|Early Years of Building||Church Structure and Interior Design||Community Growth and Leadership||Changing Times||Post Vatican II|
In 1830 Count Donatien LeRay de Chaumont acquired thousands of acres of land. German and French families from Alsace-Lorraine were the first to settle in Croghan. Several Irish families also immigrated here. From 1831 to 1844 the faith community of St. Stephen’s existed as a mission church being served by the priests from Utica, NY.
The first Catholic Church in Croghan was a log cabin or blockhouse erected in 1831 and measured 20’x30’. It had no windows or doors and the openings for the entrance and ventilation were covered with cloth to keep out the cold and to prevent the wind from putting out the candles. This was the beginning of St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church.
The second Catholic Church was built in 1834 where the former E.M. Marilley & Co. Store is located. On Nov. 1, 1834, Rev. J. Stephen Roffenia celebrated the first Mass in this Church.
The third Catholic Church was built in 1852 and was located where the Village Hall (Croghan Free Library) is located now. In 1872, during the period of this third church building, St. Stephen’s became part of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. February 20, 1876 marks the beginning of the Franciscan Apostolate in the Adirondack foothills. A small group of impoverished and exiled Friars from Fulda, Germany, in search of a haven due to a series of “May Laws” that outlawed religious life were welcomed by Bishop Edgar Wadhams and settled in Croghan.
In 1879 the fourth Catholic Church was built and located at the current site. On April 24, 1902 tragedy struck Croghan. Fire consumed 21 buildings in the Village including St. Stephen’s Church, Monastery, Convent and School. Many were left homeless. Rebuilding of the Village and Church began almost immediately.
On August 22, 1902 the rebuilding of this fifth Catholic Church began under the direction of Fr. Leo Heinrichs, O.F.M. The corner stone for St. Stephen’s Church was laid in 1902. The Romanesque style building was erected of wood measuring 125x65 feet with a steeple rising to a height of 140 feet at a cost of thirty thousand dollars.
The large bell weighing 3,300 pounds arrived in June of 1902. Bishop Henry Gabriels blessed the bell on September 8, 1902. In October 1902 the bell was raised to its place in the tower. The Church was blessed and dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1903. Within two years the church, school, convent and monastery were all rebuilt.
To help reduce the debt of rebuilding of the Church, monastery, school and convent, Fr. Leo resorted to ‘begging’ of sorts to the lumber camps. He traveled as many as sixty miles a day in a sleigh in below zero temperatures to collect alms from the woodsmen to reduce the debt. Fr. Leo writes to a friend under the date of January 27, 1904:
“ I was away to the woods in order to collect among the lumber men. I was away four days each time, and two nights I had to sleep with the men in the camps. The poor fellows have to work so hard early and late and have so little comfort. We drove 100 miles the first trip with the thermometer at zero. The second trip 20 miles one day at 40 degrees below. But covered from head to foot in fur you don’t seem to mind the cold. You have no idea how nice it is to travel through the woods on a clear day when the wind does not disturb the snow. The winter here is the severest that people remember. We had, more or less since the beginning of December, zero to 40 below, and the snowstorms nearly every other day make the roads almost impassable”.
Ongoing Church Improvements
Over the years many improvements were made to the church. Some of the major ones noted here:
In 1910, the E.M. Moller pipe organ was built in Hagerstown, Maryland and installed in the church. It has 36 stops and 1,666 pipes. The organ was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1910. Professor John Pelzer, an accomplished musician from New York City and St. Stephen’s choir, gave a concert of sacred music for the occasion. A special train left Lowville at 1:30 PM to accommodate those who wanted to attend the concert.
In 1925, the Stations of the Cross were installed in the church.
In 1933, general repair and redecoration of the church interior was started. The contract covered all decorations & paintings of the interior of the church at a cost of $ 3,800. The dedication of the newly decorated church interior took place on Nov. 2, 1933
In 1966, in an effort to conform to the Vatican II guidelines, renovation and redecoration of the sanctuary and sections of the interior of the church began. More simple ones replaced the old altars and the sanctuary flooring beneath the main altar was replaced. The color scheme remained the same to preserve the artistic paintings in the nave, sanctuary and ceiling created by Professor Caracciolo in 1933.
In 1975 Father Patrick Callaghan, had the pulpit and altar rail removed, reduced the sanctuary to one altar and procured new ecclesiastical furniture in the sanctuary, which was completely carpeted. A new solid brass tabernacle replaced the wooden tabernacle.
In 2004, the original church and sanctuary metal roofs shingles were replaced. At 101 years old, they were in remarkable condition for their age. The currents shingles have a warranty of 50 years.
