“It was said of St. Cecilia, the third century virgin martyr, that she always had a song in her heart. No wonder she is the patron saint of musicians. We all have a song in our hearts and it is a song of Thanksgiving,” said Bishop James Massa at the mass celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. Cecilia’s Church.
Saint Cecilia Church (84 Herbert Street) was founded in 1871 by Irish immigrant residents of Greenpoint. In 1888, architect Thomas H. Poole was hired to design this church; the St. Cecilia’s we see today. Brooklyn’s first Bishop, Bishop Loughlin, laid its cornerstone on September 27, 1891. The firm of Byrne and Perry finished Poole’s Romanesque Basilica style and used Georgian Marble, a white marble known for its use in the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol building, and other historic architecture around the world. St. Cecilia’s marble is rumored to have been originally intended for St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which first opened its doors 1879.
A special mass was held on November 21 to mark St. Cecilia’s 150th anniversary. A bagpiper played outside the steps of the church, a nod to this church’s ancestry. The mass began with a blessing of new chalices by Bishop James Massa. Later when he acknowledged the anniversary he said, “Whenever we celebrate the anniversary of a church we face a certain dilemma. Do we celebrate the building that has remained standing after all these years? Decade after decade? This building has remained standing through waves of immigration, two World Wars, The Great Depression, Civil Rights, The Gulf Wars, 9-11, and the COVID pandemic. Do we simply marvel at the magnificent architecture? Are we here to celebrate a building or do we gather here to honor the people? The people who St. Peter refers to as the living stones that make up the church?”
Priests and sisters who had served St. Cecilia’s in the past were in attendance, and at the end of mass they came to the altar and were blessed by Bishop Massa. Sister Miriam Daniel Pender, the principal emeritus of St. Cecilia’s Parochial School, was one and delivered the keynote address at the reception held after the mass.
In his message in that Sunday’s church bulletin, Father Thomas Vassalotti reflected that in his nine and a half years as pastor for Divine Mercy Parish, he has been privileged to celebrate a major anniversary for each of this parish’s three churches: St. Nicholas Church celebrated 150 years in 2016, St. Francis of Paola Church celebrated its centennial in 2018, and St. Cecilia’s 150th this year. At the end of the mass he thanked all who attended and said, “This is your home.”
St. Cecilia Church has two Sunday masses: 9 a.m. (English) and 7 p.m. (Traditional Latin) and St. Cecilia’s chapel is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.