About St. Roch Church

Humble Beginnings

Before there was a St. Roch Catholic Church, there was a St. Roch Society and a St. Roch Feast. In a town south of Naples, Morra de Sanctis, St. Roch was the patron of the Church. He was a Frenchman who made a pilgrimage to Rome and on  the way, he cared for people stricken by the plague.  Eventually, he fell sick himself, but a faithful dog brought him food daily to help him recover. Italian immigrants who settled in Chickahominy, East Port Chester (Byram) and Port Chester formed the “Societa Morresa di San Rocco” a mutual aid society. They gathered yearly in mid-August to celebrate the feast day of their patron saint, St. Roch.

The Catholics of Chickahominy walked to Sacred Heart Church in Byram for Mass, which during the winter months was a real hardship, especially for the children. Father Sullivan,  pastor of Sacred Heart, and Angelo Roina, president of the Saint Roch Society, contacted the Bishop about building a church in the community.

The property was purchased in 1918, and most of the Morrese parishioners were masons and stonecutters but anyone and everyone from the community who desired to help were put to work. The foundation of the church was built, but because there was no more money, a roof was placed over the top and a chapel was furnished with an altar and pews. The chapel was dedicated on May 14, 1922.

Father Rice, assistant pastor of Sacred Heart, came every Saturday morning to instruct the children in religion, and to prepare them for the sacraments.  Either Father Sullivan or Father Rice celebrated one Mass each Sunday in the chapel.  Many societies in the parish did volunteer work and held fundraisers.  The St. Roch Society, the St. John Society, the Society of Mount Carmel, the Society of St. Gerard, the Children of Mary, the St. Anne Sodality, and the Holy Name Society each hosted celebrations and/or feasts for their particular saints.  The largest of these was the St. Roch feast, held in August of each year.  By 1928, $5,000 had been saved, and work was able to begin on the upper church.

By 1937, the new church was financially able to stand independently of Sacred Heart. The first pastor of the newly incorporated church was Fr. Vincent Finn.  He had to rent an apartment, for there was not yet a rectory.  With much volunteer work, he built the rectory.  Later a convent for the Sisters of St. John the Baptist was added through a purchase of the Thomas Monti house and, in 1952, a nursery school was started.  Property was purchased for a school site and St. Roch School opened in 1958.  Grigg Avenue was renamed “ST. ROCH AVENUE”.  

Due to the diminished numbers in vocations, the Sisters of St. John were not able to remain at the school and no other orders of Sisters were available to take on the school.  Sadly, the school closed in June 1969 and the building was renamed the Christian Life Center. The building presently today serves as the Religious Education Center for the Parish.