In 1854, Bishop Loughlin, the first bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Brooklyn, bought three lots for a consideration of $1. Shortly thereafter he sent the Rev. Joseph Brunemann to Winfield to organize a parish. At first, Father Brunemann had to say Mass wherever he could find room. Thus Mass was said at times in Mr. Bow’s boarding house, the waiting room of the Winfield Junction Station, or in a private house on the corner of Calamus Road and Madison Avenue (70th Street). This latter place served for a time as both Rectory and Church. The first Mass in Winfield was probably said in May 1854. The cornerstone of the first church in September 1854. St. Mary’s Church was dedicated by Bishop Loughlin less than a year later on June 17, 1855.
St. Mary’s second pastor, Father Ignatius Goetz, started the first parish school. He also acquired more lots and built the first Rectory next to the Church.
|Our First Church – 1855||Our First Church-Interior-1855|
third pastor, Father Ignatius Zeller, invited the Dominican Sisters of Amityville to start a convent at Winfield and take charge of the parish school. The convent was dedicated on September 12, 1869. Father Zeller also oversaw the enlargement of the Church to serve the ever growing number of families who looked to St. Mary’s for Spiritual sustenance.
St. Mary’s fourth pastor, Rev. Peter Dauffenbach, like his predecessors, helped establish parishes in the surrounding areas including Astoria, Woodside and Elmhurst. It was during his pastorate that the Church, school and rectory were destroyed by fire. It was with the benefit of insurance and the generosity of Catholics and non-Catholics that the new Church was dedicated just 17 months later by Bishop Loughlin.
St. Mary’s fifth pastor, Rev. Aloysius Steffen, introduced the Guardian Angel Sodality for young girls and reduced the financial obligations of the church. Father Steffen did not stay long at Winfield due to serious illness. He went to Europe to seek recovery in May, 1899. After a short stay he returned, only to die at Winfield on November 13, 1899.
In preparation for the parish’s Golden Jubilee, St. Mary’s sixth pastor, Rev. Frederick M. Schneider, had the exterior of all the parish buildings repainted, gas piping and fixtures for lighting installed, and the interior of the church was newly decorated and refurbished. In 1984, Father Schneider’s dream that St. Mary’s School should be a free school was realized.
Rev. John J. Bender, St. Mary’s seventh pastor, organized St. Mary’s Cadets, St. Mary’s Military Band, Junior Holy Name Society and the Rosary Confraternity. With the need of more classroom space and the planned elevated structure of the Long Island Railroad passing next to the school building, Father Bender made plans for a new school building but died before the building was finished.
The eighth pastor, Father John Naab, completed the new school building. Additional classrooms were added as the number of pupils increased as well as the addition of a large auditorium, a school library, 18 classrooms as well as a room for the principal and a room for the doctor and nurse. New electric lights were installed and the interior of the Church redecorated. Extensive alterations were made in the Rectory and it was enlarged to accommodate three priests. The old school was turned into The Catholic Club, a club house for men of the parish.
The ninth pastor, Father Peter Fox, instituted religious instruction of Public School children of the parish. He began a monthly bulletin of parish affairs with a weekly announcement sheet to supplement it. In the following years, a new organ was installed in 1940. Three new altars, constructed of marble obtained from the Italian Building of the New York World’s Fair, were installed in 1941.
1854 – 1857: Rev. Joseph F. Brunemann, O.S.F.
1857 – 1868: Rev. Ignatius Goetz
1868 – 1874: Rev. Ignatius Zeller, V.F.
1875 – 1895: Rev. Peter Dauffenbach
1895 – 1899: Rev. Aloysius Steffen
1899 – 1908: Rev. Frederick M. Schneider
1908 – 1915: Rev. John J. Bender
1915 – 1937: Rev. John F. Naab
1937 – 1968: Rt. Rev. Msgr. Peter W. Fox
1968 – 1977: Rev. Stephan Shubert
1977 – 1988: Rev. John P. Callahan
1988 – 2001: Rev. Donald Berran
2001 – 2014: Rev. Noel Moynihan
2014 – present: Rev. Christopher M. O’Connor