The following is excerpted from Assumptionists In The United States, published by the Assumptionist Center in 1994.
Our Lady of Esperanza Parish
The dream of the Assumptionists to relocate uptown in Manhattan was to be realized in an unforeseen manner. Fr. Adrien Buisson, who was practically in charge of Our Lady of Guadalupe because of the frequent and prolonged absences of Fr. Thomas Darbois in Worcester, was very friendly with the wealthy Mrs. Manuela de Laverrerie de Barril. As she was infirm, he often brought her Holy Communion. This Spanish lady, whose husband had been the Spanish Consul-General in New York, often commented upon the dreary poverty of the chapel on 14th Street and expressed her desire to see a more appropriate church for the numerous Hispano-American colony. Long a resident of New York City, Mrs. Barril was from a noble Spanish family and had many contacts with the wealthier people of New York. Among her friends was Mr. Archer Milton Huntington, a poet and scholar, who admired Spanish works of art and literature to the extent that he decided to build a museum devoted to Spanish culture, to house the many art treasures he had obtained during his annual trips to Spain. The location of this museum was to be on a large empty tract of land between 155th and 156th Streets, west of Broadway.
One day, in a conversation, Mrs. de Barril was thanking Mr. Huntington for all he had done and was doing for her countrymen. She slyly added that if she had his kind of money the Spanish colony of New York would soon have a fine church of their own. Mr. Huntington was an Episcopalian. Mrs. de Barril said to him quite simply, “If only you were a Roman Catholic, and given your interest in Spanish culture, you would build us a church. We do not have one in New York.” To which Mr. Huntington is said to have replied, “Who knows? I might still do it. It is not too late.” Mrs. de Barril died a few months later, but her daughter, Maria de Barril, often mentioned her mother’s dream in her conversations with Mr. Huntington. One day, he said to her, “I have been thinking about your mother’s idea and I would like you to give me a letter to Archbishop Farley so that we could discuss the church.” This was not difficult, since the de Barril family had easy access to the Archbishop. During the interview, Mr. Huntington asked the Archbishop if he would accept from him the gift of a church for the Spanish colony of New York. Archbishop Farley accepted and it was agreed that Mr. Huntington would give a parcel of land, valued at $75,000, adjacent to the proposed museum. He would also contribute $25,000 toward the construction of the church provided the Spanish colony gave a matching amount.
In January, 1906, Fr. Thomas was called in by Archbishop Farley who told him of Mr. Huntington’s offer and inquired if the Assumptionists would like this new location. Fr. Thomas answered affirmatively, subject to the approval of his Major Superior. In a letter to Father General, dated January 15, 1906, he wrote: “The spot is not densely populated for the moment. We will have to suffer for several years. We will have few Mass stipends for ourselves and even fewer for Greendale, but with time the situation will become better than that of 14th Street. We shall have a subway stop nearby. Unfortunately, we will end up by having a tramway right in front of our door. We are separated from the nearest parish by an old Protestant cemetery, which serves as a buffer between it and us.... In front of us and to the side, hundreds of dwellings are being built. At this moment, the Archbishop is discussing the matter with the donor. He wants more land than is being offered... eight times more.... It is unfortunate that the transfer of our residence should be offered just now when we are lengthening the church, at a cost of almost $9,000. But neither the Archbishop who had authorized the expense, nor we who requested that it be made, could have thought of the initiative presented to us by the Protestant benefactor. The Episcopalians, to whom he belongs, asked for land to build a Spanish chapel near the museum, which will surely attract numerous visitors. They were told that, as Catholicism is the religion of the Spanish-speaking people, to build anything but a Catholic church would be to insult them. It is the Archbishop who gave me these details, asking me to make nothing public before an agreement has been reached. It goes without saying that if we move to 155th and Broadway we will not be able to keep 14th Street for long. The Archbishop hinted at this. I will keep you posted on all this.” In the same letter, Fr. Thomas seeks authorization to incorporate the Assumptionists legally and to become himself an American citizen. He claims that this would make it easier to obtain donations and inheritances.
