Fr. John Filippelli, S.S.J.
The Corner Stone
of St. Patrick's Hispanic Ministry
In the early 1960's, Fr. John Filippelli, SSJ was an instructor at Epiphany College in New Windsor, NY. Within a short time, he began hearing confessions of the Spanish speaking boarders from colleges and academies in the area, as well as, the Sisters and Novices from Mt. St. Mary's.
Throughout the area, his name was becoming known to the Spanish speaking people of the City of Newburgh and soon they approached him for weddings, confessions, and the celebration of Mass.
Fr. Filippelli was assisted by Sr. Alma Requelme, OP and Sr. Teresita Vallejo, OP from Mt. St. Mary's, who supported him with the religious instruction for the children of the Hispanic community.
The needs of the Hispanic families were multiplying in the Newburgh area, Fr. Filippelli approached Monsignor William Guinan of St. Patrick's Parish and brought this to his attention. Also, a parishioner, Mr. Joseph Gaynor, was advocating for the needs of the Hispanic people.
In 1962, Fr. Filippelli, in conjunction with Latin, was told to preach both in English and Spanish at the 10:00 am Sunday Mass. However, the use of both languages at the Mass proved difficult for the English and Spanish speaking parishioners.
At this time, the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Redeemer from Spain arrived. They began home visitations and to local hospitals. Two of the Sisters died in a car accident. The Oblate Sisters of the Holy Redeemer sent two new sisters to continue on with their ministry and to assist Fr. Filippelli. Dr. Stillman donated a farm in Cornwall, NY to the Oblate Sisters. This became the Sisters residence and it served as the first Hispanic Center. The Feast of St. John the Baptist was celebrated along with many other activities.
In 1966, Fr. Filippelli approached the new pastor, Bishop John Fearns, informing him that the use of vernacular was necessary due to the increase of Spanish speaking parishioners. It was finally approved, and the Spanish Mass began at 1:00 pm. This enhanced the sacraments and service to the people. He established Cursillo, Youth Group and the Feast of Three Kings a celebration for children.
As a result, the attendance grew.
In 1970, Fr. Neil Graham assisted Fr. Filippelli in his ministry. Fr. Graham was a visiting priest assigned to Newburgh and Beacon by the National Parish in Manhattan, NY, named Milagrosa, which made anyone from Spanish speaking background his parishioner.
In 1971, the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Redeemer finished their tenure and the Daughters of Jesus arrived.
In 1972, Fr. Filippelli finished his tenure and was succeeded by Fr. Neil Graham.
In 1972, Fr. Neil Graham continued with the previous ministry and was the celebrant for the Spanish Mass at St. Patrick's Church. He was assisted by the Sister Order - Daughters of Jesus, who lived in Cornwall. During his masses, he was engaged in the spirit of the Vatican II. Fr. Graham and the sisters continued to teach Religious Education at people houses assisted by some parishioners.
In 1973, Fr. Graham term ended and was followed by a Spanish Dominican, Fr. Rogelio Cuesta.
In 1973, Fr. Rogelio Cuesta, OP was named Director of the Hispanic Apostolate of Newburgh and Beacon. The Daughters of Jesus: María, Monsterrate, Angelina, Asela, and Rosa together with Fr. Cuesta, formed the pastoral team. They were assigned and evaluated directly by the Archdiocese of New York.
From the very beginning, Fr. Cuesta and the Sisters stressed the preparation and religious instruction of the sacraments. They encouraged the growth of the existing groups: Cursillos, Youth Group, Visitation to Families and Hospitals, etc.. They initiated the Charismatic Prayer Group, Bible classes, Apostolate to rural areas, Program of Luz y Vida of Mons. Garmendia, visits to Prisons in Beacon and Green Haven.
The Hispanic presence throughout the community multiplied and originated new challenges at the end of 70's decade.
In 1976, the Hispanic Center moved from the farm in Cornwall to Liberty St. and the St. Patrick's School became the new location for the Hispanic Religious Education Program.
In 1978, Fr. Cuesta residency was completed and followed by Fr. Tomas B. Fenlon.
