St. Mary's Church

The following history of St. Mary's was originally published in "The Legacy of Faith" printed in 1980 and has been edited for length.

Our Legacy Begins

When the great influx of Irish immigrants began to settle in the Hudson-Mohawk valley in the 1840's, there were already two Catholic churches established in Greene County. The Irish immigrants who settled in Coxsackie acted almost immediately to establish a church, meeting first in the home of Stephen Brady to celebrate Mass, and then constructing a church in the spring of 1847.

The founding fathers chose a beautiful location for the church, on a lot purchased from Captain Isaac Smith on lower Church Street. The church looked out over the Hudson River and the village. The location provided easy access for the villagers, as well as, for the people who came across the river to worship at St. Mary's. The boats docked at the bay and then walked up the hill to the church. Once built, the church became the center of worship for miles around.

The interior of the church was simple. The altar was a wooden structure painted white. There was a small gallery and a priest's entrance that faced Church Street. The name of the church was unclear in the early days. In the early church directories, our church is referred to as St. Joseph's, but later it is identified as the Catholic Church, Coxsackie. It is not until the 1860's that it is identified as St. Mary's Church.

Father William Howard served our mission church from its founding until 1854 when he left for California. Bishop McCloskey appointed Fr. Henry B. Finnegan as our first resident pastor in March of 1854, and our life as an independent parish began. Fr. Finnegan continued to service the missions on both sides of the river for the three years that he was here. In 1857 Fr. Maurice Roche began ministering to the spiritual needs of our parish. Fr. Roche purchased the first rectory for $2,500.00, located where the Methodist church is now. The church was incorporated on October 14, 1870, and lands for the parish cemetery were bought under Fr. Roche's direction. Shortly thereafter, on December 18,1870, Fr. Roche died of pneumonia and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery. Fr. William Carroll was pastor from 1871 to 1872. Fr. Martin Stanton, pastor from 1872 to 1882, purchased a home on the corner of Washington and Church Streets, to use as a rectory and resided there with his parents.

In 1882, Fr. Thomas Walsh was appointed pastor of St. Mary's. He felt the church was getting too small for the number of parishioners. As a temporary step, he had the gallery of the church enlarged. In 1887, he purchased the "Academy Lot" which is diagonally across the street from the present Methodist church. His intention was to build a new church there.

Recent History: Renovation and Centennial

In September of 1993 a committee was created to look at the physical needs of the church. Over the course of the next year, Mallin, Mendel and Associates, architects, were hired to do a feasibility study which addressed the need for a new roof, exterior repairs, handicap access, and a design for the interior space. All parishioners were asked to take part in several brainstorming sessions to determine and prioritize wishes and needs. 107 parishioners attended a special workshop on April 23, 1994 to gather wide input for the plans. The feasibility study was completed and accepted in February of 1995. Ben Mendel, an architect, addressed the parishioners and spoke of renovation plans. He worked closely with Father Moyna and Hugh Quigley, Committee Chairman, as well as Barry Rausch and Anthony D'Ambrosio, contractors.

In February, 1995 plans were in place and a building fund drive began. The total cost for renovating St. Mary's came to $750,000. Parishioners pledged a total of $500,000. The balance of $250,000 was given as a bequest from the late Kathryn Scully.

In the summer of 1995 work began. A new asphalt roof replaced the original slate roof that was very much in need of repair, and the bell tower was enhanced with copper. Early in 1996 a new street level entrance, with an interior lift, was added to St. Mary's. Next, scaffolding was put up in the church's interior and the enormous job of preparation and painting began. A new sound system was installed and new lighting was added.

On January 26, 1997 a dedication service was held with Bishop Hubbard officiating. The ceremony and the reception that followed were attended by many parishioners, past and present, and also by many of the clergy and religious who served St. Mary's in the past.

From 2000 through 2001 St. Mary's observed its Centennial Year. The celebration began September 19, 2000 with the placing of a plaque under the cornerstone to commemorate the 100th anniversary of our church building. After the ceremony, 149 adults and 45 children attended a picnic at Sunny Hill Resort. The celebration continued during the year with a dinner dance at the Quarry Restaurant and a golf tournament.

On July 1, 2001 Bishop Hubbard celebrated a Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the dedication of St. Mary's Church, and a very special brunch followed.