The church of St. Mary’s was built in 1872 on a plot of land donated for the establishment of the first Catholic church in Blooming Grove. Previous to a central location the offering of mass was done in private homes. Blooming Grove, settled in 1799, was a Protestant community. The third oldest church in Orange County is the current United Church of Christ in Blooming Grove, originally named the Blooming Grove Church. The original building site for St. Mary’s church was on East Main Street where the current Walden Savings Bank is now located. The home to the left of the bank was the original rectory.
St. Mary’s in her infancy was considered a mission church first of St. Thomas of Canterbury in Cornwall and then St. Columba in Chester. The priests from these parishes would come to Washingtonville to say Mass once a week. One priest, a curate stationed in St. Thomas, was the much respected and well liked Fr. John Tetreau. Fr. Tetreau was born July 30, 1863 in Canada and on October 5, 1902, with permission from the New York Archdiocese, he officially established the Church of St. Mary. On January 15, 1903, the incorporation papers were signed.
Fr. Tetreau made many improvements to the original “little” church in order to accommodate the growing immigrant population to Blooming Grove. With an offer of a piece of property on Goshen Avenue, the painstaking task of moving the church began in the summer of 1914.
In 1926, Edward R. Emerson, the owner of Brotherhood Winery, sold a parcel of land to St. Mary’s in the sum of $2,000 for the establishment of a cemetery for the church. A few short years later, the beloved Fr. Tetreau would be buried in this new cemetery and his grave site marked with a towering white cross.
Fr. Edward Baxter was assigned after Fr. Tetreau’s death and served until 1933 when Fr. Francis Corcoran came to replace him. Fr. Corcoran was then assigned the pastorate at St. Columba’s in Chester and in November of 1944 Fr. Hubert Beller was appointed at St. Mary’s. Fr. Beller served here for eight years and was replaced by Fr. Joseph Huband. Despite ill health, Fr. Huband lead the flock for five years until his death on November 4, 1957. Fr. James Tully arrived that December and served for 17 months before being assigned to St. John’s in Beacon. In August of 1959, Fr. William Foley was appointed and served until his death December 27 1965 and in March of 1966 Fr. John O’Donohue came until his appointment to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Elmsford in February of 1969.
Next to serve was Fr. Harold Sullivan who would oversee much of the expansion of St. Mary’s in his fifteen years of dedication to the parish community. Assisting Msgr. Sullivan through the years were two Jesuit priests, the beloved Fr. Francis Tierney,
the vibrant Fr. John McConnell and St. Mary’s first deacon Donal O’Sullivan. Upon Msgr. Sullivan’s retirement the Archdiocese appointed Msgr. James Cox. In his two terms as pastor, Msgr. Cox recognizing the growth in the community, undertook the building of a Parish Center to house the offices of the parish and a religious education wing. Fr. Jeffrey Galens arrived at St. Mary’s fresh out of the seminary in June of
1990 as Parochial Vicar. During Msgr. Cox’s tenure, another deacon was ordained in the person of John Shepard on June 8, 1997. And in June of 1997, the parish bade a bittersweet farewell to Msgr. Cox as he set out on the road to retirement. Arriving to replace him from St. Boniface in Rockland County, our current pastor, Fr. John Keaveney.
St. Mary’s was well noted for it’s annual bazaars on the church grounds and gathering the interested in Moffat Hall with guest lecturers. Sunday School classes were held in the basement of the church with lessons taught by the Dominican sisters of Newburgh and the Presentation sisters of New Windsor.
In 1960 permission was granted to build a multipurpose hall on property donated by Cornelius Verbert. The cornerstone was laid on November 23, 1961 with the first social event being a buffet and dance celebrating St. Patrick’s Day sponsored by the Holy Name Society. Beginning in 1962 Sunday masses were held in the new hall.
By 1964, the construction of housing developments in South Blooming Grove was well underway bringing with it an increase in parish enrollment. Fr. William Foley at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the church confirmed that all Sunday masses and Holy Day masses would be offered in the multi purpose hall due to the increase in population.
In the time period between 1971 and 1973 a new hall was added onto the existing building and appropriately named for the founding father, Tetreau. The multipurpose hall was then converted into the church that is now used for worship. The first mass in the converted hall took place on Palm Sunday 1973 and was dedicated by Cardinal Cooke on July 8, 1973. Soon after, the little church moved to Goshen Avenue in 1914 and located in the middle of the present parking lot, was deemed structurally unsound and was summarily demolished. The crucifix and the plaques of the four gospel writers were moved from the original church and are in place in the sanctuary today. The paneled wall in the chapel in the main church was from the old sanctuary. The windows and the pews from the little church were put out on the lawn for the taking.
The bell located on the edge of the parking lot is dedicated to Fr. John Tetreau, Cornelius Verbert and his brother in law Alphons Versweyveld who for 60 years took care of the church and the grounds of St. Mary’s. (The bell is from the original “little” church so fondly remembered by old timers……a link to the past. ) Bell is from the Lincolndale School………