History of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
In the 1870's and 1880's Catholics who lived in Elmsford had to travel by stage or wagon to St. Theresa's Church in North Tarrytown or St. John's Church in White Plains.
With the arrival of the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad in the early 1880's, Elmsford's population grew. Men who were building the railroad, Kensico Dam and the Aqueduct settled in the area with their families. The trolley line was built from White Plains to Elmsford in 1895 and the line was extended to Tarrytown in 1897.
In 1897 the Carmelite Fathers opened Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown. Elmsford residents were able to attend mass there. The trolley on Tarrytown Road made it easier to get there.
The Carmelite Fathers saw the growth of the Catholic population in Elmsford and requested that a parish be formed. Cardinal Farley agreed and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish was started in 1904. We were a mission parish of Transfiguration Church.
The first land was acquired from the Luscomb Family and at the end of 1904, construction of the first church building was completed. It stood where the present church is located. The Carmelite Fathers celebrated the first 11;1ass there in 1905. In 1908 and 1910 additional land parcels were purchased. As the parish continued to grow, Cardinal Farley changed the church to a permanent parish.
The Carmelite Fathers continued their devoted service to our parish. Records show the first Baptism by the Carmelites was performed February 1905 and the last Baptism by a Carmelite Father took place on May 25, 1913. .
In 1913, Cardinal Farley appointed a Diocesan priest, Father Arthur Kenny, as the first pastor. Some say the Cardinal did not want two adjoining Carmelite parishes.
Father Kenny performed his first Baptism at Mount Carmel on May 31, 1913. Father Kenny was kept very busy during his ten years of service in Elmsford with religious instructions and administering the Sacraments. The Catholic Daughters and the Holy Name Society were formed at the time and they helped Father with the many needs and services on the parish.
Father Kenny acquired another parcel of land in 1914, most likely to construct a rectory. A large house was built mid-block on the land facing_ Main Street.
In 1910, Elmsford became an incorporated village - one square mile. Our parish boundary lines, however, extended much further. The lines went north to Valhalla and Eastview to Tarrytown Lakes, they went west to Glenville and Taxter Road, south to Worthington and Dobbs Ferry Road then east to the White Plains City line - approximately five square miles.
After W odd War I, many new residents continued to settle in Elmsford. Communion and Confirmation classes were large. An early budget of the Mount Carmel showed that funds and expenses were held to a minimum. One early budget had the operational cost and collections at $3,300 for the year. The mortgage payment was $65 for the year. More automobiles appeared and people were able to get to Mass ,easier and this helped our parish grow.
Father Kenny left our parish on June 12, 1923.
Father James Hackett arrived in 1923 and started a long and dedicated service to Mount Carmel. He began to purchase lots to extend our parish grounds. From 1926 to 1942, eleven parcels were purchased. Although land was relatively inexpensive, many sacrifices were made to accomplish this.
The parish had many children and Father Hackett felt the important need of a parochial school. The Rosary Society and other groups were formed at this time. Fund drives were started to acquire money to construct a school and church.
In 1928, as Tarrytown Road was widened from two lanes to six and the trolleys were removed and replaced with buses, permission was granted and plans were drawn for a church and school.
A building permit was issued on September 6, 1928 with an estimated construction cost of $195,000. The old church was moved to Mortimer Avenue where the rectory sits today. Construction started and moved rapidly ahead. The building was completed in time to open school in September, 1929.
The school started with four grades - first to fourth. The Sisters of the Divine Compassion of White Plains were assigned to teach and Sister Mary Sebastian was appointed the first principal.
The Sisters continued to live at the Mother House and the parish obtained a large car to transport them to and from White Plains. The custodian, Ward Speed, drove the car. In later years, the Sisters drove themselves.
Classes were small but increased yearly. With the beginning of the Depression, funds were hard to obtain. Father Hackett and the parishioners made many sacrifices to raise money to pay the mortgage and fund the school. The old church was used as a garage, social activity room and a library for the school.
The first graduation was held in 1934 - a proud day for the parish and our village - one of the smallest villages in the state.
Many organizations were formed in the 1930's - CYO, Boy and Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies and School Club. OLMC became a social hub for many community activities.
In December 1941, WWII began, a sad time for our country and many of our men and women went off to war. Father Hackett conducted special services for our men and women in uniform and an honor roll was placed in Our Blessed Mother's care. Our parishioners worked very hard and made many sacrifices during those trying times.
The end of the war brought a new era to the country and Mount Carmel. New housing developments were started all over the parish and membership in our parish grew at a fast rate. When the "baby boomers" arrived, the lower class sizes approached sixty students. The Sisters and the lay teachers performed wondrous deeds during those times.
Father Hackett began to tire after 24 years at Mount Carmel- he had been gassed in WWI. His mission here had been accomplished - the mortgage had been paid on the church and school. Father Hackett was transferred to Saint Francis of Rome Church in the Bronx on January 25, 1947. This was a sad day for our parish. Father passed away in less than a year.
Monsignor James Jones was our next pastor. A new era began with many changes. Bazaars, feasts, plays, dinners and other activities helped raise funds.
