St Martin de Porres
Parish History Highlights (1962-2012)
-In 1962, the Nativity Church which was located in the City of Poughkeepsie was forced to close because the building was deemed unsafe. Francis Cardinal Spellman, than Archbishop of New York, assigned Rev. Pius Sommer to recruit members of the Spackenkill / Red Oaks Mill community to form a new parish in the Red Oaks Mill section of Poughkeepsie.
-On May 6, 1962, Francis Cardinal Spellman was attending the canonization of Martin de Porres, a Dominican lay brother; Cardinal Spellman decided that the Red Oaks Mill parish would be the home to the first parish to be named in honor of this new saint, Martin de Porres.
-The Archdiocese planned a multipurpose structure for our new parish; the building could be used as a church but would also serve to hold meeting and social functions. Although construction was delayed, Fr. Sommer kept his promise to the new parishioners of St. Martin’s that Mass would be celebrated in the new church on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1962.
- In September, 1964 St Martin’s school opened with 200 students in grades one to three. The Sisters of St. Dominic from Blauvelt provided the educational leadership for the school and religious education program. The first principal of St. Martin’s School was Sr. Joanna Glover a nun from the order of the Sisters of St. Dominic from Blauvelt. Within a year the school expanded to the eight grades with a total enrollment of 461.
-In 1965, Fr. John Brinn was transferred to St. Martin de Porres.
- In 1975, Father John Flattery became administrator of St. Martin’s and subsequently became Pastor in June, 1976. Fr. Flattery constructed the present rectory closer to the church and school to better serve the needs of our community. In addition, he made improvements to Calvary Cemetery, which was originally administered by Nativity Church. During Fr. Flattery’s tenure as pastor, St. Martin’s formed the Knights of Columbus, Council #7551 in 1980.
-On March 1, 1982, Terence Cardinal Cooke assigned Father Edwin Koenig as pastor. Father Koenig was determined to continue to bring life to our parish. He established a number of parish committees which were designed to have parishioners involved in liturgy, parish life, and community outreach programs.
-On May 8, 1983, Father John Brinn was appointed by Terence Cardinal Cooke as our next pastor. Father Brinn continued to add to the committees formed by Father Koenig. Father Brinn started the RCIA program at St. Martins. In January 1994, Father John Brinn’s 29-year association with St. Martin’s as a priest and pastor came to a close when Father Brinn was named pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Poughkeepsie. One parishioner recently recalled his care for Father Flattery in his final illness, which she saw as emblematic of his care for us all. Father Brinn visited the sick in hospitals and at home, he stood outside after every Mass to give parishioners an opportunity to talk to him without having to make an appointment, and he was always available to help individuals and families. His humor, his ready smile, and his gentle and encouraging homilies will always be remembered.
- In February 1994, John Cardinal O’Connor appointed Father Brian McWeeney as our pastor. Father Brian devoted himself to making St. Martin’s the number one school in the Archdiocese and to fulfilling the long-deferred dream of building a new church in which our growing community would worship for years to come! In the brochure “Our Church, Our Future”, the first page had a letter from Father Brian which stated enthusiastically the objective of the campaign, a new church building. On November 3, 1996, the feast of St. Martin, the ground breaking of the new church was held.
-On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1997, even though the church was not totally complete, we celebrated the first Mass in the new church. The magnificent bronze statue of St. Martin provides a spiritual meditation in itself and is a focal point as we enter the church. The statue was created by Arden Witherwax, an artist from Pleasant ValleyNew York.
-On May 24, 1998, John Cardinal O’Connor dedicated the new church. The completion of the new Church allowed the parish to begin the process of converting our original “multipurpose structure”, which would be called the NativityCenter, to be reclaimed as a meeting and hospitality space to support the many active groups and ministries in the parish. The building of the church and the remodeling of the NativityCenter did not complete the list of capital needs in our parish. The school, which was almost 40 years old, was in need of both renovations and new technologies. Under Father Brain’s direction, a campaign to raise $1.2 million to construct an addition costing $2.9 million was as successful as the previous campaign to build the church. Not only were the rooms used for instruction by the school and the religious education program, they were technologically up-to-date. A parish lounge and an elevator were also added.
- In December 2004, Edward Cardinal Egan appointed Msgr. James P. Sullivan as pastor of St. Martin’s. A cross was erected at the entrance of NativityCemetery to identify the cemetery as a Catholic cemetery. The Knights of Columbus council 7551 raised the funds and on October 22, 2010 they dedicated the cross to their deceased members. After Mary Jane Daley, principal of St. Martin’s School, left to become the education leader for the upper counties of the Archdiocese on New York. Mrs. Kathleen Leahy became the principal of St. Martin de Porres School. The traditional academic excellence of the school and its example of Catholic faith in action has long been prized by the parish. The recognition of the school in 2012 as a “Blue Ribbon School of Excellence” by the U.S. Dept. of Education comes as a great honor to our school facility and administration.
-One person has truly embodied what we like to call “The Spirit of St. Martin’s”, and that is John Drain, who for over 40 years assisted every pastor with his financial acumen and gentle character. It was fitting that the most recent addition to the school, the school cafeteria, was named in his honor, and that of his wife Pat. The financial, educational, and spiritual health of St. Martin de Porres owes much to his leadership. In December 2011, the cafeteria was dedicated by Timothy Cardinal Dolan; this dedication also began our 50th year celebration. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our Parish we reflect on its history. The Parish of St. Martin de Porres provides a beautiful example of the church community as the People of God. Priests, deacons and laity alike, come together to share their gifts and their lives in the service of God through the parish and community. Each pastor, priest and deacon who has served our parish, has come to us with his individual talents, strengths, and interests. Each has used their talents that God has provided them to enhance our lives as individuals, parish and as a community.