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Sunday, June 7, 2009
St. John Nepomucene
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Feast Day – May 16

September 20, 1903

First mass said at a temporary Church of St. John the Martyr, 249 East 71st Street

The first mass of the parish of St. John the Martyr was actually served in its former rectory at 249 East 71st Street. In May 1902 Fr. John T. Prout was assigned to St. Monica’s Church to work with the immigrant Bohemian community. He spoke the languages needed to proclaim the faith. In 1903 Archbishop John Cardinal Farley bought a house for $13,000 at 249 East 71st Street as a residence for Fr. Prout. The newly appointed pastor celebrated the parish’s first mass there on September 20, 1903. 

A little more than a year later, on September 25, 1904, Fr. Prout celebrated the first mass at the present church on East 72nd Street. The building had formerly housed the Knox Presbyterian Church. After a fire destroyed part of the structure, the Knox community vacated it, putting the building up for sale. The church and an adjoining private house were purchased by Cardinal Farley for the sum of $39,000. On September 24th Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Cusack blessed the new Catholic Church and dedicated the altar. The next day, Fr. Prout delivered his sermon to a standing room congregation at the church’s first mass. The neighborhood continued to receive European immigrants, and St. John’s population swelled. Fr. Prout remained as Pastor until February 1918.

February 1918

Fr. John Lane appointed Pastor

As World War I entered its final year, Fr. John Lane was appointed the new pastor of St. John the Martyr by Archbishop Patrick Hayes. Due to construction in a building adjacent to the 72nd Street rectory, the parish priests were compelled once again to take up residence on 71st Street, but this time at 259 E. 71st Street in a brownstone acquired by the Archdiocese. In 1964 the house next door at 257 E. 71st Street also came under the care of St. John’s.


Msgr. Larkin named Pastor

When Fr. Lane passed away, Patrick Cardinal Hayes named Msgr. Larkin to lead St. John’s. The parish conducted a vigorous social program, with plays, basketball teams, a gym and formal evening events.  New altars were installed and a passageway was constructed to connect the rectory to the sacristy.  After World War II, the Bohemian population gradually dispersed and newcomers began to arrive. Tenements were torn down to make room for high-rise luxury apartments.  The neighborhood was changing.


Fr. Edward McGrath appointed Pastor

With the death of Msgr. Larkin, Francis Cardinal Spellman named Fr. Edward McGrath as fourth Pastor of St. John’s.  During Fr. McGrath’s tenure the building underwent extensive refurbishing. The ushers, the Nocturnal Adoration and Holy Name societies became very active. The Women’s Altar and Rosary Society enjoyed its most productive days, and the stained glass windows they donated are still in place.

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