Saint John the Baptist Church – 150 years of Vincentian Presence
Fr. Astor L. Rodriguez CM shares joyful news and photos of the celebration of 150 years of Vincentian presence in the Brooklyn Diocese. Bishop DiMarzio, spoke to the present and former parishioners about how the Vincentian Presence was a blessing not only the community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, but to the whole Diocese.
There were so many beginning – the seminary of the diocese, St. John’s University and St. John’s Prep. The Missionary Servants of Most Blessed Trinity were founded in Perboyre Chapel by a Vincentian, Thomas Judge CM, in 1909. Many branches of the Vincentian Family have served the parish.
Many things have changed during the 150 years. However, Fr. Astor points out that one thing has not changed. All connected with the parish feel blessed and continue to serve in the Vincentian Way.
Last Sunday, June 23, on the Feast Corpus Christi and the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, we celebrated the closing mass of our 150th jubilee year. His excellency Nicolas DiMarzio, Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn was the main celebrant. Fr. Michael Nguyen CM, Fr. Chris Amojo CM, the newly ordained Fr. Luis Romero CM and me, Fr. Astor Rodriguez CM concelebrated. Although many members of the Vincentian Family were invited, only Sr. Chris Mura DC and five seminarians (Alex Palacios, Juan Ajanel, Noe Garcia, Juan Carlos Torres and Erik Sanchez) were able to join us. Over 500 parishioners came to the feast animated after a year of talks, workshops and other activities under the year theme: “We are not what we were, nor what we shall be.” (Saint Vincent de Paul) We are blessed!
Bishop DiMarzio, spoke to the Parish about how the Vincentian Presence was a blessing not only the community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, but to the whole Diocese. Brought here by Bishop John Loughlin in 1868, who had cherished the idea of founding in this city a college that shall take the first rank among the educational institutions of the United States. The Diocese’s seminary was also started here, in the later years became Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, LI.
At one time you could’ve lived your whole life here and never leave. We had school for all ages and services for the whole community, those changed with the changes that the community felt. Hundreds of thousands of people from the Diocese have passed through our doors in one way or another. We had an orphanage, elementary school, St. John’s Prep, St. John’ College (later the University), St. John’s Bread and Life, Family Dynamics, New Horizons, NBBRC (programs for Literacy, GED, ESL and Welfare to work), Covenant House had programs here for the homeless youth in our area. The Missionary Servants of Most Blessed Trinity were founded in our Perboyre Chapel by Fr. Thomas Judge CM in 1909.
Many of our Vincentian Family served here: Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers), Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Charity of Halifax, Sisters of Charity of New York and more. We are members here of Saint Vincent de Paul Society, since the late 1800’s. Vincentian Marian Youth group just recently started and hopefully the Ladies of Charity in the later part of the year. For many years we had group called the Vincentian Companions, a group of collaborators in our works throughout the Eastern Province, which disbanded in the early 2000’s.
Saint John’s has changed a lot over the years, many of the above named educational or social services have left and grown in their own spaces throughout New York City. Many of our people have left, gone home or have passed on. Our church was merged with Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in 2006, as many Churches in our deanery have done.
One thing that has not changed is our Spirit and desire to take care of our people at all levels, continue to build upon our past, knowing that a lot needs to be done and can be done. Besides a wonderful staff: Ms. Janet Rivera-Espinosa, Ms. Eugenia Ortiz, Mr. Froylan Flowers Mrs. Betsy Rodriguez and myself, Bishop Alfonso Cabezas lends a hand when he can. We have a Thrift Shop, that serves people from the entire city and a Pantry that tends to local needs. The neighborhood is changing with gentrification, rents are higher, people are being pushed out and our poor are getting poorer. Collaboration with local religious and city agencies make a difference.
We truly feel blessed to be here and to continue our service the Vincentian Way! Like Saint Vincent de Paul once said: “To be involved in the service of Jesus is a sacred trust to which we have been invited.”
In Christ and Vincent,
Fr. Astor L. Rodriguez CM