Parish History

 

St. Mark began as a mission church with no resident pastor and no church building until September 6, 1868, when Mrs. Ellen McMahon, owner of Atlantic Hotel and a convert to the faith, donated the ground at the Bay Road.   Parishioners donated money and labor to erect a wooden framed church measuring 20x30 feet, which was built on piles that was named in honor of St. Mark, the Evangelist.  The Church building had seating accommodations for approximately 200 people with a cost of $2000.  It was destroyed by fire in 1890.
 
During this time, a large number of wealthy people were beginning to settle in Sheepshead Bay.  In 1884, a second church with a frame structure was built at Sheepshead Bay Road and East 14th Street.  This church measured 100 X 40 feet with seating capacity of 400 people and a cost of $25,000.  In April, 1888, a certificate of incorporation naming St. Mark R.C. Church of Sheepshead Bay was executed and filed, and in 1891, St. Mark was established as a separate and distinct Parish with Reverend John J. Heffernan as its first pastor.  Rev. Heffernan is credited with increasing the Parish enrollment to 1,300 people with 200 children in the Sunday school by the turn of the century.  
 
Rev. Daniel J. McCarthy was appointed administrator of St. Mark on October 15, 1904.  On November 24, 1905, Rev. John J. Heffernan died in Massachusetts at the home of his brother.  Rev. Daniel J. McCarthy became the second pastor of St. Mark on January 24, 1906.  
 
As new homes were built, the old wooden Church became too small for the growing number of parishioners.  Fr. McCarthy had wisely purchased land from the Long Island Railroad in 1920 with plans for a larger, more permanent church and school.  The cornerstone for the school was set on September 9, 1923.  The school had 9 classrooms and could accommodate 420 children.  
 
Five years later, on October 28, 1928, the blessing and laying of the cornerstone for our current Church building was held at its present location.  Five months later, the old framed Church on Sheepshead Bay Road and East 14th Street (the second St. Mark Church) was destroyed by fire.  The little side altar devoted to the Blessed Mother and the statue of the Blessed Mother were spared in the blaze and were subsequently incorporated by Father McCarthy in the new Church as a shrine and memorial to the old Church.  
 
Construction of the new Church was completed and a Mass of Dedication was held on May 24, 1931.  The Church seated 960 people and the cost of construction was $400,000.  Along with the new Church, a convent and a rectory were built as well.  The Sisters of St. Dominic from East Columbus, Ohio, who administered to the education of the children attending St. Mark School, occupied the convent.   Immediately prior to the exercises for the dedication Mass, Rev. Daniel J. McCarthy was invested in the robes of Monsignor in the new church.  
 
Parish records in 1944 listed the total Catholic population of the Parish at 3,000, with 2,500 as actual attendants at Mass.  Monsignor McCarthy was called to his eternal reward after serving the parishioners of St. Mark for 43 years.  
 
On June 10, 1947, Reverend Walter A. Kiernan was appointed the third Pastor of St. Mark where he served for nine years.  He oversaw the addition of more classrooms and an auditorium for Parish social functions.   
 
Reverend Thomas J. Walsh was appointed as the fourth Pastor of St. Mark on June 30, 1957.  Fr. Walsh is credited with having redecorated the Parish buildings, adding new rooms to the convent and for the landscaping surrounding the grounds.  Fr. Walsh served for over ten years and was succeeded by Reverend Alphonse J. Dallinger.
 
Father Dallinger served as Pastor until he retired in 1979 and is credited with the Sanctuary renovation and the establishment of the Golden Age Society.  Other improvements include modernization of the sound system, and other improvements throughout the Church.  
 
In 1979, Fr. Gerard J. Arella was appointed the sixth Pastor of St. Mark.  During his tenure, Fr. Arella was invested in the robes of Monsignor.  He is credited with establishing a more efficient and fiscally responsible system for handling Parish funds.  He encouraged more lay participation with the use of Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and Leaders of Song.  Monsignor Arella served St. Mark Pairsh until December 2000.
 
In December 2000, Reverend Joseph R. Grimaldi was installed as the seventh Pastor of St. Mark.   Fr. Grimaldi has revitalized the Parish community.  He has restored and revitalized our Church with many improvements and restorations as well as the creation of the Sacred Heart Chapel.  
 
In 2011, St. Mark celebrated its 150th Anniversary.  As the history of St. Mark continues to unfold, it is now up to us to bring St. Mark forward in the spirit of our tradition to assure an even brighter future for our community of faith.