Albion Catholics Celebrate Mass at Hughes’ Alley

Revisiting Old Orleans, Vol. 1, Issue 3

It has been over 175 years since the first Irish celebrated Mass in the home of John Walsh in the Village of Albion. With an influx of Irish Catholics during the 1820s and 1830s as well as the flock of German Catholics who arrived several decades after, it was deemed necessary to construct a permanent house of worship for the immigrant community.

It was Rev. Patrick Costello of Lockport who first visited in Albion around 1840 to celebrate Mass. Throughout the following decade, the Catholic community of Albion would meet their sacramental requirements thanks to a visiting priest from Lockport or Rochester who would visit on a monthly basis. In cases of baptism, matrimony, or illness, a priest would be called upon to administer the appropriate sacrament as time allowed.

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Nearly ten years after Albion’s first Catholic Mass, Bishop John Timon visited Albion with Rev. Harmon of Medina in order to secure a site along North Main Street. The community made quick work of constructing the edifice, which was completed in 1852 under the direction of Rev. O’Conner; the first Mass was celebrated on Palm Sunday of that year. Over the next ten years, the congregation saw numerous priests come and go until Rev. John Marius Castaldi arrived in 1862. His tenure with the parish would be one of the longest in the history of the congregation.

Castaldi

Rev. John Marius Castaldi (1863-1895)

Castaldi ensured the continued growth of the parish with the erection of a parochial school located behind the church (pictured between the church and the house to the right), opening in 1869 under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy. He also secured 26 acres of land located on Brown Street for use as a Catholic cemetery, then called “Holy Sepulchre.” Two years later, the parish purchased the property of Mrs. English for use as a convent for the Sisters. This growth and the size of the congregation elevated the parish to the rank of “Irremovable Rectorship,” meaning the priest left only by retirement or death.

During his tenure at St. Joseph’s Church, Rev. Castaldi was instrumental in the establishment of St. Mary’s Church in Holley and made frequent trips home to Italy. Upon his return to the United States in 1893 from his final trip home, Rev. Castaldi brought Paulo Battini with him. Battini, a 48 year old widower, cared for the maintenance and janitorial duties at the church. After the death of Castaldi in 1895, Battini continued his responsibilities under the rectorship of Rev. John D. Biden until Biden’s removal to the Old Cathedral in Buffalo.

Battini would move to Buffalo with Rev. Biden where he was employed as the janitor and servant for the cathedral rectory. He would live out the rest of his life serving in this capacity. Battini is pictured to the left of the church entrance. The house on the right was owned by the McConnell family and the home pictured to the left was owned by Mrs. Baker who operated a greenhouse behind the home.

Considering the available information, this photograph was likely taken sometime around 1894 or 1895. Notice that the edifice is actually constructed from red brick instead of wood, as previously thought. The original church structure, which could seat approximately 400 people, was packed to capacity for the funeral of Rev. Castaldi. Held in high regards by the entire community, all of the businesses in the Village of Albion closed the day of the service.

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