Early Notable Laity

When Father Curran came to the colony of Catholics at the then-fashionable resort of Far Rockaway, he found there a group of laypeople willing to sacrifice to make the practice of their faith a reality.

Father Curran celebrated Far Rockaway’s first Mass in William Caffrey’s Hotel in 1847. Caffrey’s name survives locally as "Caffrey Avenue" (B. 17 St.). Another notable layman was Andrew Brady who in 1851 donated the plot of land on which the first church of St. Mary was to be built, very near the current location of St. John’s Hospital. The next generation raised up another prominent immigrant son of St. Mary’s. William Trist Bailey was a prominent real estate developed who came from England and was the developer of Bayswater (1871), which he named after his native town. He also personally paid for the laying out and paving of Central Avenue (then Catherine St.) south of Mott Avenue. Bailey is reported to have built the first brick home in the Rockaways in the early 1880’s. Other members of St. Mary’s whose names live on in some streets around here are: Healy (the Justice of the Peace in the 1880’s), Mc Bride, Meehan, Heyson, Muhlbach, and Roche. Other familiar names of those days included Mimnaugh, Brandenberg, Coleman, Prendergast and Wynn.

The second pastor of St. Mary’s was the Rev. Michael J. Murphy, born in 1842 and ordained at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, Niagara, in 1870. He was first assigned to St. Peter’s in Brooklyn, but seems to have assisted Father Brunemann in Far Rockaway at times. He became pastor here upon the death of Father Brunemann in 1874. During his tenure he oversaw the establishment in 1877 of both St. Mary’s Academy and St. Mary’s parish school by the Sisters of St. Joseph. He built the first parish rectory, later remodeled into the first convent for the Josephite Sisters. He seems to have secured additional property for the parish. During his pastorate the 40 Hours Devotion seems to have been an important annual event, and the choir was quite active. He also delivered a widely reported lecture at the Woodsburgh (Woodmere) Lyceum regarding Daniel O’Connell, Ireland’s Liberator, reflecting to some degree the interests of his parishioners, but also a topic in which the local non-Catholics of the day were apparently interested. Father Murphy led special services here upon the death of Pope Pius IX in 1878. His sister Julia married William A. Wynn of a prominent parish family. In 1878 parishioner William Trist Bailey developed the community of Bayswater. In 1879 Father Murphy was transferred to the pastorate of St. Anthony’s church in Greenpoint. He died in 1889.

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