About two weeks later, Fr. Thomas was again called to the Chancery and reminded that Mr. Huntington wanted the church built without delay and in the same style as his museum, pure Renaissance. “The cost of he chapel alone,” wrote Fr. Thomas on January, 1906, “will be at least $50,000, which we will have to borrow. I repeated to His Excellency that I could not assume this responsibility without your consent.... I added that I could not see how, given the situation in that area, we could pay for the upkeep and interest charges, etc. He responded that he would let us stay on 14th Street for some years, and that we would only have to send a priest on Saturdays for confessions and on Sundays to say two masses in the new chapel. This arrangement pleases me greatly. It would allow us to benefit from the improvements made on 14th Street and, by our services, thank the good Irish people who alone have borne the financial burden. Maybe with time we will have two parishes?
“His Excellency promised to help us find funds. He seemed really impatient about the fact that for parish business we had to refer to a foreigner who did not know the conditions of the American market. I stopped him in the middle of his tirade and somewhat dryly told him that there was no way we would do otherwise. “I understand perfectly,” he said and we moved on to other matters.”
As we must realize by now, Fr. Thomas Darbois was a busy man in 1905-06. His duties as Superior obviously took some time. He was the key man in the changes being made at Guadalupe, he was deeply involved in the Greendale foundation, and also with the construction of Esperanza Meetings, planning sessions, fundraising events required his presence. Loans had to be negotiated with banks and the Congregation. A number of the threads of this story of the early Assumptionist communities in the USA lead to and from Fr. Thomas.
One source of distress was personal and sentimental. For a number of years, Fr. Thomas and his twin brother, Gunfrid, had labored side by side in Chile. In New York Fr. Thomas frequently expressed his sadness over the separation that obedience had forced upon them. Other Assumptionists, conscious of his merit as an organizer, suggested in their letters that something be done to abate this grief and enhance his ability to operate efficiently. During the summer of 1905, after seven years in Chile, Fr. Gunfrid spent some time in France. During this time, he was assigned to New York. He wrote: “My brother and I thank you (Fr. General) for reuniting us. His presence will compensate for the pain of leaving Chile to which I was deeply attached.” While in Paris preparing to sail, he was notified that his nomination as Superior of Assumption College had been canceled, much to his great relief. Upon learning of his brother’s assignment, Fr. Thomas had suggested that Gunfrid could be considered as a candidate to replace Fr. Isidore; but he added: “All here believe that this is undesirable because he is known to many religious and was disliked as Superior in Chile.” Fr. Thomas concluded that he would prefer that Gunfrid go to Worcester as a member of the missionary band. As this is not the history of the Darbois family, let us just say that after some months in Worcester Fr. Gunfrid went to Tiff-en, Ohio, as curate of a Fr. Hultgen, who later wanted the Assumptionists to open a French parish in Toledo. When Fr. Thomas left for the General Chapter of 1906, Fr. Gunfrid served as interim pastor of Guadalupe. By October 13, he asked to return to Chile, feeling that he was disliked by too many religious. He sailed aboard the freighter Charcus July 18, 1907. Fr. Thomas held Fr. Tranquille solely responsible for his departure, despite the fact that Fr. Gunfrid had indicated that the cold climate was bad for him and that he had trouble learning English at his age. Thus ended one chapter of the Darbois “saga.”
In an interview with Mr. Huntington, in February, 1907, FF. Thomas and Adrien learned that he wanted the church built within two years and that the Archbishop agreed. Moreover they discovered that the Archbishop and Mr. Huntington agreed that the chapel at 14th Street could be sold to cover costs of the new church. Obviously this would upset the Assumptionists’ plans, and it caused Fr. Thomas to write to the General: “If instead of selling 14th Street we were to obtain from you a loan of $20,000 we could keep 14th Street, build at 156th, and later, slowly, amortize the loan.” A fund-raising drive was begun in April, and some gifts were received. With this in mind, Fr. Thomas planned to tell the Archbishop that the Congregation might make a loan to make up for any shortfall of the drive, but on condition that 14th Street be neither closed nor sold.
