Did You Know?

by Robin Curtis

Q:Who was Father Charles Constantine Pise?

A: Father Pise was the first priest of St. Charles Borromeo and guardian of the faith. Father was a distinguished poet, author and orator. His published works included “The Acts of the Apostles” in verse and “Letters of the Truth of Catholic Doctrines,” which defended the Catholic faith. His love of music and oratory drew prominent parishioners to St. Charles. As the House of Representatives chaplain and a friend of Henry Clay, Father Pise influenced our nation’s politics.

(Brooklyn Eagle, “Death of the Rev. Dr. Pise,”)

(Brooklyn Eagle, “St. Charles Borromeo,” 5/26/1866 and “The Death of the Rev. Dr. Freel,” 4/6/1884)

Q: When was St Charles Borromeo parish established?

A: Did you know Father Charles Constantine Pise had purchased the first St. Charles Borromeo Church from Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church in 1849? The original church was located on the present site of our school.

(Brooklyn Eagle, “Death of the Reverend Dr. Freel,” 4/6/1884)

Q: What role did St. Charles play in the life of the city of Brooklyn?

A: By 1868, St. Charles Borromeo Church was “long known to the Catholics as a favorite place of worship and equally regarded by other denominations as a popular music venue on Sunday afternoons.”

(Brooklyn Eagle, “ St. Charles Borromeo,” 3/9/1868)

Q: Why is St. Charles Borromeo’s organ a historic treasure?

A: Built in 1880, and virtually unaltered, our Opus 178 has been in continuous service for over 120 years and is the largest, and perhaps the last, extant Odell tracker organ to be found in New York City. The organ is an excellent example of a Victorian era organ with clarionet, tuba and flute stops.

(JH & CS Odell website)

Q: What happened on March 8, 1868?

A: A fire destroyed the original St. Charles Borromeo Church on March 8, 1868, around two o’clock in the morning, A neighbor climbed upon his roof and got the attention of Police Officer Wrightnour by shouting, “Murder! Murder!”

(Brooklyn Eagle, “ St. Charles Borromeo,” 3/9/1868)

Q: What do you know about the ‘new St. Charles Borromeo Church?

A: Three to four thousand people, many of whom were young Irish women, attended the ceremony which laid the cornerstone for the new St. Charles Borromeo Church on its current site. The Catholic Church architect Patrick Keely designed the Gothic style church with a 156-foot tall steeple containing a statue of St. Charles Borromeo. The main altar is pure white marble. The new church has fourteen stained glass windows and black walnut pews that can accommodate 1,250 worshipers. The cost of the new St. Charles Borromeo Church was $80,000. The young Irish women generously contributed to the building fund.

(Brooklyn Eagle, “Church of St. Chas. Borromeo,” 7/13/1868)

Q: What do you know about our first parish school?

A: Our parish school was first called St. Philomena Institute. The school educated 500 to 600 children. The Sisters of Charity and the Franciscan Brothers educated our parish children. The school was considered one of “the most flourishing” in our diocese. An early morning fire caused by the igniting of woodwork near the basement furnace damaged only one classroom. Father Jeremiah Brosnan was first to discover the blaze. Fathers Freel and Ward, along with other clergy, quickly summoned help and firefighters put out the blaze. By 1884, Father Ward oversaw the construction of a brick extension to St. Charles School to accommodate “all the scholars who apply for admission.”

(Brooklyn Eagle, “On Fire,” 2/17/1881, “Enlarging St. Charles School,” 8/19/1884)

Q: What do you know about Monsignor Charles Diviney?

A: Msgr. Charles E. Diviney was vicar-general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn from 1965 to 1978. He administered the diocese for two months in 1968, from July, when Archbishop Bryan J. McEntegart retired, until September, when Bishop Francis J. Mugavero was consecrated. Monsignor Diviney was the second oldest priest in the diocese when he died on June 28, 1978 at the age of 93. Born in Long Island City, Queens, he attended Fordham University and studied for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Brooklyn. In 1931, Monsignor Diviney was ordained. He taught at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn from 1934 to 1959. Then he became the beloved parish priest at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Brooklyn until 1978. Monsignor Diviney was vicar-general for much of that time.

(NY Times Obituary 8/8/ 2000)

Q: What is The Red Mass?

A: The Red Mass was celebrated in Europe for centuries “invoking Divine Providence” for the coming term in Court.” In 1928, Cardinal Hayes instituted the celebration of the Red Mass in Manhattan. The Red Mass had been celebrated at St. Charles Borromeo from the 1950’s through recent times. In recent years, Bishop DiMarzio has celebrated the Red Mass at St. James Cathedral. (The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kings County)