About the Founder of
The Mission of the Immaculate Virgin
at Mount Loretto
|Father John Christopher Drumgoole
|John Christopher Drumgoole was born in County Longford, Ireland on August 15, 1816 and was
raised in poverty. His father, a cobbler, died in 1822. John migrated to NYC to join his mother,
Bridget, who made the trip across the Atlantic 2 years before. John landed at the quarantine dock
on Staten Island in 1824.
Bridget and John lived on Mott Street. His mother had been working as a housemaid in one of
New York’s wealthy mansions. He attended St. Patrick’s Grammar School at Mott and Prince
Streets. The Sisters of Charity who taught at St. Patrick’s recommended him for an altar-boy.
While still a schoolboy, he provided some support for himself and his mother by running errands
for a local druggist and doing other chores. Later, he took a job assisting a shoemaker on Mott
Street after school. At the age of 14, he abandoned his education to seek full-time employment
as a cobbler’s assistant (shoemaker). Before long, he was the breadwinner of the family.
Bridget and John joined the city’s third parish, St. Mary’s, on Sheriff Street, founded in 1826. St.
Mary's was the first Catholic church in NY to posses a bell. Every morning, John assisted with
mass. In 1831, St. Mary’s was set on fire and burned to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1832 on
|Saint Mary's Church on Grand Street as it appeared in 1863
|John received citizenship papers on November 7, 1838 at the New York Marine Court. In 1844, at
the age of 28, he became the sexton/janitor of St. Mary's Church and for 21 years, he gave shelter
to the children of the streets in the basement of the church.
John opened a small bookstore/religious shop across the street from St. Mary’s on 444 Grand
Street. He attended St. John’s College in Rose Hill. Eventually, the trip to Rose Hill proved too
expensive, so he went to the St. Francis Xavier College on 15th Street, NY. As the years went by,
John ran his shop, studied, carried on as sexton at St. Mary’s, and continued his efforts with the
homeless and poor.
In 1864, his mother moved in with the Kerrigans so her son didn't have to put off his desire to go to
seminary school because he had to support her.
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|He attended the Seminary of our Lady of Angels at Suspension Bridge NY near Niagara Falls, in
September 1865. During his years at the seminary, he never returned to NY. He became the
favorite of the Sisters of Loretto, a group of Canadian njms who, along with the Franciscan Sisters
at Niagra, befriended and cared for him. He told the sisters that someday he was toing to build a
home for the homeless and would name it after the beautiful convent Loretto.
December 19, 1868, John was made a sub-deacon. On Saturday, May 22, 1868, at the age of
52, he was ordained a priest and was sent to his beloved parish, St. Mary’s, on Grand Street. Fr.
Drumgoole said his first mass on May 30, 1869. In the front pew, her face one happy smile, his
mother sat with the Kerrigans during the mass.
In September 1871, full control of the “Newsboys’ Home” was vested to Fr. Drumgoole and he
became the Chaplain of the St. Vincent’s Home for Homeless Boys at 53 Warren Street that
provided accomodations for 100 boys. Soon Fr. Drumgoole’s help was not alone for newsboys.
He welcomed white, black, young, and old. Fr. Drumgoole circulated handbills advertizing the
|His life-style was exceedingly simple. He furnished his tiny room at the Newsboys Lodging House
with an iron bed, straw mattress, a plain desk, and a chair reserved for the boys or other visitors
who came to talk with him. He allowed himself just one luxury, a cuckoo clock on the wall of his
room left him by his mother who died in August 1874. His mother is buried at Calvary Cemetery.
|In 1875, Fr. Drumgoole established the St. Joseph's Union to support the lodging house with
union dues of 25 cents a year. He also published a magazine called “The Homeless Child” so he
could gain the interest of prospective members. The buildings he had were inadequate with a
rental cost of $4,000 a year, but had already sheltered 10,000 children and more than 1000 of
them had been prepared for First Communion. Fr. Drumgoole was firmly resolved that no
building would be begun until he had all the money in hand necessary for its completion so there
would be no debts. He would collect funds quickly by holding a bazaar with prizes, lottery, and
concerts. It was held in Ferraro’s Assembly Room on 14 Street. 62,000 tickets were sold at 25
In July 1877, appeared Volume I, Number 1, of “The Homeless Child and Messenger of St.
Joseph’s Union” magazine written and/or edited by Fr. Drumgoole.
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|He was one of the first commuters between SI and Manhattan. Ferries like the Southfield
crisscrossed lower New York Bay, linking Manhattan and Staten Island. Father Drumgoole was a
familiar figure on their decks.
|He kept his usual routine of spending alternate days at the City House and at Mount Loretto. On
Sunday, March 11, 1888, he boarded the train at Pleasant Plains. The rain turned into snow then
into a real blizzard. At St. George he learned he could go no further, because no ferries would go
to NYC until the storm was over. He decided to return to Mount Loretto, but the train was no longer
running due to the Great Blizzard with wind velocities of 85 miles an hour. He hired a horse and
gig and set out for the Home. How he made it, no one knew. The storm lasted for over three
days. Fr. Drumgoole developed a cold that later progressed into Pneumonia. The train began to
run again on Thursday and he made the trip to the NYC Mission. The following Monday, as he
was preparing to rise at 4:00 am to say mass and he collapsed. He wrote a will leaving
everything he had, real and personal, to the Mission.
Fr. Drumgoole died on March 28, 1888, at the age of 72. An estimated 100 thousand people
paid their respects at the Mission and at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His funeral was held on Easter
Monday and the body was taken to Mount Loretto. A long line of funeral coaches followed the
hearse down 5th Avenue and Broadway to the ferry. At St. George a special train was waiting.
He was buried in a mausoleum on the sloping woodland at Mount Loretto.
A memorial statue was erected in 1894 in from of MIV at Lafayette Place. At the unveiling
ceremony, the Mission Band of 75 members played the music.
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|This statue, 10 feet in height, depicts Fr. Drumgoole with 2 boys on either side of him - a
well-dressed boy reading a book and a ragged boy with his newspapers alongside. The 2 boys
are actually the same boy, named Pat, before and after meeting Fr. Drumgoole. After 25 years, in
1920, the statue was moved to Mount Loretto to stand in the center lawn facing the Church.
A memorial stained glass window was dedicated in 1898 and placed in the Boyside Church.
|In 1941, a highway on SI was named in is honor.
In 1973, P.S. 36 was renamed the Fr. John C. Drumgoole Annadale School.
Father Drumgoole is the unofficial patron saint of the orphans, homeless, and less fortunate.
|Click below to return to the "About Us" page, which has pictures and tells the story of
The Mission of the Immaculate Virgin - Mount Loretto.
|This page last
June 12, 2006.
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