History of St. John the Baptist Parish
A voice cries in the desert: prepare the way of the Lord. St. John the Baptist eagerly awaited the coming of the Kingdom of God and the new beginning that it would bring. In this same spirit, St. John the Baptist Parish is an oasis of hope for the community of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York.
Poverty, violence, unemployment, and fear are words which many others authors have used to characterize this community. These harsh realities are a cancer that threatens to consume us as a society. Some people have become its victims. Others have even given up hope. But the story of St. John’s is an account of a people who have refused to surrender to the problems that engulf their neighborhood. It is the story of the struggle of a community committed to create a better life for itself and its people.
St. John the Baptist Parish has become a focal point in the community, cradling and nurturing the human spirit in the midst of chaos.
Background: St. John the Baptist
In 1868, the Congregation of the Mission, the religious order of priests and brothers known as the Vincentians, founded the parish “Mary, Queen of the Isles” that was to become St. John the Baptist Parish in 1888.
From its very beginning, St. John’s meet the educational needs of the Diocese and its local community. St. John’s College Hall (later, St. John’s University - 1870), the Major Seminary of the Diocese of Brooklyn (1889), a grammar school (1903), and a high school (1927) were founded on parish grounds.
After the Second World War, the face of Bedford Stuyvesant began to change. The original population of Germans and Irish gave way to an influx of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Afro-Caribbeans, and other Hispanic people. The late 50’s and 60’s were times of economic hardship. Housing projects replaced brownstones, businesses moved out, and a once prosperous area slowly became impoverished. The parish responded to these needs through the creation of social outreach services, many of which are still in existence today.
Background: Our Lady of Good Counsel
On the feast of the Holy Rosary, October 4, 1886, the Parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel was born. Christian education began with the very foundation of the parish. The Sisters of St. Joseph (for the girls) and later the Franciscan Brothers taught here until the schools were closed in 1973.
The Parish continued to respond to the needs of its community as its population also changed after the Second World War. In the 1960's a Federal Credit Union was established to provide financial services to the people of the community, a ministry which continues today. The renovation of both school buildings to provide Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing to persons with a minimum income was another project which met the needs of the neighborhood.
From 1977 - 1998, the Congregation of Holy Cross served the parish, after which it was placed back into the hands of the Diocese.
St. John the Baptist Parish: serving the Churches of Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. John the Baptist
In 2005, the Diocese of Brooklyn entered into a period of change and restructuring. Due to the crisis of a clergy shortage (there will be an estimated total of 80 Diocesan priests to serve the entire Diocese by 2020), severe financial restraints, and new demographic realities, all of the Clusters of the Diocese needed to re-examine the administrative structures of the local church so that the mission of the Church could continue.
On Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006, the pastor of St. John the Baptist, Father Joseph Agostino, C.M. became Administrator of Our Lady of Good Counsel and began the process of the merger of the two Church communities. On the weekend of June 24 - 25, 2006 the union of the two Churches was celebrated with a procession through the streets of Bed-Stuy and a Bilingual Mass celebrating the birth of our new Parish.