In 1978, Fr. Tomas B. Fenlon assumed the position as Director of the Hispanic Apostolate of Newburgh and Beacon.
In addition to the ministries in place, Fr. Fenlon, started the “Comite de Servicio” together with the Daughters of Jesus: Sr. Angelina Gonzalez, FI, Sr. Rosa Ortega, FI, Sr. Asela Rodriguez, FI, and Cosette Clark. Cosette was a novice and left after a couple of years. Sr. Pilar Halcon, FI took her place.
Together, their pastoral team brought religious instruction to a new level. Established the formation of Summer Bible classes and Youth Groups. Initiated the Renew Program with the dramatization of the Gospel during Mass on Sunday. The establishment of Palm Sunday procession through the streets of Newburgh with a donkey, a traditional Seder dinner during Holy Week, procession visiting all temples on Holy Thursday, reenactment of the stations of the cross throughout the city of Newburgh on Good Friday and a 4:30 am Easter Vigil at the Newburgh waterfront. The parishioners join the “Comite de Servicio” and help with all of these activities.
Fr. Fenlon initiated the celebration of Patron Feast Day's: Our Lady of Charity from Cuba, Señor de los Milagros of Peru, Our Lady of Suyapa of Honduras, Our Lady of Guadalupe of Mexico, and Our Lady of Lujan of Argentina. The feast of St. John Baptist of Puerto Rico was continued.
In 1982, the Daughters of Jesus left and a new team of Italian Sisters arrived. Sr. Alba Danese, FMI, Sr. Crociffi Putorti, FMI, and Sr. Pia Putorti, FMI, joined the Hispanic Ministry to continue the ministry and stayed for a year.
In 1983, Sr. Elvira Leal, RSHM came for a year, followed by Sr. María Teresa de Bourbon, RDC and Sr. Elena Martínez, FMSC. For nine years they worked tireless in the Hispanic Ministry of St. Patrick’s.
In 1986, a member of the Hispanic Community, became the first Hispanic President of the Parish Council.
In 1987, Fr. Fenlon's tenure ended and was succeeded by Fr. Carlos Siquenza.
In 1988, Fr. Carlos Siquenza was assigned to the Hispanic Ministry. Fr. Siquenza collaborated with Sr. Elvira, RSHM, Sr. María Teresa de Bourbon, RDC and Sr. Elena Martínez, FMSC. During Fr. Sinquenza’s time of ministry at St. Patrick’s Church, he encouraged the Hispanic community to raise money to purchase a large crucifix to replace the small one behind the altar. The large crucifix was noticeable to all parishioners. The small crucifix was placed behind the altar at Our Lady of the Lake Chapel.
In 1989, Fr. Siquenza was succeeded by Fr. Romualdo Zantua.
In 1989, Fr. Romualdo Zantua came to minister at the Hispanic Ministry. He improved the lives of the poor by obtaining free legal help for the migrant worker. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was brought to different houses, encouraging people to recite the rosary. It was through Fr. Zantua’s efforts that the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City donated an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Patrick's Church. Through the efforts of Fr. Romualdo a frame was donated. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located to the left side of the altar. The image of the Crucified Lord, El Señor de los Milagros, located at the back of the church was donated by the Peruvian community.
Sr. Elena Martínez, continued her ministry by working with needy families and as well as with the Hispanic Religious Instruction Program
In 1992, Fr. Zantua finished his tenure and was succeeded by Fr. Alfonso Henao.
In 1993, Fr. Alfonso Henao was assigned to the Hispanic Ministry. He continued with the previous activities of the Hispanic ministry. Bible classes were offered for college credit. Once a month, he celebrated Mass at different migrant camps. The fellowship of Divino Niño was established and introduced the Feast of Our Lady of Providence of Puerto Rico. He initiated the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, Patron of Colombia.
In 1994, Sr. Elena Martínez, FMSC ministered at the Hispanic Ministry as co-coordinator ended. She was succeeded by Sr. Yliana Hernández, PBVM .
Sr. Yliana Hernández, PBVM was assigned as co-coordinator of the Hispanic Ministry. During her time of service, the Hispanic Religious Instruction Program was aligned to the norms and guidelines of the Catechetical Office of the Archdiocese of New York. This program grew to more than 400 students.