The original Romanesque style wood structure church was built in 1902. On August 1, 1933, Professor Louis Caracciolo, an Artist from Chicago with studios in New York City and Ogdensburg was hired to do the work. The nave was decorated in the style of the mosaic work of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and took three full months to complete. Professor Caracciolo graduated from the Royal Academy of Raphael at Urbino, Italy. Many of his paintings and decorations can be seen in churches & cloisters of Italy and in various churches in the United States.
The church ceiling is divided into 3 panels; each containing a painting to represents unity; the patron Saint of the parish, the patroness of the diocese and the patron of the Franciscan Order.
- The back panel above the organ loft we see St. Stephen Martyr, patron of this church, prior to being stoned to death for proclaiming the risen Christ.
- The center panel depicts the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, patroness of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Here the young Mary ascends the stairs of the temple, while her parents, Joachim and Anne looks on.
- The panel in front of the Sanctuary illustrates St. Francis of Assisi, patron of the Franciscan Order. The Franciscan Order served St. Stephen’s Parish from 1876 to 1990 (114 years). St. Francis is shown receiving the Holy Stigmata from six-winged Seraphim in the form of the crucified Christ. With him is his companion and confessor, Leo. All three paintings are reproductions of the old masters.
On the sanctuary back wall hangs the Crucifixion. This painting is a reproduction of the classical work of Guido Reni (1575-1642). At the feet of Jesus is Mary, His mother, Mary Magdalene embracing the cross with her hair uncovered and John, His disciple.
The sanctuary ceiling is adorned with seven angels. The dove radiating light above the tabernacle symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The dove mounted above the tabernacle was taken from the original pulpit.
In the center of the sanctuary great arch is a striking representation of God the Father holding the world in His hands, while the triangle symbolizes the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.
The sanctuary windows each have a symbol in the medallion at the top. Four represent the evangelists, the authors of the four gospels. The first symbol is that of St. Mark, the winged lion; the second is that of St. Matthew, the winged man; the third is that of the Sacred heart of Jesus identified by the crown of thorns surrounding it; the fourth is the Sacred Heart of Mary identified by the sword piercing it; the fifth is that of St. John, the eagle; the sixth is that of St. Luke, the winged ox.
Over the Statue of the Blessed Virgin is a medallion of the Pelican. The Pelican is an ancient image of Christ. The mother pelican is feeding her young with her own body and blood.
Over St. Joseph Statue is the Lamb of God resting on the volume of truth sealed with the seven great seals.
The side walls of the nave have ten hand painted medallions directly above each column depicting (starting at the north side, back of church) St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, patroness of the young; St. Paschal Baylon, patron of Eucharistic societies St. Joachim, patron of fathers; St. Anne, patroness of mothers; St. Joseph, patron of craftsmen; (continuing south by sanctuary) Immaculate Heart Of Mary, patroness of young women; St. Anthony Padua, patron of the poor; St. Elizabeth patroness of the Third Order of St. Francis; St. Bernadine of Siena, patron of the Holy Name Society and St. Dominic, patron of the Rosary Society.
The stained glass windows contain many symbols. The windows on either side are identical but in reverse order. We will describe the North side only.
The first contains the A (alpha) and the omega the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet signifying Jesus is the beginning and the end.
The second window contains the image of the five wounds of Jesus and the Jerusalem or Crusaders Cross, which also symbolizes the five wounds.
The third window contains the dove representing the Holy Spirit and the lamb with a banner of victory representing Christ’s victory over the cross.
The fourth window contains the Cross and Crown symbolizing the reward of the faithful in the life after death to those who believe in the crucified Christ. On the right is the interwoven inscription IHS. These are the first three letters (iota, eta, sigma) of the Greek spelling of Jesus.
The fifth window contains the bishop’s miter representing the teaching of the authority of the church, and the anchor, which is the Christian symbol for hope.
The sixth window contains the grapes and the wheat – the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands that becomes the Eucharistic meal
In 1830 Count Donatien LeRay de Chaumont acquired thousands of acres of land. German and French families from Alsace-Lorraine were the first to settle in Croghan. Several Irish families also immigrated here. From 1831 to 1844 the faith community of St. Stephen’s existed as a mission church. The first Catholic Church in Croghan was a log cabin or blockhouse erected in 1831 and measured 20’x30’. During those years, the Croghan church was being served by Priests from Utica, NY and elsewhere. They were:
Reverend J. Stephen Raffeiner 1831-1835
Reverend Francis Guth who organized the parish in 1835 until 1844
Reverend F.J. Kopp 1844-1850
Reverend Henry Tappert 1850-1852
Reverend J.W. Herbst 1852-1853
Reverend Henry Feddermann 1853-1854
Reverend Anthony Heimo 1854-1857
Reverend Philip Nicholas 1857-1858
Reverend Clement Mutsaers, O.M.C. 1858-1861
Reverend Ladislaus Korten, O.M.C 1861-1863
Reverend Joseph Lesen,O.M.C. 1865-1867
After the departure of Fr. Clement Mutsaers, Croghan was attended for several years from Mohawk Hill, during which interval Fr. Clement’s name is frequently found on the parish records along with those of his two successors. Then came Reverend James Smith 1867-1868, and Reverend Gabriel Volkert 1868-1874. Reverend John Conlon served the church in Croghan in 1875. Fr. Conlon was the first secular priest sent by the Rt. Rev. Bishop E.P. Wadhams, of the newly established Diocese of Ogdensburg. Until 1872, priests served St. Stephen’s from the Diocese of Albany. Reverend Thomas Field, O.S.A of the Augustinian Fathers of Carthage also served the faithful in Croghan 1875-1876.