At this time, the men of the parish built the shrine to Our Lady that still stands today.
Monsignor Jones left July 1, 1950 and was replaced by Monsignor Francis Murphy. Many assistant priests came to Mount Carmel during these years. They worked very hard assisting the Sisters with the school children and religious education classes.
Father Charlton Bums came to Mount Carmel as an administrative assistant May 24, 1952. He became pastor in May 1953. Father Bums brought many changes to Mount Carmel.
Sister Mary Sebastian Walsh retired in 1953. She had served Mount Carmel School for 24 years. Sister Rosemarie Foster became principal after teaching for many years at our school.
In 1954 a fund drive was held to replace the old rectory. The parishioners' generous contributions exceeded the fund goal. In 1955, the rectory and the new sacristy were built. The old church had been tom down to make room for the rectory.
The old rectory was demolished and the present lawn was landscaped. This land was retained for the future in the event a separate church was built.
Father Bums became a Monsignor. This was a wonderful time for our parish. The Mothers' Guild was formed in 1955. They became an important asset to our school and parish.
Sister Mary Mercedes Fanning became principal in 1957. The growth of our parish and school brought many activities to help support them. Mount Carmel feasts and bazaars became very important.
Monsignor Burns started a fund drive to build a new convent. The drive was over subscribed and a convent was built. Sister Mercedes oversaw the design and furnishing of the convent and chapel. It was completed in the summer of 1963. Sister Mary Rose Golden became principal that summer. The convent was dedicated for opening of school in September. Our Sisters finally had a permanent home in our parish. They had commuted from White Plains for 33 years.
Pope John XXIII opened Vatican II Council in 1963. This brought many changes to Mount Carmel over the next twenty years.
The altar was placed in the center of the sanctuary. .The priest 'now faced the congregation. Lectors were trained to lead the prayers (now in English) instead of Latin. The main altar and the communion rail were taken down.
Sister Mary Stephen Healy became principal in the fall of 1966. We are blessed to have Sister with us. She has worked tirelessly to raise funds to keep our school in operation at the highest level of excellence.
In 1969, a Parish Council was formed to help the Pastor administer the Parish and many of its committees.
Monsignor Burns was replaced by Monsignor John F. O'Donahue on February 22, 1969.
In 1970, Mount Carmel School found it necessary to charge tuition. The school had operated for forty years without it. A proud accomplishment, thanks to our dedicated Sisters and parishioners.
Over the next few years additional changes occurred. Girls were allowed to become altar servers, men and women became Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word.
Our Mount Carmel Feast became such a large event that it was moved to DeLuca Park. The feast raised needed funds for our parish. The many attractions included rides, booths and all kinds of food.
Bingo was started in our parish and still continues today. The many workers that made Bingo possible are to be congratulated for their years of dedicated service to raise funds.
Monsignor Harold J. Robertson replaced Monsignor O'Donahue on September 1, 1983. Our CCD program was enlarged. The volunteers who help teach religious education to our youth are to be congratulated.
Father Vincent A. Lancellotti arrived on July 6, 1991. Father brought many new ideas and changes to our parish. He had our grounds completely redone. Flowers and shrubs were planted. Father had our church refurbished. The sanctuary was rebuilt with marble floors, new altar, pulpit and accessories. The side rooms were opened and a baptistery was built. On the other side, the Tabernacle was placed in its oWn alcove. The church was repainted and decorated. New pews were installed. This is our beautiful church of today.
Father Lancelloti retired on March 1, 2001 and was replaced by Father Thomas P. D'Angelo. Father D'Angelo has actively led our Parish Council and Anniversary Committee during the anniversary year.
The 100th Anniversary Year was opened with the Celebration of the Holy Mass by Monsignor Patrick Boyle, Vicar of Southern Westchester on Sunday, June 22, 2003. The bell from the old church was refurbished for the occasion and blessed. The 100th Anniversary Banner was also blessed. A reception followed in the school gym.
Concurrent with the centenary of our parish is the 75th Anniversary of our parish school. Since first opening its doors in September 1929, the school has been administered and staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Compassion. Witnessing by their lives to God's compassionate presence in our world, the Sisters have led by word and example. All through the years, the school has reflected their apostolic vitality and their commitment to the intellectual and moral values of Catholic education.
Our parish will hold a 100th Anniversary Dinner Dance on Saturday, May 8, 2004 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, New York. The souvenir journal will be distributed on this occasion.
The closing liturgy of our 100 years at Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be celebrated by Cardinal Edward M. Egan at Noon on June 20, 2004. A reception will be held following Mass to welcome the Cardinal.'
The first hundred years of our parish have coincided with one of the most turbulent centuries in human history, marked by ceaseless innovation and profound transformation. Amidst all of these changes, we have experienced two constants: God's fidelity to us and our faith in the person and message of Jesus Christ. As we celebrate the Centenary of our parish, let us together thank God for the gift of His enduring presence among us and for the constancy of His love. United in the heart of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, may we remain steadfast in our faith, witnesses to the truth and beauty of Christ's teaching, eager to move our parish forward into its second century as a vibrant center of Christian discipleship.