St. Francis of Paola Celebrates its Centennial

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Come visit the saints! St. Francis of Paolo has an awe inspiring collection of statues of the holy they’ve gathered over the years.

After the 12:45 p.m. mass on Sunday, November 4th there will be a Gala to celebrate St. Francis of Paolo Catholic Church’s 100th birthday. It will be held in the auditorium where a hot buffet, wine, beverages, mini Venetian hour, a DJ, raffles and other festivities will take place for a ticket price of $60. Contact (718) 387-0256 or sfp100anv@gmail.com to purchase tickets.

If you look at St. Francis of Paolo (219 Conselyea St. ) you can see some of its history in the colors of its bricks. The red brick sections are part of the original building and the wheat gold bricks are from the rebuild from the 1940s. When you enter the church you’ll see an inspiring array of the saint statues St. Francis has collected from its start to today. The pews and baptismal font are from the 40s, and there is woodworking on the altar from the 70s. If that doesn’t give you enough of a sense of the reciprocal devotion of church and community then find the pieta carved in teak, near the altar, and touch it. Its easy access is for just this purpose, as it demonstrates the welcoming nature of St. Francis of Paolo church, which increases as time passes.

The “little church on the hill”, as St. Francis of Paolo is warmly referred to, came to be in 1918 when the then Bishop of Brooklyn saw the need for a second church to serve the area’s growing Italian community. At that time and previous, churches were created to serve separate cultural groups. Williamsburg had and has its Polish, Italian, Latin American, Irish, etc. churches that served and serves these populations, and as time went on the churches became more welcoming of any cultural group. The land on which St. Francis is built was purchased from the Dutch Reformist Church that installed their church in the 1600s. They built a larger one there in 1840. It has been a community holy ground for centuries.

In its new life as a catholic church it was dedicated to St. Francis of Paola, a 15th century Italian mendicant friar and the founder of the Roman Catholic Order of Minims. His patron saint and namesake was St. Francis of Assisi. According to “The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints” by the Rev. Alban Butler, St. Francis of Paola cured many people of the plague on his trek from Italy to attend the deathbed of King Louis XI of France.

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Come visit St. Francis of Paolo! Doors are open weekdays from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

St. Francis’ original congregation grew rapidly and soon needed a larger church. The new church dedicated on April 26, 1942, in addition to increasing space, was built mindful of Italian artistic traditions and its architecture echoes early Romanesque lines.

In 2011 St. Francis of Paola joined with St. Cecilia and St. Nicholas churches to form one parish called Divine Mercy. The garden, which was started as a victory garden in WWII, has had recent additions of fig and persimmon trees, a rose bush, and a new trellis to shelter the outdoor statue of St. Francis of Paolo. This year as an invitation to newcomers, while offering additional access to the faithful, the doors to the church are open to the public on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. A two-week vacation bible camp launched this summer with success. The church’s Friday youth program has forty participants and the churches societies (St. Theresa Guild and St. Anthony Society) are thriving and welcome new participants.

“Keep watching! New things are coming,” said Father Thomas Vassalotti, pastor of Divine Mercy parish.

St. Francis of Paolo Catholic Church’s Centennial Celebration will directly follow 12:45 p.m. mass on Sunday, November 4th in the auditorium, 219 Conselyea St, Brooklyn, NY 1121. Gala ticket price is $60. For more information or to purchase tickets, journal ads, or display your St. Francis of Paolo memorabilia Contact (718) 387-0256 or sfp100anv@gmail.com to purchase tickets.

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Father Thomas Vassalotti, pastor of Divine Mercy parish under a new trellis with St. Francis of Paolo in the church garden
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The visual history of St. Francis of Paolo as told by the color of the brick

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Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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