Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish . . . Our Place in God’s Time
The parish story of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton officially begins on June 22, 1963. It was on this date that Francis Cardinal Spellman established the parish. He named it after the first native New Yorker to be beatified, Elizabeth Ann Bayley-Seton. This daughter of a prominent New York physician, wife and mother of five children, became a convert to the faith after the death of her husband. A widow and a Catholic at the age of 30, Elizabeth Ann Seton would spend the remaining 16 years of her life providing education and health care for those placed in her charge. She did this in union with a group of Women Religious who would be known as the Sisters of Charity. She died at the age of 46 on January 4, 1821. Her exemplary life and heroic virtue led Pope John XXIII to promulgate her beatification on March 17, 1963. Ours was the first parish in the world placed under her patronage. The parish name changed from Blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton upon her canonization on September 14, 1975.
Catholic roots in Shrub Oak soil go far deeper. In 1897 the parish of Saint John the Evangelist was erected on Main Street across from the present library. The bell that summons us to gather as a worshiping community, heralds the "Angelus," tolls at our funerals and peals at our weddings, is the actual bell of Saint John's Church in founded 1897. The bell is inscribed "St. John the Evangelist Church, Reverend John McEvoy, Rector, Shrub Oaks, NY, 1897. McNeely Bell Co., Troy, NY, USA." Three mission churches were established during the next 19 years: Saint Peter’s (now known as Saint Patrick’s) in Yorktown Heights; Saint Paul’s in Lake Oscawana; and Saint George’s in Mohegan Lake. As it is with the ebb and flow of the tides, the needs of the changing and growing community called for the closing of Saint John’s in 1918. Nevertheless, the life of the Catholic community here continued to flourish. Many of our older parishioners can vividly recall First Communions, weddings, Midnight Masses, and a host of other formative spiritual events in the Chapel of Saint George. Our chapel dedicated to Our Lady and sacristy contain the permanent and prominent display of two of the precious LaFarge stained glass windows that once adorned the historic Saint George Chapel.
Monsignor Robert Delaney of Saint Patrick’s purchased 33 acres of land for $38,000, with foresight and in anticipation of the time when a new parish would be formed from the western portion of Saint Patrick’s. The growth of the local area led Cardinal Spellman, to establish our parish. He appointed the Right Reverend Monsignor Arthur F. Nugent, founding pastor. The Normandy style chapel of Saint George remains a notable landmark. In November 1964 the kick-off drive was initiated for our sixteen-classroom school and auditorium. While the school was set to open in the fall of 1966, the registration had already begun as early as February of that year.
In August of 1966 six Sisters of Charity arrived to provide Catholic education for our children. The school auditorium would serve as our parish "church" for more than 17 years. Through perseverance, persistence, prayer and much persuasion, Monsignor Nugent guided the parishioners in the building of our convent, our rectory, and finally in 1980, the present church. In 1993 the front entrance to the church was added by Msgr. Fogarty and our sanctuary was refurbished and Our Lady Memorial Chapel constructed by Bishop McCarthy. Together with the Sisters of Charity, especially with the herculean dedication of our present principal of almost 4 decades, Sister Gabriel Obraz, SC, Monsignor Nugent (d. November 1981) and his successor Monsignor Edmund F. Fogarty (d. August 1996), provided the educational and sacramental nourishment for the parishioners, as a parish is more than bricks and mortar. The youngsters who greeted Cardinal Spellman when he came for the dedication of the new parish are now grandparents, and their children greeted Cardinal John O’Connor when he came to celebrate the funeral Mass for Monsignor Fogarty. In 1996, Cardinal O’Connor appointed Monsignor James F. McCarthy as the third pastor of our parish, with Father S. Kulandairajan, Father Matthew Grier and Father Joseph Giandurco serving as associate pastors. In 2002 Father George Lodi was appointed associate pastor. Msgr. Thomas Sandi arrived in September 2002. They continue to guide us on our way to the Lord's kingdom.
On Palm Sunday 2002, we blessed the devotional chapel dedicated to the Blessed Mother. It is a chapel that memorializes children who have died. A 'perpetual flame" burns before an original Russian icon of Jesus' Mother, represneting parishioners at prayer. The centerpiece of the chapel is the exquisite sculpture Mary, Heart of Believers, which was created by parishioner Eric Winogradoff, out of 10-ton piece of Carrera marble. This image of Mary, in memory of all the deceased children of Seton, will forever inspire confidence for all who come to her seeking her consolation and intercession.
Pope John Paul II has said that a parish is "a family of families." In all we do, we seek to be faithful to this ideal. The life of any family is marked by memories and hopes—by tears and laughter, so too is our parish life. We can look back at a relatively young parish of 40 years, proud of what the grace of God has made of us.