In 1853 a far-sighted and courageous group of German-speaking lay Catholic immigrants banded together to form a parish in downtown Brooklyn. They purchased a former Episcopal Church of St. Thomas on the corner of Willoughby and Bridge Streets and placed their new spiritual home under the patronage of St. Boniface, "the Apostle to the Germans." The church was dedicated on January 29, 1854. It was the first parish established by Bishop Laughlin, who himself was the first Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn.
In 1853 a far-sighted and courageous group of immigrants banded together to form a parish in downtown Brooklyn.
St. Boniface was born in England 680. He was baptized Wynfrith, a name which means "joy and peace." He was given the new name of Boniface, which means "good works," when he became a monk. As a monk he was a teacher before he being ordained a priest at age 30. Soon after ordination Pope Gregory II sent him as a missionary to the German-speaking tribes of northeastern Europe. He was fearless and unstoppable. On one famous occasion Boniface took an ax to the Geismer Oak, a tree at the center of a thriving religious cult. He was so successful that the Pope made him a Bishop in 722. But his success also won him enemies, and in 754, as he was celebrating Confirmations, he was murdered along with 53 of his companions. (These two scenes are beautifully depicted in the front right and left-hand windows of our church.)
The early parishioners of St. Boniface took heart from recalling their patron's own struggles to feel at home in a foreign land with a foreign language. The parish thrived in those early years, and by the late 1860s it was obvious they needed a larger church. They purchased land on Duffield Street and began to build a new edifice designed by the most famous Catholic Architect of the day, Patrick Keely. The charming little neo-gothic structure was completed and dedicated on January 29, 1872, the 18th anniversary of the founding of the parish. The new church was built for a cost of $40,000.
In 1990 Bishop Mugavero, seeking a permanent home for the new Brooklyn Oratory of St. Philip Neri, entrusted to them the pastoral care of St. Boniface parish. After years of extensive renewal, the Brooklyn Oratory today provides a home for a new generation of pilgrims.