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St. Joachim – St. John the Evangelist Parish
A Highlight Summary Parish History
Compiled by Edward D. Archer
Parish Historian
October 2007

Parish History
The history of St. Joachim – St. John the Evangelist Parish begins with two contiguous villages - Matteawan and Fishkill Landing. St. Joachim’s Parish began in the Village of Matteawan in 1853 and the church opened in 1861. The parish included the Village of Fishkill Landing. St. John the Evangelist began in 1887 in Fishkill Landing. Both parishes flourished. The two villages merged into the City of Beacon in 1913. Both parishes remained active and independent of each other until being merged into one on January 2, 2004.
The Early Church In New York and in Dutchess County
The first recorded Catholic Mass in our area was celebrated at Mt. Gulian during the Revolutionary War by a French priest from Rhode Island. The first native New Yorker to become a priest was Rev. John McCloskey. He was ordained in 1834 and later became the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. The first Spanish-speaking priest to serve in New York was the Rev. Felix Valera, a Cuban, who arrived in 1825. His cause for beatification and canonization has been introduced in the Vatican.

The first resident pastor in Dutchess County was Rev. John Maginnis at St. Peter’s in Poughkeepsie in 1837. A number of residents in this area attended Mass at St. Patrick’s in Newburgh as a matter of convenience. St. Patrick’s had been established in 1838, the first Catholic Church in Orange County. St. Mary’s in Wappingers Falls was established in 1845 with Rev. Sullivan as pastor. In 1850, Rev. George Brophy became the first resident pastor at St. Mary’s. That same year, Fr. Brophy celebrated the first Mass in the Fishkill Landing – Matteawan area.
St. Joachim's
Rev. Denis Sheehan followed Fr. Brophy as pastor of St. Mary’s in Wappingers Falls and continued to lay the groundwork for a new parish in the Fishkill Landing-Matteawan area. He started to keep records for the new parish in 1853 and is considered the first pastor of St. Joachim’s, even though he never resided here. He purchased property for a new church in Matteawan in 1855. The church was enclosed in 1857 and Mass has been said there ever since. The church was dedicated in 1861 under Rev. James Coyle, pastor. The rectory was purchased in 1860 and land for a cemetery was purchased in 1866. A parochial school began in 1861. The Sisters of Charity of Mt. St. Vincent began teaching in the school in 1883. The first parishioner to become a priest (Edward F. Somers) was ordained in 1886. The first parishioner to become a religious sister (Mary Agnes Horan) entered the Sisters of Charity in 1889.

In 1861, Fr. Coyle established a mission church, St. Mary’s, in Fishkill which was dedicated in October 1864. It remained a mission church for 92 years until Cardinal Spellman established it as a separate parish in 1953.
Rev. Terrence Kelly, pastor 1890-1900, was the first assistant to return as pastor of St. Joachim’s. To meet the increasing needs in the area, he established a mission church, St. Francis, in Timoneyville (now Dutchess Junction) in 1899. He was the first Catholic priest to offer Mass in Matteawan State Hospital, which came under the care of St. Joachim’s in 1892. This meant that St. Joachim’s now had three mission churches; St. Mary’s in Fishkill, St. Francis in Timoneyville and Matteawan State Hospital.

St. Francis closed as a mission church in 1928 with the dwindling number of workers in the brickyards. In 1924, our priests began saying Mass in the Veterans’ Hospital in Chelsea.

The school building was essentially demolished, rebuilt and expanded during the summer of 1931. It was expanded again in the 1950’s and the gym was added in 1964.

The statue of the Blessed Mother in front of St. Joachim’s was a gift to the parish in 1938.

The old cemetery was opened in 1866 and was enlarged in 1925. The first land for the new cemetery was purchased in 1928. It has been enlarged twice since.

Rev. James F. Tully became the first priest at St. Joachim’s, and the second in the City of Beacon, to be named a Monsignor (1962).
The Sisters of Charity served St. Joachim’s School for just over 100 years, ending in 1984. About 105 sisters had been missioned to the school during that time.

The Capuchin Franciscan Friars from St. Lawrence Friary assisted the parish by celebrating Mass on Sunday for a number of years, ending their service about 1985.