From the first moment of agreement to find the matching $25,000, Fr. Thomas had in mind some kind of organization that would contact important members of the Hispanic colony. Thus was formed the Ibero- American Committee which met three times in the spring of 1906. One of the conditions imposed by the Archbishop was that the matching $25,000 be in cash, not in pledges. It seems that this was a condition spelled out by Mr. Huntington. Fr. Adrien Buisson also learned in June that Mr. Huntington, probably prodded by Mrs. de Barril and her daughter, preferred to see Fr. Adrien in charge of the new church. Fr. Adrien, already to a great extent running Guadalupe, complained to the General that the three young priests assigned to him, FF. Aurelien Buhrer, Symphorien Terraz, and Zacharie Saint-Martin, had little interest in things Spanish. “If only we could obtain Fr. Francisco Garcia, a Spaniard, now in Chile.” Fr. Adrien sought to visit his old and dying father in France and was looking for a capable replacement in the demanding Hispanic apostolate. He was notified that Fr. Paul de la Croix Journet, fluent in Spanish, would soon arrive in New York. He did arrive aboard the Savoie on September 30, 1906, and Fr. Adrien left for France aboard the same ship. He returned to New York in late January, 1908.
The following March, Fr. Adrien became Superior of the Guadalupe community although Fr. Thomas remained pastor of the parish. Fr. Adrien urged his Superiors in Rome to try to do something among the officials of the Propagation of the Faith (which was still in charge of the Catholic church in the USA) so that Guadalupe could become a territorial church.
The drive was bringing in funds only very slowly. Fr. Thomas, somewhat freer now, planned an extensive fund-raising tour of Mexico. He left on June 18, 1908, but before leaving he paid a courtesy call to the Archbishop, along with Fr. Adrien. The Archbishop was very kind, paternal, and encouraging, especially once the Assumptionists had told him that they thought that any shortfall in the drive might be made up by a loan from the Congregation.
Fr. Adrien felt cramped in the low-ceilinged Guadalupe church, and he vigorously pushed not only to enlarge it but also to raise the ceiling by taking two other floors of the house. This would obviously require the purchase of living space for the religious. As we shall see later, this was achieved only in 1917, when 231 West 14th Street could finally be bought. When he had a bit of a dark mood, Fr. Adrien wondered whether “we will ever become important and be other than a small Spanish mission.” He notified the General that the Community had $14,000 in the bank and asked to be allowed to loan it for the 156th St. church construction. In this connection, he mentioned that Mr. Huntington always refused to deal directly with the Assumptionists: he dealt directly with the Archbishop only. He noted that the end of the two-year limit to acquire the $25,000 matching gift was very rapidly approaching and that Fr. Thomas was having little success in Mexico. One week later the General granted the $15,000 loan requested. When Fr. Adrien met with the Archbishop and Mr. Huntington on January 20, 1909, he was thus able to tell them that he had the necessary $25,000 in hand and expressed his regrets at the delay in amassing this sum. To which Mr. Huntington graciously replied. “What is done slowly is done surely.” He then added; ‘Tomorrow I’ll send a check for $25,000 to Archbishop Farley.” On January 27 1909, he and the Archbishop visited the site and arrived at an understanding regarding the exact location of the church Mr. Huntington would provide the architect, his cousin, Charles P. Huntington, who would submit all plans to the Chancery by February 10. There was hope that construction could begin in the Spring.
The fund-raising drive ended in May. The total received was $10,295.73. According to the books some $4,000 was due to the efforts of Miss de Barril who had organized two charity concerts among her friends. Six months canvassing many bishops in Mexico yielded Fr. Thomas a net of $1,368.80. Much of the $4,600 collected in New York can be attributed to FF. Thomas and Adrien. All monies received were sent directly to the Chancery by the treasurer of the drive, who wanted Father to accompany him to the Chancery. But Fr. Thomas refused, saying that he understood that the Archbishop’s orders were that he be by-passed in these financial matters.
A cursory examination of the architect’s plans revealed the absence of any sort of residential quarters. A letter to the Archbishop proposed that somewhere, somehow, there be provision for accommodations for three religious. The Archbishop’s answer, by return mad was:
In reply to your letter of the 7th inst., in which you suggest the need of a residence, etc., for three Fathers at the new Spanish church. I beg to remind you that such a thing was never contemplated when the first suggestion was made by Mr. Huntington. All he asked, and all I proposed, was that this chapel be succursal to the one in 14th Street, and that one Mass should be said in this new chapel every Sunday with a sermon in Spanish delivered by one of the Fathers residing in 14th St.
It never was intended to make, in that locality, a new Spanish parish with a residence, and all other things mentioned by you, unless, in the course of time, a Spanish population resident in that neighborhood would call for it.