On a bleak February day in 1876, a small band of German Franciscans, after long and disappointing efforts to relocate in the United States, finally found a new and permanent home in Croghan, New York. Bismarck had banned religious orders in Germany in 1875; the Friars had no alternative except immigration or secularization. At that point in time, the nation was celebrating its first Centenary. General Ulysses S Grant was president. Samuel J Tilden was governor of New York State. The diocese of Ogdensburg was just four years old, having been established in 1872 by separation from the diocese of Albany.The creation of the Diocese of Ogdensburg with right Reverend Edgar Prindle Wadhams as first Bishop, and the arrival in Croghan of the weary and homeless Franciscan exiles, were not unrelated events. In 1976, Croghan was a small community of mostly German and French speaking immigrants. No resident priest had served St. Stephen’s Parish for two years. The last priest, Reverend Gabriel Volkert, had served from 1869 to 1874. Church property was in sad need of repair. Bishop Wadhams needed multi lingual priests to speak the languages used in Croghan (German, French and English). He welcomed the Friars to the diocese.
The Franciscan Province of St. Elizabeth in Thuringia had announced on June 24th that Father Francis Koch, O.F. M. of the Fulda Monastery, Father Gregory Schlitt, O.F.M. and Father Ferdinand Muller, O. F. M. would leave for America. These three priests along with Brothers Ivo Wefers, Julian Buechel, and Roger Lagleder, left Rotterdam, Holland on the steamship Caland August 21, 1875. They arrived in New York City in September 1875. In February 1876, Father Muller journeyed to Ogdensburg. Bishop Wadhams described the unusual conditions in Croghan to Father Ferdinand and gave him a mandate; “Here are the altar breads and wine, Go to Croghan, say Mass, and stay there. “ Father Ferdinand sent for Father Francis Koch who, at the time, had a temporary assignment in Harbor City, New Jersey. Upon arriving, Father Francis became assistant priest too Father Ferdinand. Soon the three brothers and Father Schlitt joined the Community in Croghan.
A very disheartening spectacle met the eyes of the new Pastor, Father Ferdinand Muller. The little church was poor, dilapidated and easily mistaken for a barn. It was a very difficult transition for the Friars and the community of French and English speaking people. John Siegel, village teacher, tutored the Friars in English and wrote the announcements for them.
These émigrés in the wilderness renamed the unpainted, unrepaired, leaky rectory, the “Monastery of the Sacred Heart.” The church was also in a dilapidated state and in need of repair. It was the third Catholic Church to serve Croghan, named in honor of St. Stephen, Protomartyr. It had neither windows nor doors. In cold weather, blankets served to keep out the snow. The Friars were less than welcomed in Croghan. Some Catholics were quite content to remain a parish with non-resident priests. Occasional visits by nearby clergy would suffice for them. Others complained about the cost of supporting the Friars. External and later internal dissentions sometimes hampered the work of the Franciscans during their early years in Croghan.
Theodore B. Basselin, a prominent citizen and parishioner became a staunch friend to the Friars. He urged the people to give the Franciscans’ a chance to prove themselves. His influence and appeal to be tolerant and considerate soon put an end the animosity. The rumblings of discontent were replaced with gratitude and respect for the hardworking Friars. In July of 1976, Bishop Wadhams made is first visit to Croghan since the arrival of the Friars. He was pleased with their work and gratified to find the most of the early animosity had been replaced with acceptance.
Father Ferdinand left Croghan within a year to become pastor of the Franciscan church in Paterson, New Jersey. His departure left Farther Francis alone in Croghan as superior and pastor. In October, Father Leonard Malkmus and a few brothers who had migrated to Switzerland arrived. Fr. Leonard was named superior of the Friary and Father Francis continued on as Pastor of St. Stephen’s.
