's School include the work of the primary grades of the public schools, together with a complete course in stenography, typewriting, bookkeeping and two years of instruction in Latin. Father O'Shea has under his spiritual care 550 families comprising about 3,000 souls.

Twentieth Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County, 1908, page 488


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