I still hold to this understanding, and I cannot approve of any further demand on Mr. Huntington’s generosity. We must be careful, lest, in striving for too much, we may lose everything.
This answer did not quite match the high hopes entertained by the Assumptionists concerning the future of this new church. But, knowing that the concern of the Archbishop for the Hispanic apostolate was genuine, they resolved to make the best of the situation. Fr. Adrien accepted the absence of residential quarters in the same building and agreed to rent an apartment in some nearby building. He found a place for sale some 275 yards away; it was in fair condition and could be remodeled to serve as a rectory. As their available funds were earmarked to buy quarters for the religious at 14th Street, the Fathers could not buy it, and Mr. Huntington paid no heed to a hint dropped sometime during that winter.
Yet, by June, 1909, they had purchased 557 West 156th Street, at a price of $18,500. They paid $7,500 and took a mortgage for the remainder. They did not notify the Archbishop. They planned to rent the house out until it became convenient to occupy it.
Just prior to the ground-breaking ceremonies, Miss de Barril handed Fr. Adrien a check for $5,000 “to help furnish the church.” She also promised to contact some of her wealthy friends for additional donations, and in fact she personally raised some $25,000 for the furnishings of the church. She even obtained a $2,000 gift from J. Pierpont Morgan.
Ground was broken in July, 1909, and by August 19 the foundations were being poured. Monsignor M.J. Lavelle, Vicar General of the archdiocese, blessed and laid the cornerstone on April 9, 1912. Donations kept coming in; one benefactor promised to pay for the marble main altar. The stained glass windows were already paid for and the roof was “still under construction.” Fr. Stéphane Chaboud, who had meanwhile become Superior at 14th St., wrote that enough pews had been ordered to seat 300 on the main floor and another 50 in the gallery. Unfortunately the architect’s plans provided for little space for liturgical movements in the narrow choir. A ball brought in $10,000 and immediately an altar of Sienna marble was ordered from Italy. Because of this, the benediction of the chapel scheduled for December 8 was postponed, much to the relief of the religious who would have been obliged to live in cramped rooms and the sacristy during the winter months.
As the construction neared its completion, Fr. Adrien still regretted that the Archbishop had not accepted to provide some sort of living quarters for the staff of the chapel. He remained pessimistic on this point and made plans to continue residing at 14th Street, traveling each day for one mass on weekdays and for two or three masses on Sundays. He commented that when the attendance became numerous enough the Assumptionists could plan a second community in the neighborhood. This would mean that more priests would have to be assigned to New York. At the moment there were only three who knew Spanish well: Adrien Buisson, Fulgence Moris, and Paul de la Croix Joumet, who had been in New York since 1907. For a time, Fr Stéphane thought of putting Fr Adrien in charge of the new chapel, with an assistant who knew English wed; but Fr. Adrien objected, reminding the General that he had just been appointed pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and that the Archbishop had clearly told Fr. Ernest Baudouy “in my presence” that at first a priest from 14th Street would say daily mass and on Saturday could stay over in the small room over the sacristy.
Personnel changes were occurring at 14th Street. Some of them seem to have been occasioned by a clash of personalities. There was some question about the future of Fr. Zacharie St. Martin who had been in New York since 1906, yet did not get along well with Fr. Adrien. Fr. Aurelien Buhrer had finally been accepted by the Bishop of Portland, Maine, on a trial basis; he would work there until his dying day. Fr. Paul de la Croix Joumet was somewhat dissatisfied with Fr. Adrien’s treatment of the religious. Fr. Paul wrote that he now knew enough English to hear confessions and that he frequently preached in Spanish. His knowledge of French and Italian also came in handy. He had adjusted to life in New York and was content to remain there. Fr. Thomas had taken a liking for Mexico and hoped for a foundation in Monterey but it was believed that he would encounter problems because he had publicly criticized the President. Fr. Ixile Frappier for some reason did not succeed in Worcester and was reassigned to New York. On August 17, 1909, Fr. Tranquille Pesse returned to New York from his vacation in France. FF. Marie-Clement Staub and Stéphane Chaboud left Italy and arrived in New York on December 21, 1909. In a letter to the Archbishop, Fr. Emmanuel Bailly, Superior General, notified him that on the recommendation of his doctor Fr. Thomas Darbois was being recalled to France and that Fr. Stéphane Chaboud was replacing him as Common Superior.
