How the two largest Catholic communities of New York came together

Apr 16, 2018 632

In the early 1800s the two largest Catholic communities in New York, the Irish and the Italian, hated each other to the bone. It was not uncommon for fights to break out in the streets, on construction sites and even on church grounds. The animosity was such that an op-ed from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a local newspaper, read: “Can’t they just be separated?” with “they” being Italian and Irish men working, and fighting, on a construction site in Brooklyn.

The Church was not spared from this antipathy. When Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini traveled from Italy to New York in 1889 with the mission of catering to Italian children, Archbishop Michael Corrigan, who was born in New Jersey from Irish immigrants, advised her to go back to Europe.

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