St. Joachim’s has had a very active CYO basketball program for many years, especially since the new gym was built in 1964. The parish has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 24 since 1922 and continually for the past 50 years. Twenty-four scouts from our troop have become Eagle Scouts.

The religious education program for grammar and high school students has been active in the parish for years. The Ursulines taught the non-parochial school children for some time in the 1950’s and 1960’s. While Rev. Tully was pastor, he had buses pick up the public school children for “released time” CCD classes taught by St. Joachim’s school staff. The program switched to Sundays when released time ended.

Six parishioners became Sisters of Charity and four became Franciscan Sisters. One parishioner was a religious brother for several years. Nine parishioners became priests as did three other men who claimed Beacon as their adoptive home. See the separate listing for brief information and consult the references for additional information on each of these people and their careers.

Over sixty-five priests served the parish over the years. (See the separate listing.)

Deacon Joseph Hafemann served the parish in the 1990’s.

St. Joachim’s held a year-long celebration of its 150 anniversary from December 2002 through December 2003. The two parishes officially merged effective January 2, 2004.
St. John the Evangelist
St. John the Evangelist was formed in Fishkill Landing in 1887. Rev. John Hurley was appointed as the first pastor effective December 13, 1887. The first Mass was celebrated on that Christmas (Christmas was on a Sunday that year). The original St. John’s Church was the old Swift’s Hall. It was dedicated by Archbishop Corrigan in 1888. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground in 1890. Fr. Hurley immediately started to raise funds for a new church. The “Elm Tree” property was purchased from Lewis Tompkins for the new church. The present St. John’s Church was built in 1891. A school was opened as soon as possible in the basement of the new church (1890s), but it didn’t succeed at that time. The Sisters of Charity of Matteawan conducted Sunday School until 1909 when a new school was built. Fr. James Aylward brought in the Sisters of Mercy to teach in the school. Later, the Sisters of Charity of Mt. St. Vincent came and remained until 1943 when the School Sisters of St. Francis replaced them. The school was renovated, expanded (six rooms added) and rededicated by Cardinal Spellman in 1951. Cardinal Spellman was the first prince of the church to visit Beacon. About 4000 people attended the dedication. The school was renovated again in 1983.

Rev. Hubert Beller became pastor of St. John’s in 1952. He became the first priest in Beacon to be named a Monsignor (1961). He was installed as a Domestic Prelate by his seminary classmate, Francis Cardinal McIntyr, Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Rev. Michael V. Aylward was pastor of St. Joachim’s (1910-1921) when his brother Rev. James Aylward was pastor of St. John’s (1910-1919).

Rev. John McGrath had been an assistant at St. Joachim’s from 1880 to 1885, and became the first priest to serve at both parishes when he was assigned as pastor of St. John’s in 1890. Rev. Thomas Philips was the second priest to serve at both parishes when he became pastor of St. John’s in 1983, having served a year as assistant at St. Joachim’s in 1942.

Over sixty priests served St. John’s Parish over the years. (See the separate listing.)

The first woman lector at St. John’s was installed in 1974.

Two Redemptorist priests assisted Fr. Aylward until Fr. McAleer arrived. Redemptorists and Oblates of Mary Immaculate seemed to have helped out occasionally, because their names appear in the Baptismal Register over the years
Both parishes had thriving parochial schools for many years. At the height of their enrollment in the 1950’s each of the two schools enrolled over 400 students. For financial reasons, the schools merged in 1990 and closed at the end of the school year in 2001.

