St. Cecilia’s Church and Father Edward McGoldrick

Saint Cecilia’s is a Roman Catholic church at North Henry and Herbert streets, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. It is named for Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. It is one of the architectural gems of Brooklyn and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Although he did not found the church, Monseigneur McGoldrick was the driving force behind the parish for fifty years. When Fr. Edward McGoldrick arrived in Greenpoint in November of 1888, St. Cecilia’s was a tiny, working class parish centered around a crumbling wooden church with a badly leaking roof. McGoldrick knew that a new church must be built. The child of Irish immigrants, McGoldrick was ordained in the Lateran of Rome and as a young priest he traveled widely, seeing many stunning European cathedrals His goal was to create a beautiful church that inspired faith.

His parish was hardly rich. Most of his parishioners were working class Irish who lacked the funds to build a great structure, but this would not stop the determined priest. McGoldrick proved to be charismatic preacher and church leader. in his first two years as pastor, the parish raised $40,000 for the construction of a new church at a time when the average salary of the largely immigrant population was $15 a week. Somehow, in the f between his conception of the new church and its completion, McGoldrick raised the necessary $250,000.

McGoldrick envisioned a Romanesque Basilica in limestone. A shipment of limestone was mistakenly shipped to New York where it was placed in storage. Hearing of the shipment he bought it far below coast and hired architect Thomas H. Poole and the firm Byrne and Perry to build the church. The cornerstone was laid on September 27, 1891 by the first Bishop of Brooklyn, John Loughlin.

McGoldrick was a beloved figure,but perhaps his parishioners most loved him during the Great Depression. By some estimates half of Greenpoint was out of work and the church helped feed dozens of hungry families.

He died in 1938 and left a large vibrant parish. In 1941 Winthrop Park was renamed in his honor.

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