Growing and Building
Due to the inadequacies of the church and rectory, Father Francis began to plan for a new church and monastery. Mrs. Susan Lallier Klein donated land on the Kirschnerville Road. At that time the property was considered to be on the outskirts of the Village. Two and a half adjacent acres were purchased. Despite the objections of the townspeople to building the church “outside the village”, Father Francis proceeded with plans. Work began on the monastery in 1877 and was completed in January 1878. Father Aloysius Lauer, O.F.M., now in America, came to lay the cornerstone on June21, 1877. The same year the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Peekskill, New York (Grey Nuns) founded a boarding school for girls in Croghan. In 1878 a convent was built for the Sisters. Completed in 1880, the fourth St. Stephen’s Church was dedicated by Bishop Wadhams on October 4, 1881.
In March 1880 Father Francis was transferred to Paterson, New Jersey before his work in Croghan was finished, Father Camilus Mondorf, O. F. M. succeeded Father Francis. Father Jerome Lagleder, O. F. M. became his assistant.
At the time the Friars arrived in 1876, only St Vincent de Paul’s in Belfort and St. Peter’s in New Bremen were missions of Croghan. Pastors were supplied for both missions. Other labors were undertaken. In a letter dated July 10, 1879 from Very Reverend Custos Aloysius Lauer of Paterson, New Jersey, to Ludwig Missionverein, stated:
“--- In Croghan, which is about 300 miles from New York, we have built a monastery and are at present busy with building a frame church because the church which is there is in a deplorable condition and is much too small besides. At this monastery we take care of the following mission stations:
1. Croghan itself with 247 families (English and German). Besides we have started a school for about 90 children. A priest gives religious instruction; the rest of the teaching is done by the Sisters.
2. Dayansville, six miles away, with 52 families, English and German. Mass there is every other week.
3. Belfort, three miles away, with 52 families, English and German. Mass every other week.
4. Jordan Falls, ten miles away, with 41 families, mostly Irish, has Mass once a month in the public school building
5. Harrisville, twenty miles away, with 40 French and Irish families, has Mass every five weeks in the public school. But within the next few months a small church in honor of St. Francis will be built.
6. French Settlement, 32 miles away, with 32 French families, has Mass every five week in the public school. In the near future a frame church will be built there in honor of St. Anthony of Padua.
7. Moose River, seven miles away (sic) (3), with 17 French and Irish families, has Mass every five week in the public school.)
The Fathers of this monastery have a very strenuous but also very useful sphere of work. Sometimes, they have to baptize entire families. Parents often receive their first Holy Communion at the same time as their children do, because up to that time they had no opportunity of doing so. Roads either do not exist or are in very poor condition, since the whole region lies in the deep forest where here and there clearings have been made. The inhabitants are very poor.
At Mohawk Hill we have a frame church with a house attached to it and we serve these missions: Mohawk Hill itself, Fish Creek, four miles away; Prussian Settlement, eight miles away; Port Leyden, ten miles away, and Constable, four miles away. Let me repeat my deepest thanks and commend these poor missions to your charity….”
In 1877 Father Gregory Schlitt, O.F.M., the last of the original six émigré Friars, came to Lewis County and became pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Mohawk Hill. Bishop Wadhams gave this additional charge to the Friars. Father Camillus Mondorf, O.F.M. and Brother Conrad Wald were also assigned to Mohawk Hill. In 1881, a convent was built beside the church and in 1883 five Sisters of Christian Charity came to teach at a boarding school. Students totaled 130and thirty. In 1888 the Friars gave up Mohawk Hill. Bishop Wadhams was reported to have been angry and hoped that “the mosquitoes of New Jersey would eat up the Fathers of Paterson who proposed the idea of leaving Mohawk Hill.
The Friars of Croghan continuously beautified their properties “outside the village”. Soon houses were erected all around the church properties.
In 1892 Father Francis Koch, O. F. M., the builder, returned to Croghan as pastor. A new school was built east of the Sisters convent. Bishop Gabriels, the second Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, dedicated it on October 4, 1890. The same year a high school was opened in the convent to educate girls for teaching.
In the fall of 1886, Father Bernardine Bidinger, O.F. M. succeeded Father Francis. During Father Bernardine’s pastorate a disastrous fire destroyed all of the church properties and much of the Village. On Thursday, April 24, 1902, flames began about 2:00 a.m. in the rear portion of Michael Turck’s Hotel and spread rapidly. Twenty- one buildings were destroyed. The private fire apparatus of the Honorable T. B. Basselin helped save only a few properties. At the time, one hundred and twenty children were enrolled in the parochial school.
