St. Luke’s, a Welcoming ‘Face’ of the Church in the Bronx, Marks 125 Years


In the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, clergy, staff, volunteers and the faithful multitude of St. Luke’s parish have been celebrating the parish’s 125th anniversary of faithful service in the South Bronx.

On the afternoon of Saturday Oct. 22, Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass to commemorate the milestone, saying in his homily that he was happy “to be here with you at St. Luke’s parish for your 125th anniversary—congratulations, congratulations.” His words were met with loud applause from the grateful faithful in the pews.

“I want to say how much I love you and how grateful I am to you for your love of Jesus and His Church that is so obvious here at St. Luke’s,” the cardinal told the congregation, citing the faithful membership of parishioners dedicated to their parish family. 

“Today is the feast of Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope St. John Paul II once called the parish ‘the family of families’—and that’s so true here at St. Luke’s.”

Cardinal Dolan mentioned the rich immigrant history of the parish: early newcomers from Ireland, Italy and other European countries, and later from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. A large number of parishioners hail from the West African country of Ghana.  

“Here God’s people have come to have their children baptized and confirmed, to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, and to be married,” the cardinal said. “Here you have served the neighborhood and the community; here you were given a sense of evangelization and welcome.”

Cardinal Dolan thanked his concelebrants, who included Auxiliary Bishop Joseph A. Espaillat; Father Eric Cruz, the parish administrator and Bronx regional director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities; and priests who served at the parish in past years. The Mass was conducted in English, Spanish and Ghanaian.

Father Cruz, in closing remarks, expressed words of thanks to the cardinal, to all who helped to plan the Mass, and to all who were present. “My heartfelt thanks; thank you to all who cooperated and worked together as a church to celebrate 125 years,” he said, noting the importance of looking into the future for another 125 years. His comments were greeted with loud applause.

In an interview with Catholic New York, Father Cruz later noted that St. Luke’s parish has “a history of being welcoming, of being the first face of the Catholic Church in New York, in particular the Bronx.” He said the parish maintains “a crucial continuation of her history and the mission of the Church, to welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry and the needy, defend the innocent, the vulnerable, those with no voice.”

Father Cruz said he hopes the parish will continue “building on that history, caring for the poor around us here in the South Bronx, creating outreach, and growing in our relationship with God, in virtue and in acts of charity and praise.”

Dinora Nieves, 46, parish office receptionist and president of the parish Charismatic Renewal, told CNY, “The Mass was amazing, it was awesome…And I feel so fortunate and blessed that this church is still up and running, and strong; there’s a big mixture of different cultures.” 

Ms. Nieves, a mother of three, noted the dedication of volunteers in various ministries, such as those in the Legion of Mary, who “do a lot of good work. They go out there, they visit the elderly in homes and hospitals.” She also gratefully noted the good works of her fellow Charismatic Renewal members. 

At the Mass, the faithful included members of the Knights of Columbus and women religious, including sisters from the Missionaries of Charity. The parish is located on East 138th Street, in the southwest area of the Bronx, also known as  Mott Haven. 

Father Frederick Agyeman is the parochial vicar. Deacon Antonio Guzman is the religious education coordinator, and about 115 children are enrolled in religious education.

St. Luke’s parish was established in 1897, separated from St. Jerome’s parish. The first Mass was celebrated by the first pastor, Father John J. Boyle, on July 4, 1897, in a barn belonging to the Sadlier family. Construction of the church building was completed the following year.  

St. Luke’s School opened in 1910, staffed by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. The school closed in 2020 along with other archdiocesan schools as part of a school consolidation plan. 

Father Boyle was pastor until 1914. The pastors after Father Boyle included Msgr. Daniel J. McMackin, Father John J. Mitty, Father Patrick J. Minogue, Msgr. Robert B. Mulcahey, and Msgr. Gerald J. Ryan.

Msgr. Ryan served the longest tenure as pastor: 47 years ending in 2013; and Msgr. Mulcahey the second longest: 35 years ending in 1966.