The Church of Sacred Heart, Monroe, New York, was incorporated under the Religious Corporations Laws of the State of New York on November 13, 1896 and recorded in the Orange County Clerk's Office on December 1, 1896.
Since the building of our present Church at Still Road in 1991, the former Church on Stage Road is now known as the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Stage Road is the oldest residential area of Monroe. Here, a member of picturesque wooden homes, built in the 18th and 19th centuries, flank the Chapel, which itself is in excellent example of a small, wood frame church.
The earliest settlers in the area were Dutch who eventually relinquished the area to the English in 1707. Queen Anne of England granted patent rights under the Cheesecock Patent to early English settlers from Southhold, Long Island. The southern portion of Orange County, including the town of Monroe, was settled as early as 1702. The Smith Family was in the town as early as 1727, and the name “Smith Clove” appears in the earliest records.
Organized in 1799, the town was named Cheesecock. Then by an act of the New York State Legislature, on April 2, 1801, it was renamed Southfield, and on April 6, 1808, yet another act was passed conferring upon in the name of Monroe in honor of James Monroe, the distinguished statesman, who would later become the fifth president of the United States.
Beginnings of a Parish
Sacred Heart was established in 1867. Parish records indicate that Father O’Hare was the first priest assigned here. During the next few years, six successive priests ministered to the spiritual needs of Monroe’s Catholics. As recorded in The Official Catholic Directory from 1850 through 1889 several priests traveled from various locations such as: Haverstraw (1850); Piermont (1856); Goshen (1870); Chester (1881-1896) to “attend” to St. Mary’s of Monroe. Initially, Mass was celebrated either in private homes or in public halls.
The Rev. Edward J. Byrnes purchased the property of the future chapel site from Calvin and Mary Anderson on April 1, 1877. Rev. Byrnes subsequently deeded the property to St. Stephen’s in the Village of Warwick on September 17, 1887. This home was later renovated into a Chapel and named St. Mary’s Church of Monroe. The transfer of deed to St. Stephen’s deemed St. Mary’s a mission Church of St. Stephen’s, Warwick until the deed was later transferred to St. Columba’s, in Chester, New York.
St. Mary’s became a mission Church of St. Columba’s parish in 1896 and remained so until 1957. The project to build a new Church was initiated in 1896 under the direction of the Reverend Francis E. Hannigan of St. Columba’s parish.
Correspondence contained in the Archives of the Archdiocese of New York indicates that previous attempts to build a Church were unsuccessful. There was concern that if this attempt failed, religion in the Monroe area would be harmed. Father Hannigan stated in a letter to Archbishop Corrigan, April 13, 1896, that “…after previous disappointments, another one will certainly be very harmful to religion in Monroe, the present place is unsafe, and eventually people will refuse to attend Mass there.”
Father Hannigan vigorously canvassed Monroe for pledges for the building of the new Roman Catholic house of worship. The Church was meant to continue to be called St. Mary’s but Father Hannigan obtained permission to change the name to Sacred Heart Church after the popular devotion, which was widespread at the time.
Arrangements were made to rent a hall from May to November 1896 so that Mass would continue safely without interruption. During this time the original Chapel of St. Mary’s was demolished and on the same site the new Church would be built.
The cornerstone of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reads 1896. Inside it is a copper box containing the pictures of Archbishop Michael Corrigan, Bishop John M. Farley and Reverend Dean Penny, as well as an historical record of the parish. Monsignor Mooney blessed the cornerstone on July 5, 1896.
The contract for Sacred Heart Church was awarded to Bevier and Culver of Florida, New York at the accepted bid of $4800 – exclusive of the altar, pews and windows. Archbishop Corrigan consecrated the new Church on October 11, 1896.
In the early years of Sacred Heart Church the parishioners helped support the parish by renting their pews! The earliest financial report available, dated 1890, indicates Sacred Heart, then St. Mary’s, Monroe, was still a mission Church of St. Columba’s Parish in Chester, New York, As the years went by, the parishioners would organize themselves to establish an independent Christian community.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, there were 200 Catholic families living in Monroe year round. Sacred Heart was primarily a resort Church with the majority of parishioners being “summer people”. During the 1950s, when the population of Monroe started to grow, Cardinal Spellman defined new parish boundaries for Sacred Heart and again established Sacred Heart an independent parish community in 1957. Monsignor John J. McCallen was appointed the first pastor and served for twenty-three years until his retirement on July 31, 1980. In 1964, the Monsignor founded Sacred Heart School and constructed the present convent, school, and auditorium/gymnasium. The auditorium/gymnasium is named in his honor.
In the summer of 1980, Father William Rooney succeeded Monsignor McCallen as the second pastor of Sacred Heart Church.
In 1991, on Christmas Eve, a 600-seat edifice was opened. Though a magnificent “cathedral-like “ Church had been built on Still Road near the intersection of Route 17M and the old Snee Farm, the Chapel is still used almost every day of the year and open for prayer.
In September 1993, Father Carl D. Johnson was appointed Administrator of Sacred Heart parish by Cardinal John J. O’Connor, Archbishop of New York. Then in April 1995, Father Johnson became the third pastor. The following year, 1996, Fr. Carl had the honor of celebrating a special Mass in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Chapel. In 2006, Mgr. Brian Barrett was assigned by Cardinal Edward Egan as the fourth pastor of Sacred Heart followed by the current and fifth pastor, Father Thomas Byrnes in September of 2007.