Seven Franciscan Sisters and 12 Academy girls lived in the convent. Friars, Sisters and many villagers were homeless. Fr. Bernardine called a meeting in the Village Opera House formerly St. Stephen’s Church, (T.B. Basselin purchased the former church and remodeled the building into opera house and village hall). For several months, Mass was celebrated in the former church.One month after the disastrous fire, Fr. Bernadine was transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Friary in Denver. Fr. Leo Heinrichs, O.F. M. was assigned as pastor, and the task of rebuilding the parish fell upon his shoulders. Brother Leonard of St. Louis, Mo , architect for the new buildings, arrived in May of 1902. Plans were drawn up for the Sisters convent, school and monastery. Construction began almost immediately for the convent. Cornerstones for the monastery and school were laid on June 29, 1902. By August 15th the basement of the school was completed and Mass was celebrated there until the completion of the new church. The cornerstone of St. Stephen’s was laid on August 22, 1902.
On September 8, 1902, Bishop Gabriels dedicated the new school. The Sisters had been in their new convent two weeks prior to dedication of the school.
In the meantime, work on the monastery lagged and the Friars continued to live in a barn.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1903, the dedication of the new Saint Stephen's Church (the fifth one to be built in Croghan) took place. Romanesque in structure, it was erected of wood given at cost by Mr. T. B. Basselin, with steel roof shingles. The church edifice measured 125 x 65', and cost $30,000.In 1904 Father Leo was assigned as pastor of Saint Bonaventure Church in Paterson, New Jersey. Father Anthony Berghoff, O.F. M. succeeded Father Leo as pastor in Croghan.
In 1908 tragedy befell the former pastor and builder of the present St. Stephen’s Church properties. Fr. Leo was shot and killed by an anarchist while distributing communion at Mass at St. Elizabeth’s Church, Denver, Colorado.
Fr. Leo was born on August 15, 1867 in Oestrich, Germany. He entered the St. Francis Order in 1886 and was ordained in July of 1891. He was a quiet unassuming young man, but made a strong and lasting impression upon all the people he met and ministered to.
Fr. Leo was a devoted pastor and Servant of God who suffered the death of a martyr at the hand of one who hated God. He was shot February 23, 1908 while giving out Holy Communion in St. Elizabeth’s Church, Denver, Colorado.
In November of 1911 Fr. Leo’s remains were transferred to a new plot. The outside of the box had rotted and the casket was water soaked. The lid was easily lifted and there were no signs of decomposition of his body. His face and head were in perfect state of preservation. His name appears in the American Martyrology. He is one of 125 persons who have died for the Faith in the United States. In 1926 the Processus Ordinarius began for Father’s Leo’s beatification. Forty extraordinary cures were documented during that process that was attributed to the intercessions of Father Leo.
Father Leo’s picture hangs in the back of St. Stephen’s Church today.
In 1909, Fr. Hilary Reinhold, O.F. M. was appointed pastor. One year later he was succeeded by Father Joseph Bussen, O.F.M. Father Joseph had a new E. M. Miller pipe organ installed to enrich the liturgy (the organ continues to be used and is in wonderful condition). The Holy Name Providence decided to make Croghan a house of studies for the clerics, and Father Joseph had a new wing added to the monastery for that purpose.Soon after, another fire demolished a large portion of Croghan. On Tuesday, April 30, 1912, at 2:30 PM flames broke out in Clem Grunert's Cafe near the northern limit of the business section. Two children, Milton and Angeline Grunert, perished in the fire. The fire stopped just short of the church properties. Thirty-one buildings were destroyed. Twenty-one families were left homeless. The loss was estimated at nearly $400,000. Fr. Anslem Kennedy, O.F.M., Minister Provincial, was in Croghan at the time, in route to Ogdensburg for the Episcopal consecration of Bishop Joseph Conroy. The Provincial promised much prayer if church buildings were saved. Priests, Brothers, and Sisters prayed as they carried out vessels and vestments. Trees on the property began to burn but a change in wind direction saved the church buildings. Among the ruins was the Town Hall and Opera House that had previously been the third Saint Stephen's Church.
In the fall of 1912 the first class of philosophy took up its residence in Croghan with Father Bernard Vogt, O.F.M. a recent graduate of Louvain University, as master of clerics and professor of Philosophy. The House of Studies was to remain in Croghan for over forty years. Hundreds of Franciscans were to spend at least one year of their lives here.
On April 19, 1914, the first and constant benefactor of the Friars, Mr. Theodore B. Basselin, died in Croghan. Mr. Basselin was born in Grostanchen, Lorraine, on March 31, 1851 and came to America at the age of three with his parents. He had been most successful in the lumbering business. Mr. Basselin eventually became president of the J.E. Haberer Furniture Company of Lowville, president of the Lowville and Beaver River Railroad, director of the Carthage Power and Light Company, and director of the Carthage National Bank. He also served as first president of the Village of Croghan, democratic supervisor of the Town of Croghan, and New York States’ first forest preserve commissioner.
