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Parish History

Here we will tell the story of the beginnings of our church and how we became what we are today.


The formative period

With the great wave of immigration in the 80's and 90's of the 19th Century there came to New York hundreds of immigrants from Italy. Many of these settled in the South Brooklyn section of our Borough. They made their homes in the district between 15th and 39th streets, these were to become the boundaries of a large Italian Catholic Parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

At the beginning of the 20th Century the people had become firmly established but there were too few Catholic Churches which were able to minister to the needs of Italian Speaking people.  Father Thomas Dughigg, who spoke the Italian Language fluently and at the time was the pastor of St. John Evangelist, frequently held missions for Italians in his church. During one of those missions in November 190, it  was proposed  to establish a chapel expressly for Italians in the neighborhood. 

Father Assunto Faiticher, then Superior of the Mission on Carroll Street, gave permission for the founding of the chapel.

Organization of the church

The chapel for Italian Catholics was opened in a small building on Twenty Second Street below fourth avenue which had served previously as a Jewish synagogue. After the necessary alterations, the first Solemn High Mass was celebrated on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, May 8, 1902 by the Rev. Umberto Rocchi under the auspices of the Societa Cilentana. The church had been placed under the patronage of St. Rocco, who was the patron saint of Savoia Lucania, Basilicata. One of the prominent "paesani" was said to have donated the magnificent sum of  One Hundred dellars for the privilege but this story was never confirmed.  

Shortly afterward, Father John Prosseda was appointed the first pastor of St. Rocco's Church by his superior, Father A. Faiticher. He was an energetic worker and his appeal to the people for funds with which to carry out the enterprise, met with a response as generous as it was prompt. 

Father Prosseda continued to guide the spiritual destinies of the faithful flock until December 1904, when he returned to his missionary work in other territories leaving behind a grateful memory among his parishioners.  He was succeeded by Father Pasquale Petrone another Vincentian missionary.

In 1905 by order of Bishop McDonell, the vincentian missionary priests left the congregation of St. Rocco in twenty second Street. 

The establishment of St. Rocco's Parish

After the withdrawal, from the chapel of the priests of the Mission, Rev. Alessio DeDonatis, was appointed Pastor of Saint Rocco's Church, by the Bishop, thus elevating the mission to the dignity of a parish, with clearly defined boundaries, 19th Street on the North, 39th Street on the South, Seventh Avenue and Greenwood Cemetery on the East, and New York Bay on the West. 

On June 29, 1908, Father DeDonatis' wishes for the acquiring of ground for the new Church were fulfilled by the purchase of three lots on 28th street below 4th Avenue for $7,000. This was glad news for many of the parishioners since they felt the existing church, was entirely inadequate to accommodate the numbers of people attending Mass. 

The next three years saw vigorous activity, hearted cooperation and united effort on the part of the Pastor and the parishioners to accumulate enough funds with which to build a new edifice, to the Glory of God and His Church. 

In May 1911 the bishop purchased the church and the rectory of a Lutheran Church on 27th street between 4th and 5th avenues. 

St. Rocco's church in large edifice

The parishioners were jubilant, and daily groups were seen walking past the future church and expressing the fullest satisfaction of the buildings recently acquire. No time was lost in re-modeling the basement for Catholic worship. July 16, 1911, saw the new church formally occupied. Here is what the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of July 17, 1911, said about the event.

"Former Lutheran Edifice is Occupied by Italian Catholics. Great Demonstrations by Italians Societies from all parts of Brooklyn"

The church progressed spiritually. First Holy Communions and Confirmations of children were held annually with an average of about 350. New assistants, Father Domenico Pescopagano, Father Enrico DeVito and Father Saverino Repetti, came to the parish to help administer the spiritual needs of the people. 

A new era

Twenty five years had elapsed in the history of St. Rocco's parish. The parishioners had kept peace with the changing times; they had fully adapted themselves to the American way of doing things. Most of them learned the English language. Many went to business and prospered. They raised large families and gave their children a good education, so that we saw many American-Italian boys and girls in the various professions. The older folks  had abandoned many of the quaint Italian customs and traditions. All these changes were reflected in the spiritual life of the parish so much so that the congregation at a Mass on a Sunday, compared favorably with any American parish.

Father Thomas Sala was appointed Pastor of saint Rocco's Church. With Father Sala a new era for St. Rocco's Church was born. For the first time in its history, St. Rocco's Church had a Pastor educated and ordained in Brooklyn, who was imbued with American ideas for the administration of a parish fully Americanized.

A notable event in the history of St. Rocco's Church was the ordination to the Holy Priesthood of Father Francis Barilla. He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass on Sunday, June 10, 1928.

The parish was growing and the church was too small. Father Salas established two more Masses. In the summer of 1929, census of the parishioners was taken and some valuable data was obtained. Encouraged by the results of the census, great preparations were made for a Building Fund campaign. 


A new phase in the history of Saint Rocco's parish

In June, 1937 Father Sala accepted the Bishop's invitation to assume the pastorate of St. John the Evangelist. Father Sala thus was in charge of both parishes. Each parish remained independent, with separate services, under the same pastor. 

In October, 1948, the Rosary Society was founded and has continued  to grow over the years.

Plans for decorating and beatifying the church were finally put into execution in the fall of 1951. 

On Sunday, June 15th, 1953, Bishop Ballo celebrated the Mass for the fiftieth anniversary of Saint Rocco's. 

The latest phase in the history of St. Rocco's parish

In September 1953 The Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried in procession from the Church of St. John the Evangelist. 

In January 1956, the Youth Center was dedicated by Bishop Edmund J. Reilly at a dedication banquet and dance attended by 500 parishioners. During this year many parish activities were organized to serve all age groups of the parish. 

Changes in Saint Rocco's Parish

In June 1966 after 38 years, Monsignor Thomas Sala became Pastor Emeritus of both St. John the Evangelist and St. Rocco's parishes. 

The Rev. Joseph F. Sparacino, who had been with St. Rocco's since 1958, was appointed pastor of St. Rocco's after its separation from St. John the Evangelist parish. 

Over the past few years, the basement has been renovated and a chapel has been built. Fr. Sparaccino has instituted a Folk Mass and a Spanish Mass to meet the needs of our parish. One of his greatest accomplishments occurred in 1976 when he organized St. Rocco's Senior Citizen Club. 

Contact Information:

Contact the parish rectory with any question/comment you may have. 

Rev. Msgr. Faustino Cordero, Pastor

Parish Secretary: Mrs. Joanne Perrone

Receptionist: Myriam Hernandez

Director Religious Education: Christine Rahner

Coordinator Religious Education: Karen Salinas


St.  John The Evangelist

250 - 21st Street  Brooklyn, NY 11215

Phone: 718-768-3751  Fax: 718 768-4689

Mon., Tues., Wed., & Thurs.

9:30am-12pm 1pm-3:30pm 4:30pm-7:30pm

Fri. 9:30am-12pm, 1pm-3:30pm

Sat. 9am-12pm, 1pm-5pm 

Saint Rocco

216 - 27th Street  Brooklyn, NY 11232

Phone: 718-768-9798  Fax 718-768-7742

Mon.- Fri. 4pm-7pm

Sat. 10am-5pm