About The Parish
In May 1894, Bishop Charles McDonnell of Brooklyn established the parish of St. Sebastian, and asked the pastor of St. Patrick’s’ in Long Island City, Rev. William Mc Guirl, to celebrate Mass there! Periodically until the appointment of our first resident pastor. Fr. Edward Gannon celebrated the first Masses in Arion (or Ariel) Hall on 56 St near Woodside Ave. (Or maybe in the former Woodside Volunteer Fire Company #3 House , later the American Legion Hall, and now …. on 39 Ave) He later rented a large, hexagonal room for services in the home of Mrs. Anne Collins on the same street, where many baptisms were performed. Fr. Gannon was 35 years old at this time, and found in the parish 53 Catholic families comprising 350 individual souls. The Newtown Register of Oct. 4, 1894 announced that Fr. Gannon would celebrate Mass every Sunday, at eight and ten A.M., with a High Mass every first Sunday at 10 AM.
Fr. Gannon faced a difficult task. In his own words, “At the commencement, the aspect of things was not very bright. There was no building site, no church, no house, and, what was most deplorable, no money. That God has blessed the work is evident from the fact that, after months of toil, $11,400 has been collected, a building site has been bought, and the new church is almost completed.” He had also purchased 16 lots, valued at $20,000 for the new parish. In addition to the usual fund-raisers-entertainments, lawn-parties, festivals, and a bazaar– a contemporary newspaper account of the church’s opening recounts that Fr. Gannon would walk through the village every evening after dinner with his St. Bernard dog, Fio, collecting a dime from every household.
The dedication of the new church occurred on Sunday, June 14, 1896 at the 10:15 Mass. Bishop McDonnell presided, Fr.· Gannon was the celebrant, aided by priests L.J. Guerin as deacon, T. McGrorien as subdeacon, P.F. O’Hara preacher, and the choir singing a newly composed Mass in honor of St. Sebastian, accompanied by a full orchestra. The architect of the church was F.J. Berlenbach, the builder was E.J. Coles, and the masons Messrs. Roden and Wise.
Fr. Gannon died on Feb. 1911 of Bright’s disease, having built the original church and the rectory which is still used to this day. At his funeral, several pastors of Brooklyn parishes assisted: the celebrant was the Rev. Thomas Carroll of St. Vincent de Paul church; deacon was the Rev. John T. Woods of Holy Cross in Brooklyn; sub-deacon John F. 0′ Hara of St. Matthew’s and the
eulogist was Rev. Matthew Tierney of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. The Rev. Charles Doyle of Newark was the master of
ceremonies. Upon the death of Fr. Gannon, Fr. John Wynne was appointed administrator of the parish for several months, until the appointment of Fr. Walter Kerwin as the new pastor in Jan. 1912. Fr. Kerwin remained for only two years when he was made pastor of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island.