During his lifetime he donated generously to countless charitable works. He willed one hundred thousand dollars in trust to the Franciscan House of Studies, a sum of twenty- five thousand dollars to build Father Leo Memorial School, and over seven hundred fifty thousand dollars in trust to Catholic University of America. Mr. Basselin’s funeral was considered to be the largest ever in Croghan. His remains were laid beside his wife’s Florence Ager Basselin, in the Basselin private cemetery on Main Street, Croghan.
ON July 16, 1916, the Franciscan Sisters of Peekskill announced the withdrawal of their personnel from Croghan. They were replaced by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York.
The Provincial Chapter of 1922 named Father Antoninus Buch O.F. M. to replace Father Pius Manz, O.F.M. as pastor of St. Stephens. On June 14, 1924, two Croghan natives Father Gilbert Monroe, O.F. M. and Father Hugh Radigan, O.F.M. were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Turner at Buffalo. Both Franciscans celebrated their first solemn High Mass in St Stephen’s church on Trinity Sunday.
In June, 1927, Father Antoninus died. His funeral was held in St. Stephen’s Church and he was buried in the Friars lot he had selected in St. Stephen’s Cemetery. Fathers Gilbert and Hugh are buried beside him.
Father Clement Raab O.F.M. , pastor of St Peter’s Church, New Bremen, succeeded to the pastorate in St. Stephen’s. During his administration many improvements were made to the church, school and cemetery. On May 7, 1928, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Marilley, outstanding members of the parish observed their golden wedding anniversary. The late and venerated Father Francis Koch O.F. M had married them May 7, 1878. in the third Croghan church, located near the site of the present opera house, now library. Their marriage was blessed with six sons and three daughters. (All three girls became nuns.)
In 1928 Father Clement was transferred to New York City and Father Charles Loeffelholz, O.F. M. pastor of St. Peter’s New Bremen, became pastor in Croghan. Father Charles bought two lots on Convent St. and converted them into a park for the Sisters. He also made improvements to the church and cemetery. In 1931 Father Charles was transferred to Denver. Father Kiernan McGrath, O.F.M. became pastor, with Father Cuthbert Cotton O.F.M. as guardian. Fr. Kiernan served only one year as pastor and was succeeded by Father Martin O’Kane, O.F.M. in 1932. Father Martin was to remain in Croghan for seven years.
Under the guidance of Father Martin, Professor Louis Caracciola of Chicago and New York redecorated the church. This redecoration and renovation is still evident today. For three months services were held in the basement chapel until the work was completed. The nave was decorated in the style of the mosaic work of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The church ceiling is divided into 3 panels, each containing a painting that represents unity; front toward sanctuary, St. Francis of Assisi, patron of the Franciscan Order; the center, the patroness of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, the Virgin Mary in the temple; back above the choir loft is St. Stephen Martyr, the patron of the Parish. The sidewalls of the nave are adorned with sixteen hand painted medallions. The painting above the tabernacle repository is the Crucifixion; take from the classical work of Guido Peni (1575- 1642).
Among many of his other accomplishments, Father Martin, organized a religious education program for summer school. Lay teachers included Marie Pate, Maxine Day, Helen Day, Mayme Tunney, Bernice Monnat, Monica Monnat, Gerald Kirch, and Herbert (now Fr. Ambrose, O.F.M.) Buckingham. Some of the Brothers Performing church and monastery duties were Brother Merlin Lyons, Bernadine Kohn, Justin, Stephen Schweighardt, and Martin Burgel. Other priests included Father Leander Hartegan, Dustan McDevitt, Pancratius Halstrom, Hyacinth Barhart, and Cosmos Girard. During Father Martins’s pastorate Fathers Irenaius Hersher, Ralph Cullen and Bertin O’Neill were successive assistants to him.
Father Martin was succeeded by Father Amadeus Burke, O.F. M. as pastor in January 22, 1939. Father Amadeus’ Franciscan service to St. Stephen’s has been the longest single pastorate in the history and spanned twelve years, six months, and twenty-one days. His assistants were Father Cosmos Girard, followed by Father Neil MacDonald, O.F.M. and Father Hugh King, O.F.M. Father Amadeus instituted the celebration of Sunday Mass at Number Four in the former Episcopalian chapel beside the Fenton House. At the First Friday Masses in Croghan , children began saying responses usually rendered by altar boys, first in Latin and later in English. Pew rents were equalized and people could sit anywhere in church rather than in their own assigned pews.
Father Amadeus and his assistants taught religion classes at Fr. Leo Memorial School and also in the homes near rural schools on a ‘released time’ (released from public school) basis. Three religious discussion groups for adults were also formed in the parish. In addition, Father Amadeus made extensive repairs to Father Leo Memorial School. When he left his pastorate, the Sisters salaries had been raised from twenty to thirty dollars a month, and the janitor’s monthly salary of eighteen dollars was more than quadrupled. He successfully guided the parish through its difficult post war years.
