For 125 years, the mission for St. Margaret of Cortona parish in the Bronx has not changed, and it is based on the words of Christ himself—“Whatever you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”
Father Brian McCarthy, pastor, further expressed that mission, saying, “Sometimes people think charity is something extra, but we are obligated by the Lord to be charitable.”
He added, “Christ did it, and we have to do it too.”
To fulfill that mission, the predominantly Irish and Irish-American parish is greatly involved in charitable works in the parish, the parish school and the surrounding community. Other nationalities represented among St. Margaret’s parishioners include Italians, and over the past several years, Hispanics and Asians.
The parish has a registry of some 1,300 families. Throughout the year, they are involved in charitable works including fund-raisers for the school, coat drives and collections, filling Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for the less fortunate and participating in Midnight runs for the homeless several times a year. The parish also holds a special fund-raiser for P.O.T.S., a soup kitchen and social service agency in the Bronx.
“We do things for the poor and the needy, said Father McCarthy. Serving with him at St. Margaret’s are Father Nicholas Callaghan and Father David Manuelpillai, and Deacons Joaquim Pereira and Donald Quigley.
The parish began in 1887, with Masses first celebrated at St. Vincent’s Free School, now on the campus of the College of Mount St. Vincent. Archbishop Corrigan laid the cornerstone for the church in 1891. However, an increase in population made a new church building necessary, and the groundbreaking was held on the feast of the Assumption in 1963. The first Mass in the new church was offered Feb. 7, 1965, and it was dedicated on June 6 that year.
Above the tabernacle, there is a large crucifix, and to the right of that is a beautiful statue of St. Margaret of Cortona, with her eyes looking upward to the Lord on the cross.
The parish school, established in 1926 by the Sisters of Charity, is staffed by a lay faculty under the leadership of principal Hugh Keenan. Some 300 students are enrolled.
The religious education program, with some 125 students, is directed by Kerry Bader. There is also an R.C.I.A. program.
In celebration of the 125th anniversary, a special Mass with Cardinal Dolan as the main celebrant and homilist was offered Nov. 3. Other special events included a Lenten mission led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a dinner-dance and a parish picnic. Father Callaghan held courses during Lent and Advent. A concert was celebrated by the Botti Opera Company in thanksgiving for all the parishioners did throughout the year.
“A lot of the things we did, we are going to try to continue,” Father McCarthy said.
The parish offers six Masses on the weekend, with one of those Masses on Saturday night. Some 1,500 people attend those Masses. There are also three daily Masses, which attract about 100 people in all.
Each month a Mass is held for families. A Holy Hour is offered each Thursday night. Eucharistic Adoration is held on Friday afternoons.
Father McCarthy said the parish plans to continues its mission of proclaiming the Gospel and leading people to Christ. “We hope to meet the spiritual and material needs of our parishioners and even those outside the parish,” he said.
He said, “We are obligated by our Lord to love all people, no matter what their race, religion, nationality or the language they speak. We have to love all people because that is what Christ did.”
“This is a wonderful parish and we feel very blessed,” the pastor said.