St. Thomas Aquinas Church History

St. Thomas Aquinas Church History

Built with Love | Alive in Christ
130 Years & Growing

In November of 1884 the Reverend James Donahoe was sent to establish the Parish of Saint Thomas Aquinas in South Brooklyn, the 47th parish in the Brooklyn Diocese. For over a hundred years our beautiful church building has been an oasis of peace amid the bustle of our urban environment. The doors of our church are open all day as a symbol that all are welcomed to enter and pray.
Our first Mass was celebrated November 16th, 1884 in a building on 9th Street near 5th Avenue. The building was known as the “Wigwam” and had been erected by the Twenty-second Ward Democratic Association for their meetings during the National Election of 1884.
The following are the firsts for the our parish:


Grace Delaney, the child of Thomas Delaney and Ann Manning on November 22nd, 1884.


Uniting Edward Moran and Elizabeth Casey on Christmas day 1884.


On Sunday, June 28th, 1885 at 3:30 p.m. the ceremony of blessing the Corner-Stone was performed by Bishop Loughlin. This ceremony was witnessed by over 6,000 people and the church was built within one year at a cost of $90,000. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Passion Sunday, April 4th, 1886. In 1887 a chapel was attached to the main church on the 8th Street side of the building which housed the baptistry, sacristy and altar boys’ rooms.


 In 1884 the Sisters of Saint Joseph purchased the convent on 9th Street and 4th Avenue. The school opened with 19 students and was known as South Brooklyn Academy. The first superior was Sister M. Xavier C.S.J. The school quickly expanded to the two adjacent frame houses on Fourth Avenue and in 1887 the name was changed to St. Thomas Aquinas Academy. By 1896 there were more than 100 pupils at the Academy. The facilities of the Academy were inadequate for the growth of the parish and the dream of a parochial school became a reality on Sunday September 9th, 1917 when Bishop Mc Donnell dedicated the new parish school on 4th Avenue and 8th Street. The first principal was Sister M. Angeline Lee C.S.J. who arranged for the move to the new school, the raising of the two frame houses at the rear of the Convent and reorganizing the Academy into a convent. The first graduation took place in 1921. The school was for years an active and vibrant part of our parish community. Sadly, our school was closed as part of a Diocesan reorganization and our 89th and last graduation celebration took place in 2005. However, the many wonderful memories live on in our active Alumni Association.

From December of 1982 to June of 2001, the pastoral care of our parish was entrusted to the Order of the CARMELITES. The Carmelite spirituality was a special blessing to the members of our community and we remember them fondly.
On October 19th, 1999 our parish was honored to be the Brooklyn host parish for the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This was an occasion of great joy and spiritual blessing for our parish community as we had the opportunity to participate in this world wide celebration.
On April 25th, 2006 the Diocese of Brooklyn approved the reconfiguration of Holy Family parish and Saint Thomas Aquinas parish. Due to the shortage of priests and demographic changes in our neighborhood our two parishes are in the process of merging into one community. Change is always difficult and we pray for the Lord’s guidance and blessing on our new community. As the Holy Family 100th Anniversary book indicated…. “We only glimpse at the past and stand but for a short time in the present, for the future beckons with a strength and excitement that will devastate the forces of evil. Our strength is in the Lord Jesus Christ and we have heard His voice in the words of Saint Paul, ‘I am sure of this much: that He who has begun the good work in you will carry through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus.'” (Philippians 1:6)
May we work together to complete this good work in our united parish community!
Over the years many changes have occurred to both the parish of Holy Family and the parish of Saint Thomas Aquinas, but through it all we have been open to the whisperings of the Spirit of the Lord among us.
You are most welcome to come and join our community and visit our church. A church however is just a building. The real church is the many people and organizations who make the parish community at Saint Thomas Aquinas and Holy Family such a special place. We invite you to visit our other pages and discover the many different facets of our community.