On Sunday, June 9, 1946, Father Ambrose Buckingham, O.F.M. son of the late Frank and Mary Grimmer Buckingham of Kirschnerville, was ordained a Franciscan priest and sang his first solemn High Mass one week later in St. Stephen’s Church. Father Amadeus preached the sermon.
In 1951 Father Fintan (Morgan) Murphy, O.F. M. became pastor. Father Fintan is well remembered for his congeniality and his refusal to over react to changes of his day. He was a devoted visitor to all the sick and disabled of the parish.
During his pastorate a decision was made to close out the House of Studies. The clerics preparing for priesthood were relocated to Rye Beach, New Hampshire, and a Franciscan Brothers School was established in Croghan. Fathers Giles Bello, O.F.M. and Declan O’Rourke, O.F. M. were in charge of the school.
In 1958 Father Fintan Murphy was succeeded by Father Reginald Baliman, O.F. M. Father Reginald had been here as a cleric in 1926 and 1927 and had served as pastor of St. Ann’s, Castorland, from 1949 to 1953 and as Vicar, Cleric- Master in Croghan.
As pastor of St. Stephen’s, Father Reginald helped Brother Donald Wilson, a talented musician, to organize an adult church choir. There had not been a choir since the clerics were re-assigned to Rye Beach. A fife and drum marching band was organized. Other achievements during Father Reginald’s pastorate include many improvements to the church basement and to Father Leo Memorial School.
In August 1964, Father John Berchmans Chouinard , O.F.M. became Pastor. Father John had great talent in music, and put it to good use while in Croghan. During his single year stay, he implemented some of the early directives of Vatican II. He commenced saying Mass partially in English and facing the people.
Father Anthony Moore, O.F.M. came to replace Father John on August 17, 1965. In April 1967, he became superior as well. As pastor, many tasks were to befall Father Anthony. On May 23, 1965 fire destroyed the Fenton House at Number Four and the small-renovated building used as a chapel to celebrate Mass during the summer months. Mass continued to be held that summer on the lawn of the cottages at the rear of the Fenton House property. A tent was erected to house the altar and persons attending brought their own chairs. A new chapel was built Our Lady of the Lake Chapel at Number Four on land donated to the Church Mountain Lake Properties, Inc. The chapel was large enough to accommodate two hundred people. It is on a hill just past Number Four. Mass was celebrated every Sunday at noon between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In the winter of 1992/93, due to heavy snow, the roof collapsed destroying the chapel. It was rebuilt in June of 1993.
In January 1966, the first ecumenical service in Lewis County was held at St. Stephen’s Church. The same year, redecoration and renovation of the interior of the church were begun by Lehman and Zehr of Croghan. More simple ones replaced the old altars and the sanctuary flooring beneath the main altar was replaced. The color scheme and repainting of the interior of the church were chosen to preserve the artistic paintings of the nave, ceilings and sanctuary created by Professor Caracciolo in 1933.
In June 1966, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany decided to discontinue the high school department at Father Leo Memorial School. The school building was renovated to accommodate eight classrooms and a library of good size. The electrical work, as well as the labor involved in knocking down old walls, building new ceilings, and painting was accomplished entirely with volunteer help. The reorganized Home and School Association was then charged with ongoing maintenance and operation of the refurbished building.
Father Giles, who was previously in charge of the Franciscan Brothers School in Croghan, tells us that:
…In preparation for the General Chapter of the Franciscan Order which was held in Assisi in1967,
The Friars at Croghan spent considerable time in discussing the role of the Franciscan Brother in the Order and in the Church and our recommendations were submitted to the General Chapter. We were happy to see that many of our recommendations and the general directions of our training program at Croghan are now attitudes and practices concerning the Brothers role in Franciscan life and ministry…...
In the spring of 1967, it was decided that the Brothers’ training program would be moved to St. Francis Friary in Rye Beach. The move was completed by July 1967. The purpose of the relocation was to offer a more varied program of educational opportunities in college for the Brother candidates.
The Brothers’ school having moved in 1967, there remained only three priests in Croghan and as a result the large monastery became too expensive to maintain. Accordingly, the cleric’s half and the front of the building were torn down and the remaining portion renovated as a rectory and parish space.
In the spring of 1969, the Allegany Sisters left their apostolate in Croghan after fifty-one years of service. Father Anthony was instrumental in bringing the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood to St Stephen’s to replace the long serving Allegany Sisters, in the same year.
