St. Ann’s Pastors

Rev. John Quinn 1869-1875
Rev. William Perry  1975-1890
Rev. James Crosby  1890-1934
Rev. John Farrelly  1934-1945
Rev. Michael Murphy  1945-1954
Rev. Msgr. Charles Giblin  1954-1961
Rev. Msgr. John Kane  1961-1966
Rev. Msgr. Arthur Campbell  1966-1979
Rev. George Reinheimer  1979-1986
 Rev. Donald Whelan  1986-1987
 Rev. Msgr. Edmund Netter  1987-1996
 Rev. Robert Henry  1996-2007
 Rev. Rees Doughty  2007- 2015
 Rev. Vladimir Chripko 2015-future


  • The History of St. Ann’s Parish

    The beginnings of organized Catholicism in Rockland County can be traced back to 1832, when the Right Reverend John Dubois, S.S., D.D., Third Bishop of the Diocese of New York, bought 160 acres of farmland in the area that was later called Upper Nyack.  The land housed a sprawling farmhouse and numerous buildings, and was located in the section that later became the area between North Broadway and North Midland Avenues, south of Lexow Avenue.  The property ran up to the top of Hook Mountain.  Here Bishop Dubois planned to build a much needed seminary for priests and a church for Nyack Catholics.

    The Diocese of New York was then twenty-four years old, having been created in 1808.  At that time the Diocese covered a vast area, comprising the entire State of New York and Eastern New Jersey.  There were only four priests to attend about 13,000 Catholics in this great region, so that a seminary for the training of priests was greatly needed.

    There were but few Catholics in Rockland County in the 1830s having been settled by Dutch and Huguenot pioneers who were determined to preserve their own milieu.

    In 1833, the work of erecting the seminary was commenced under Rev. Father McGeary.  Later, it was carried on by Rev. Father Marshall, and finally by Rev. John McCloskey, the first native New Yorker to be ordained and later the first American Cardinal.  Father McCloskey was appointed pastor in charge and celebrated the first Mass in Rockland County…in a house on Broadway north of the Green homestead.  Father McCloskey also opened a school said to have been in the original farmhouse of the premises purchased by Bishop Dubois.

    The building of the seminary took five years.  When it was finished in 1837, it was a three-story brownstone edifice, 80 feet long and 40 feet deep, with two wings.  Unhappily, just as it was completed, a workman boiling eggs for his lunch in the midst of mounds of carpenter’s shavings started a fire that destroyed the entire structure.  This blow to Bishop Dubois’s hopes was disheartening and he sold the parcel of land.

    For about ten years after the seminary was destroyed in 1837, Mass was celebrated in private homes in the vicinity.  For weddings and confirmations, Catholics traveled by boat to Jersey City or to New York City.

    With the first Mass on January 1, 1852 at St. John’s in Piermont and the establishment of that parish, Catholics in Nyack could take the River Road to St. John’s in order to hear Mass and receive the sacraments.  But travel in the 1850’s was not easy.  In dry weather the roads were ribbons of dust and in rainy weather their deep holes and ruts were swamped with water.  In winter, snow and ice made travel difficult.

    And so in 1865, with the Catholic population increasing in Nyack, a small mission chapel was set up in an empty loft over a blacksmith’s shop at Bridge and Main Streets.  Here the pastor of St. John’s, Father John Quinn, came to say Mass once a month, returning the same day to his church in Piermont.

    The difficulty of travel in those days is well illustrated by the christening ceremony of one of our parishioners, Mrs. Mary Whalen, nee Mary A. Mitchell.  The infant Mary was born on September 22, 1866 in Nyack and her baptism presented several travel problems for her uncle and aunt who were her sponsors.  They lived in Tuckahoe and the day following her birth, walked to Yonkers so that they might take the steamboat Chrystenah  to Nyack.  Wishing to return home that night, they borrowed a horse and rig and drove the same day to Piermont with the infant Mary so that Father Quinn could perform the ceremony of baptism.

    It can be understood, then, why the Catholics in Nyack wished to build their own church.  In 1867, they purchased four lots (from Grace Church) on Jefferson Street and made plans to build a new structure.

    In 1869, the Archbishop of New York, Most Reverend John McCloskey, raised our Mission to the status of a parish under the title of St. Ann Church.  This Archbishop was the same Father McCloskey who, as a young priest, had been in charge of the construction of Bishop Dubois’s seminary in Nyack in 1837.  Now he was the Archbishop of New York soon to become the first American Cardinal in 1875.

    It might well be said that the establishment of our parish by Bishop McCloskey in 1869 was official recognition of the fact that the parishioners were building their own church.  For in January of that year, in the depths of winter, the building of the church was started.  It was completed by the end of the year.  A great portion of the work was done by the parishioners themselves.  The edifice was a small Romanesque church the apex of which could be seen surmounting Fitzsimmons Hall until…fired destroyed the [latter] in 1968.

    On January 1, 1870, the first Mass in our new church was celebrated by Father Quinn.  Eight months later, on September 18th, the church was formally dedicated.  For five years Father Quinn administered St. Ann’s, while remaining pastor of St. John’s, until he died in 1875, greatly mourned by his people in Piermont and Nyack.  Reverend William L. Penny, Father Quinn’s assistant, was then appointed pastor of St. Ann’s and St. John’s Church by Cardinal McCloskey.


    • The First Rectory, and Expansion!

      In 1885, Father Penny acquired his own rectory adjacent to the church and became our first resident pastor.  Six years later, in 1891, Father Penny became pastor of St. Patrick’s in Newburgh and Dean of Orange and Rockland Counties.