Two parishioners became priests, three became brothers and one became a sister. See the separate listing for information on them and their careers.
Our Hispanic Community
St. John’s Parish began ministering to the increasing number of Spanish-speaking people in this area when Rev. Robert Carden (1957-1961) became the first Spanish-speaking priest assigned to the parish specifically to minister to the growing Puerto Rican population in Beacon.
Rev. Thomas B. Fenlon (1961-1964) continued that ministry.
Rev. Neil Graham (1970-1973) introduced the changes of Vatican II to the Spanish community in 1970. Mass began to be offered regularly in Spanish in the lower hall.
Rev. Rogelio Cuesta, O.P., Director of the Newburgh – Beacon Spanish Apostolate, ministered to the Spanish speaking community from 1972 to 1978. He was assisted by the Daughters of Jesus order of nuns.
Fr. Fenlon returned to minister in the Spanish Apostolate from 1978 to 1987. He was assisted by the Daughters of Divine Love (Sisters Gloria Castro and Josephine Stabile)
Fr. Fenlon was followed by:
- Rev. Luis Alberto Bejarano, S.J. (1988-1989).
- Rev. Leonell Trudell (1989 – 1992)
- Rev. James Sheehan (1992 – 1993)
- Rev. John Albino (1993 – 1995)
- Rev. Nimal Mendis (1995 – 2001)
- Rev. Tomas Bobadilla (2001 – 2006)
- Rev. David Nolan (2006 - present).
Beginning of Our New Parish
In July 2000, Rev. Joseph Bisignano, who was pastor of St. John the Evangelist, also became the Administrator of St. Joachim’s. At that time, all of the priests in Beacon (Rev. Nimal Mendis, C.H.S., Rev. Thomas Kallumady, Rev. Thaddeus Obba, and Fr. Bisignano) began to serve both parishes. Two deacons, Gary DiLallo and John O’Reilly, served the parishes at this time also. To promote a spirit of cooperation between the two parishes, Fr. Bisignano appointed an oversight committee in 2001 to define those areas of significant mutual interest and develop plans to strengthen those areas, effectively laying the groundwork for the combining of the two parishes into one.

In the meantime, Fr. Nimal was transferred and has since passed on to his eternal reward, Fr. Thomas was incardinated into the Archdiocese of New York (12/2000) and became pastor of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, and Fr. Thaddeus was transferred to St. Ann’s Church in Yonkers.
St. Joachim – St. John the Evangelist
The two parishes in Beacon were officially combined into one parish effective January 2, 2004, with Fr. Bisignano as pastor. In July 2005, Fr. Bisignano became pastor of St. Patrick’s in Yorktown Heights. Rev. David E. Nolan became our pastor August 1, 2005.

To provide for additional priests for our parish, Fr. Nolan has worked out an agreement with Bishop Gabriel Dunia of the Diocese of Auchi in Nigeria for two priests of that diocese to serve in our parish for three years as part of their development. Fr. Irenaeus Ikhane and Fr. Fabian Eghiabumhe began that assignment in December 2006. Prior to their arrival, Fr. Richard Enegbuma spent a sabbatical year with us. Fr. Charles Nasamu is likewise here for a year’s sabbatical.

Fr. Nolan has embarked on an ambitious program of restructuring the finances and improving the physical plant and grounds of our parish, including the cemetery.

He has also strengthened our program of visiting the nursing homes that are within our parish and our homebound parishioners. Our parish priests say Mass weekly at McClelland, Elant and Wingate at Beacon Nursing Homes and twice a month at Forrestal Heights, a senior residence. Special Ministers of Holy Communion regularly bring Holy Communion to the nursing homes as well as to other homebound parishioners.

He instituted the 5:30 children’s Mass and invites all parishioners to join the priests for morning and evening prayer.

The parish has active social and fund-raising programs for the parishioners.

Current parish organizations include: the Women’s Club, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Ladies of the Sacred Heart, Boy Scout Troop 24, St. Anthony’s Sodality, and the Altar Rosary Society. Today the religious education program enrolls about 300 children and is taught by volunteers who have received training in religious education. Over 200 children participate in our CYO basketball program.

Additional information on St. Joachim’s or St. John’s parishes can be found in the references cited in the Bibliography.

As part of this brief history of our parish, the following lists are also available separately on this website:
Priests who have served at St. Joachim – St. John the Evangelist,
Priests who served at St. Joachim’s,
Priests who served at St. John the Evangelist,
St. Joachim’s parishioners who became priests,
St. Joachim’s parishioners who became religious sisters,
St. John’s parishioners who became priests or religious brothers or sisters,
Brief history of the parish cemetery.
St. Joachim’s –
1. “The Warmth of a Church: A Brief History of St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic Church in Beacon, New York, by Edward D. Archer, 1998.

2. “St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic Church, Beacon, New York, 150th Anniversary, 1853 – 2003,” 2003.

St. John’s
1. “St. John the Evangelist: 1887 + A Century in His Service + 1987”

2. “St. John the Evangelist Church, 1887-1977, A History” (By Patricia B. Hanna)