Monday, July 12, 2021

The Story Behind a Tradition

Yesterday, someone on Facebook inquired about a procession going down Warren Street with a police escort. It was the annual celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which has been a Hudson tradition since 1908. The tradition is now being carried on by Sacred HeartOur Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine, located at 442 Fairview Avenue in Greenport.  

The question about the procession inspired me to tell the story of Hudson's Roman Catholic churches, which is extremely interesting and probably unfamiliar to most people now living in Hudson. Once upon a time, there were three Catholic churches in Hudson: St. Mary's, Mt. Carmel, and Sacred Heart. Back in the day, when such things were not considered politically incorrect, they were known by the ethnicity of the majority of their congregants. St. Mary's was the Irish Church; Mt. Carmel was the Italian Church; and Sacred Heart was the Polish Church.

Established in 1847, St. Mary's was the first Roman Catholic Church in Hudson, indeed the first in Columbia County. Its original church building, completed in 1848, stood at the corner of South Third and Montgomery streets. 

In 1930, the church moved to its new building at the corner of East Court and East Allen streets.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the "Italian Church," was founded in 1908. Its original place of worship was this building once located in the vicinity of the former Washington Hose firehouse, now the location of the Chamber of Commerce.  

In 1928, the church moved to its new building at Union and Second streets, the building that is now St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church.

What was the "Polish Church" began in 1916 as the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope. Its church building was located on North Second Street at the juncture with Robinson Street. In 1933, the church was replaced by Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, which constructed, on the same site, a new church building and a rectory, both designed by local architect Lucius Moore.

Hudson's three Roman Catholic churches coexisted until 1990, when Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Albany Diocese closed both Mt. Carmel and Sacred Heart. The intention was that both congregations would merge with St. Mary's Church, but a group of parishioners from both churches resisted the consolidation. In their effort to preserve their churches, they went so far as to petition Pope John Paul II to take action on their behalf. Their efforts were persistent but unsuccessful. 

Finally, in 1997, this group of parishioners formed Sacred HeartOur Lady of Mt. Carmel Traditional Catholic Shrine, located in a building on Fairview Avenue in Greenport that had started out as a chain restaurant. The Shrine's website explains that it is an independent shrine "not affiliated with any diocese or religious society." The website also explains that the traditional Latin mass is celebrated at the Shrine and "the unchanged Roman Catholic Faith" is embraced. 

The procession to honor Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, one of the many titles of the Virgin Mary, that occurred yesterday was followed by a reception at the Shrine. Tom D'Onofrio recalls that when Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was located at Second and Union streets a carnival-like celebration followed the procession. Second Street would be closed between Warren and Union, and booths were set up offering food, including memorable Italian pastries, and games.  

Today, the Catholic church in Hudson once known as the "Irish Church" is called Holy Trinity Parish/St. Mary's Church as a consequence of a further merger of Roman Catholic congregations.

Gratitude to Tom D'Onofrio for providing valuable information for this post.


  1. Thank you for your kind words. And a great article.

  2. Best fried dough ever at the annual carnivals following the processions. Seeing the article about all three churches brings back memories of Tuesday afternoons in the 1960's when the public schools let the students out of class early for what was referred to as "religious release time" if I recall correctly. We just called it "bible school". The streets were filled with kids of all ages rushing to their respective churches.

  3. We, at St. Mary's, got out early on Tuesdays. The public school kids came in for instruction. We left.

  4. The carnival also featured games of chance. The "Birdcage" with the dice was a great vehicle for a young boys dream of riches!