Saint Francis Xavier Parish was founded in 1886, the same year that the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in N.Y. harbor. Father David Hickey was the founding pastor, offering the first Mass on September 19, 1886 in the parlor of a brownstone on the corner of Carroll Street and Sixth Avenue in Park Slope. The house at 243 Sixth Avenue still stands and is now the home of the Sisters of Saint Joseph who serve in the parish and school. The first church was erected by December, 1886, soon to be dubbed the "tin church" after the galvanizing metal sheathing covering it. Very shortly this edifice was too small to accommodate the needs of the growing parish and a new, permanent building of architectural significance was planned. The old church was moved from its site on Sixth Avenue to President Street where it still stands, having served for well over 100 years now as the parish Lyceum, a center for youth activities and sports and other parish activities.
On May 15, 1904 the new church building was dedicated by Bishop Loughlin. The architect, Thomas Houghton constructed the church of granite, trimmed with Indiana limestone. Our beautiful church is both spiritually uplifting, in the rising Gothic arches and vaults, and conducive to spiritual reflection and meditation in the rich profusion of images and designs provided in the sculptures, altars, pulpit and stained glass.
On September 11, 1887 the Sisters of Saint Joseph were invited by Father Hickey to open a school. The Sisters were later joined by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn and our school still serves the educational and spiritual needs of the young. Msgr. Hickey's long term as pastor (1886-1937) was followed by that of the parish's second pastor, Msgr. Edward P. Hoar (1937-1965). Father John Ansbro served as the third pastor from 1965 to 1980, succeeded by Msgr. John H. O'Brien (1980-1993). In 1993 Father Edward Doran became pastor, serving until 1999 when Father Gregory Stankus was appointed pastor (1999-2005). Our current pastor, Father William Rueger became the parish's seventh pastor in 2005.
Each pastor contributed his unique talents and charisms to fostering the growth of the parish and to meeting the needs of the people and of the times. Many wonderful priests, sisters, brothers and deacons have assisted the pastors in providing spiritual enrichment and growth opportunities for parishioners through 125 years. For all of them we are grateful because their dedication has enriched the faith development of generations of parishioners. The many lay ministers who serve and have served in the liturgical, catechetical, educational and social ministries in the parish have helped make Saint Francis the wonderful community it is.
When Msgr. Hickey preached at the Mass of Dedication for the new church in 1904, he said ". . . this grand church would be in vain if it were not a means to make our spiritual lives better and more beautiful . . . Your temple will preach a sermon to the passerby; let your lives preach a sermon by example to all with whom you mingle." For 125 years the clergy, religious and parishioners have tried to do that. May God bless us all as we strive to vibrantly and faithfully live and preach the Gospel in word and in action to our Park Slope community and beyond.