In 1995, Sr. Paula Cormier, PBVM, joined the Hispanic Ministry. Sr. Paula was responsible for including students from the Hispanic Education Program at the Saturday 7:00 pm mass. She used sign language to enhance children’s songs. Greater emphasis was given to the formation of catechists. Level I and Level II Catechists’ Formation courses were given in Spanish. Sr. Yliana also translated the guidelines for Level I Catechist Formation courses for the Archdiocese of New York into Spanish.
Sr. Paula started the RCIA program in Spanish and a special program for the formation of women. Sr. Paula and Sr. Yliana visited families throughout the community and invited them to participate in different programs that were offered. Children were also registered for the Religious Education Program during these visits. They visited five migrant camps throughout the area, providing religious instruction to adults and children.
In 1997, Sr. Helen Marie Raynor, PBVM, joined the Hispanic ministry. She was responsible for the RCIA program, assigning of liturgical ministries and preparation of new ones. Sr. Helen was very conscious of the community’s needs and provided information on programs that were accessible to the community.
In 2003, Fr. Henao was succeeded by Friar José McCarthy.
In 2003, Friar José McCarthy continued with the previous ministries. He initiated the celebration of the Dominican Republic patron, “Lady of Altagracia”. He demonstrated his concern for our soldiers and prayed especially for the deceased. He also visited the sick of the community.
Sr. Yliana had a dream to open a private school for girls from low-income families. In 2006, Sr. Yliana accomplished her dream and opened the Nora Cronin Presentation Academy for girls.
Sr. Yliana's tenure ended and was succeeded by Sr. Marta Hernández, Order of Our Lady of Charity.
In 2006, Friar McCarthy was succeeded by Fr. Tomas Bobadilla.
In 2006, Fr. Bobadilla continued with the previous ministries. The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe was enlarged. Along with parishioners, Fr. Bobadilla visited migrant camps. He introduced devotion to “la Virgen de Peregrinos”. He initiated the Patron Saint, “Virgen de la Nube” of Ecuador. Fr. Bobadilla’s ministry included a radio program and Bible classes. The Group Divino Niño donated the image situated to the left side of the altar. He continued with the youth and married couple groups.
Sr. Marta continued with the Hispanic Religious Education Program and accompanied Fr. Bobadilla visiting migrant camps. Sr. Helen continued with her ministry.
In 2009, Fr. Bobadilla was succeeded by Fr. Bladi Socualaya and Sr. Marta's tenure was finished.
In 2009, Fr. Fernando Hernández was appointed as the first Hispanic Pastor of St. Patrick's Church.
While doing his pastoral work for English, as well as Spanish speaking parishioners, he manages to be fully active in all major activities. His main goals are to unite the Hispanic and English speaking communities as one.
Presently, Fr. Socualaya and Sr. Helen continue to serve the Hispanic Community at St. Patrick's Church.
Fr. Socualaya has extensive studies in the Bible and is willing to share his knowledge with the Hispanic Community. He teaches Exegesis Bible classes on Sunday mornings. He meets with the Hispanic Lecturers for preparation of the Sunday readings. He established an additional mass on Wednesday night and one on the 3rd Friday of each month for children.
Dr. Rogelio Cuesta is volunteering to teach Catechism of the Catholic Church to the Hispanic Community on Sundays.
In 2010, Fr. Matthew Green joined the pastoral team as the Parochial Vicar. He is responsible for getting St. Patrick's Church involved with technology. Fr. Green is fluent in Spanish which is beneficial to the Hispanic Community.
The first Irish American becomes coordinator of the Hispanic Religious Education Program.
What started with a small group of parishioner from a few Spanish speaking countries and one priest. Today, we are blessed with three Spanish and English speaking priest serving all the parishioners of St. Patrick's Church. Today, the Hispanic community is composed of at least one member from all Spanish speaking countries. The mass is attended by 500 - 600 parishioners and over 1000 during special celebrations.
Our community strives to be a family, knowing that we all come from the same place, God the creator.
We thank the Irish Community for opening the doors of St. Patrick's Church to us and allowing us to be part of a multicultural parish.