The work of a few assistants could not go unmentioned. In addition to Father Fidalius (Raymond) Lynch’s duties supervising the training of Brothers, he taught English, History, and Hygiene at the parochial school. Father Paul Feely, O.F. M. while in Croghan, worked faithfully and without for St Vincent’s Church, often digging graves himself. Father Canice (David) Hyman O.F. M. 1961 to 1964, in addition to restoring a sagging mission church in Indian River, also taught all high school religion classes three days a week during his term as assistant pastor. He also directed the one hundred sixty members CYO. Father Severin Brady O.F.M., who served from 1966 to 1969 and Father Cary Kean, O.F. M., 1971 to 1975, also directed the CYO and taught religion. In September 1967, Brother Bernadine Kohn returned to Croghan where he had spent so many years of his early religious life and took up the duties of cook, gardener, porter, and sacristan. Brother Bernadine died in St. Bonaventure’s Infirmary in 1973. At his request, his remains were returned to Croghan and are buried in St. Stephen’s Cemetery.
In 1969 Brother Salvatore Leising came to Croghan to assume the work of maintenance. He was the last of a long line of Brothers to serve Croghan. Brother Salvatore was transferred to St. Anthony’s Church in Yulan when Father Anthony became pastor there in 1973. Brother Salvatore died there in 1975.
In 1973 Father Patrick Callaghan, O.F.M, was appointed pastor of St. Stephen’s and Superior. He previously had served as pastor of St. Peter’s in New Bremen and St. Ann’s in Castorland since 1969. During his pastorate, Father Patrick had the pulpit and altar rail removed, reduced the sanctuary to one altar and procured new ecclesiastical furniture in the sanctuary, which was completely carpeted. A new solid brass tabernacle replaced the wooden tabernacle in 1975. A school board was appointed for Father Leo Memorial School, Lay Ministers of the Eucharist were inaugurated in 1974, and a vested adult choir was formed to further enhance the liturgy at St. Stephen’s Church.
In June 1975, Father Patrick led eighty- five North Country Pilgrims on a weeklong Holy Year Pilgrimage to Rome, Florence, Assisi, Naples, and Capri. In August 1976 Father Patrick was transferred to St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston and was succeeded by Father Xavier Porreca, O.F.M.
Father Charles Adams, who arrived in Croghan in 1973, taught high school religion and continued serving as pastor of St. Ann’s and St. Peter’s mission churches. Father Luke O’Connell O.F. M. , who arrived in Croghan in 1975, directed the CYO, while also serving as pastor of St. Anthony’s and St. Vincent’s mission churches. Fr. Aquinas was assigned as assistant pastor of St. Stephen’s in 1976. After a three month Sabbatical, he arrived in 1977 and remained in Croghan until 1989.
Fr. Xavier Porreca, O.F.M. pastor from 1976 -1981. Fr. Xavier addressed many major improvements needed at St. Stephen’s Church. In 1979 H. L. Queal & Sons was hired to paint, seal, and re-nail the 77-year-old steel shingles on the church. In addition Fr. Xavier had the sanctuary dome painted, aphone system installed and church sound system purchased. In 1980 classrooms were added to rectory basement and insulation added in the church ceiling.
A Capital Fund Major Repair Drive was initiated in 1980 to address the major repairs being done.
This also allowed improvements to be continued and completed even as Fr. Myron McCormick O.F.M. (1981-1982) replaced Fr Xavier as pastor. In 1981 work was completed on the rectory ceilings and installation of insulation in the rectory and chapels and upgrades made to the electrical systems. In addition, a new outside entrance was constructed to the rectory office.
Fr. Myron was transferred and Fr. Vincent Shea O.F.M. (1982-1989) became pastor.
After seven years as pastor in Croghan, Fr. Vincent Shea O.F.M. was replaced by Fr. Raymond Lynch O.F.M. 1989-1990.
Fr. Raymond would be the last Franciscan priest to serve St. Stephen’s Church, Croghan. The Franciscan Apostolate, which began February 20, 1876, would come to a close. The small band of German Franciscans, who arrived in the yet to be tamed Adirondack wilderness, carved out an impressive legacy. Initially supporting the Catholic immigrants, the Franciscans left their indelible mark on this North Country community. The Franciscans not only supported their faith community through the complex array of life events, they also impacted the hearts and minds of their parishioners through the construction of two church buildings, three school buildings (including the church and school which were destroyed by fire), the building of two mission churches, the establishment of a parochial school, a convent, a Franciscan House of Study for clerics and subsequent establishment of the Franciscan Brothers School. A one hundred fourteen year investment well made, indeed.
Fr. Leo A. Wiley (1990-2006) would be the first secular priest to become pastor of St. Stephen’s Church since Fr. John Conlon who served in 1875. Fr. Wiley has been the longest reigning pastor in the history of St. Stephen’s.
Fr. Daniel L. Chapin, was appointed as Pastor in 2006 until 2016. Fr. Donald Manfred, our current Pastor was appointed in 2016.