      Reverend James L. Crosby then came to Nyack as Pastor of St. Ann’s.  For his expanding parish Father Crosby bought the adjoining house and grounds of Reverend Franklin Babbitt, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church.  The new purchase gave St. Ann’s much needed space.  The parish now owned about three-quarters of a city block, and within a few months, Father Crosby had transformed the house into a primary parochial school.  Three Sisters of Charity, headed by Sister Mary Edwine, opened the first classes in September 1892.

      An increasing Catholic population now made a larger church necessary.  Father Crosby received a magnificent donation from Miss Mary Hackett and he began to make plans for a new edifice.  The congregation, though poor, was generous.  Funds for the new structure began to mount, but even so, the cost seemed to be beyond the resources of most parishioners.  The exceeding generosity of the Marquise Helena de San Marzano, a Nyack resident, made the completion of the church possible and its enlargement beyond their initial plans.  Ground was broken for the new church in 1893 and construction was begun.

      By this time, the parochial school had outgrown its quarters.  In March 1894, construction was started to build a new school on the south side of the old church.  During this time, temporary classes were held in a private house on Jefferson Street formerly owned by the Colson family.

      The new school was opened in September 1894 and its curriculum expanded.   Now four Sisters were engaged to teach with the principal Sister Mary Edwine.  The old stone house that had been the first school then became the kindergarten.

    • The New Church & the Stained Glass Windows

      The erection of the new church took two years.  The architect, Marshall Emery of Nyack, had built many of the famous houses throughout the countryside.  The architectural style of the church is a free expression of early English Gothic architecture.

      On Sunday, June 16, 1895, the new church was opened with a Solemn High Mass of Consecration.  At the time, a new church might have been opened but not consecrated unless it was free of debt.  Because of the generosity of the Marquise Helena de San Marzano, St. Ann’s was able to be consecrated on the day of its opening.

      It was the first Pontifical High Mass ever celebrated in Rockland Country.  Fifty priests took part in a procession to the altar, followed by acolytes, censer bearer, cross bearer, offices of the Mass, with the Right Reverend Henry Garbriels, Bishop of Ogdensburg, as the celebrant.  At its end, Archbishop Corrigan offered the Apostolic Blessing.

      From the Rockland County Journal of June 22, 1892:  “one of the many pleasing incidents of the day which attracted marked attention:  the service as acolyte to the Archbishop of Oliver Terrall, a young [African American boy].  To those not members of Saint Ann’s Congregation, it was a surprise to find that there was no color line in the Sanctuary.”

      The stained glass windows of the church were from the Royal Bavarian Art Establishment of Munich, Germany, and were made of English antique glass, which was brought to Munich and reformed and colored.  Their brilliance of color and depth of hue are due to the properties of the glass and to the chemical composition of the colors used by the artist.

      Even in those days, stained glass windows were costly.  The two large groups on the right and the left front of the church cost $35,000, while the windows in the sanctuary cost $35,000.  (The cost of the other windows could not be ascertained.)

    • The Architect & Architecture

      {The following was provided by Win Perry of the Nyack Library Historical Society, courtesy of Nancy Conroy.}

      Marshall Emery was probably not yet 30 years when he received his commission to design St. Ann Church in 1893.  He had graduated from Columbia University’s School of Architecture and had been a supervising architect during the construction of the Catholic Cathedral in Albany in 1892, prior to moving to Nyack with his family.  Subsequently, he and his brother, who was also an architect, set about designing at least four homes in Nyack, the Nyack Public Library, the YMCA, the Village Hall, the First Reformed Church, the first building of Nyack Hospital, the Harrison and Dalley Department Store and the entrance to Oak Hill Cemetery among others.

      {The following was excerpted from an article by Patricia Leahy Meriam, written for the Parish’s 125 Anniversary Journal.  Patricia was herself baptized in Saint Ann’s in 1961.}

      [Emery designed the church during] a late period of American Gothic Revival architecture known as “Arts and Crafts” style, a reaction against classical styles of architecture…[Such designs] strove to evoke an emotional experience, emanating God’s gifts of the earth and reminding man to look to God for answers and fulfillment.  The buildings of this period seem to rise from the materials of the earth and lead the eye toward the sky and heaven with their finials and towers…

      Local artists and craftsmen were employed by the Emerys to create millwork, interior stenciling, painting and glasswork.  Stone for these buildings was acquired from local quarries…  The brownstone may have come from the quarry at Hook Mountain in Upper Nyack…

      St. Ann’s Church shows us the creative way the Emerys used building materials to create pattern and expression.  A heavy brownstone was used in the foundation and lower walls to give the building an impression of weight and a connection with the earth.  The building appears to lighten up and pick up a graceful movement as the brickwork becomes the substance of the building, eventually opening into a lacy pattern toward the eaves of the roof and in the tracery of the bell tower.

      The interior of the church is outstanding, although many of the historically significant furnishings have been altered or removed.  The roof of the nave is supported by heavy wooden trusses.  These trusses have beautifully colored stenciling illustrative of the artistic periods of the period.  A starry sky of gold leaf on a blue field originally appeared in the apse.

      The Church is a monument to craftsmanship for which Nyack has become famous.  The Emorys’ style, while based on a broader national movement, is distinctive and weaves the major buildings of Nyack into a cohesive community.  The architecture of St. Ann’s Church celebrates the gifts of God to man and offers inspiration to those who worship [here].