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A Centennial Anniversary and a Bronx Tale: St. Simon Stock-St Joseph Parish

Fr. Michael Kissane, O. Carm, pastor of St. Simon Stock-St. Joseph parish, had to wait a year before the Carmelites could celebrate a parish-wide Centennial Mass. Despite the fact that the pandemic interfered with the Parish’s  plans, a 100th Anniversary Mass was offered on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

For 100 years a countless number of Catholics called St. Simon Stock, now St. Simon Stock-St. Joseph, their spiritual home. While over the course of a century the demographics might have changed, the Carmelites continually met the needs of their parishioners.

A Look Back.

John Cardinal Farley had promised the Carmelites a parish in a developing section of New York City.  It was seemingly conditioned on the establishment of a formation house for candidates to the order.  Saint Albert’s, Middletown, NY, was opened as such a house in 1917 but the promise had not been fulfilled when Farley died in 1918.  Fr. John Cogan, O. Carm, the Irish provincial, visited Cardinal Farley’s successor, Archbishop Patrick Hayes, who fulfilled the promise. He gave the Carmelites a parish in a section of the Bronx which benefited greatly with the completion of the Grand Concourse in 1909.  Fr. Gerald  O’Farrell, O. Carm was named pastor of the new parish of St. Simon Stock at the Irish Chapter of 1919. While he was still living at the Manhattan parish, Fr. O’Farrell would travel to the Bronx each day and visit the people living in the area of his new parish. 

Fr.  O’Farrell bought a large two story house at 182nd Street and Valentine Avenue, just two short blocks east of the Grand Concourse.  The first Mass in the parish was celebrated in this house on Palm Sunday, March 28, 1920. Construction of the church began shortly afterwards and because Archbishop Hayes could not attend cornerstone ceremonies, Fr. O’Farrell completed the church save for the cornerstone. He then asked Archbishop Hayes to dedicate the church at which time Fr. O’Farrell included the laying of the cornerstone as part of the ceremony on Sunday, October 2, 1921.  The church was built as a basement church with the intention of adding an upper structure as the parish grew.  A priory was the next building erected and ground was broken in 1925 for the parish school to which would be later added a coed parish high school.

Before the construction of the Saint Simon Stock Priory, the original two story house that had served as church and priory in the early days of the parish was sold.  The new owner moved the house to Ryer Avenue and turned it into a two family home.  During the construction stage of the church and priory, the Carmelites lived in rented quarters at 2212 Valentine Avenue. 

A Look Ahead

With a long history of serving the needs of an ever-changing immigrant population, St. Simon Stock-St. Joseph parish is dedicated to continue welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Writing in the Centennial journal, Pastor Fr. Michael Kissane, O. Carm said: as the parish celebrates its 100th anniversary we pray that it may always be an “oasis in the desert” for all those who seek a better life and a deeper relationship with Christ.

We heartily congratulate the Friars, Parish Staff and people of St. Simon Stock-St. Joseph continue to be a faithful Christian community, always at the service of God and neighbor.