These changes would solve several nagging problems. The return to France of Fr. Thomas would satisfy both him and the New York community. Fr. Stéphane’s nomination would free Fr. Adrien to spend more time at Our Lady of Esperanza. The problem of the pastor of Guadalupe was also solved; Fr. Adrien had been unsure and hesitant over whether he was the pastor and Superior as long as Fr. Thomas Darbois remained in the background. The new Common Superior would become pastor and Superior of Guadalupe and could act more decisively.
But a new problem was created by the Provincial Superior of the Ploermel Brothers when he recalled the Brother who served as organist and printer at 14th Street and announced that the others would soon be recalled too. They left on August 10, 1910. Immediately a cry went to Paris for replacements; three priests would be needed at 14th street and one at 156th.
The main altar for Esperanza left Italy on April 17, 1911, and arrived in New York only in August, packed in 60 crates. Shortly after, all work stopped in the church because of a strike among marble workers. As they visited the church, some of the religious and even some of the diocesan staff realized that the omission of a rectory in the original plans would be regretted. The Archbishop finally accepted to approach Mr. Huntington during the summer of 1911. This gentleman, who was unfamiliar with the requirements of any Catholic parish, stated that it was unfortunate that this necessity had not been brought to his attention from the beginning. The construction was so far advanced that changes in the plans were impossible. Nevertheless, he granted an extra five-foot passageway along the side of the church so that the religious serving the church could reach the small rooms located over the sacristy.
Fr. Adrien, as caretaker of the church under construction, visualized many more activities than the original plans called for. He observed that there soon would be enough work to occupy three priests if they wanted to do justice to the needs of the people, and he wanted the Superior at 14th Street to foresee such an eventuality. There were nine priests at 14th Street and four would be sufficient to care for parish needs. The others could lighten his load and take care of various chaplaincies.
As the completion of the construction approached, dates were discussed for the inauguration ceremonies, but they were rejected because Archbishop Farley, who had been created Cardinal on November 27, 1911, wished to attend and have the principal donors present. On July 21, 1912, His Eminence headed a throng of Church and civil dignitaries as he blessed the new church and opened it to public worship. Monsignor Patrick J. Hayes, then Chancellor of the Archdiocese, sang the High Mass. Fr. Stéphane Chaboud preached the sermon in Spanish. In his remarks at the end of the ceremony, the Cardinal said: “God bless the noble and generous benefactor of this church. I hope and pray that God may pour forth upon him His most bountiful blessings. In this church, let there be no North or South among you, as we say here. Let South Americans, Cubans, Mexicans, Spaniards all come here without the thought of racial distinction and kneel together as Catholics.”
Our Lady of Esperanza benefited from the generosity of many others besides Mr. Archer Huntington. We have already mentioned the great efforts and the contributions of Miss de Barril. It should also be mentioned that the high altar and communion rail of Sienna marble were the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Courtland Penfield (in 1913 he became American ambassador in Vienna). Mrs. Penfield also donated the side altar of St. Joseph, above which hung the painting of “St. Joseph and the Christ Child” donated by the famous Spanish artist himself, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. The altar of the Blessed Virgin was the gift of J. Pierpont Morgan and Amos T. Emo. The organ was given by Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W Vanderbilt, and Mrs. Vanderbilt also gave the crucifix and six candlesticks for the main altar. The unusual sanctuary lamp was the gift of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who personally commissioned Father Felix Granda, a noted priest-sculptor of the time, to make an exact replica of a work by the XVIII century sculptor Urquiza. From a crown at the top representing the Royal Family hang three chains representing the Cotiar of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The tray for the vigil light is surrounded by the coat of arms of Spain.
In November, 1912, the Dowager Queen Maria Cristina sent the church a gold chalice. In February, 1913, Maria Teresa, sister of the Spanish king, sent an embroidered chasuble. The Infanta Paz, an aunt of King Alfonso, donated a beautiful ciborium decorated with 211 precious stones.
In less man a year, after all debts had been paid, the church was solemnly consecrated by Cardinal Farley on Sunday, April 20, 1913, in the presence of the Ambassador of Spain, Don Juan Riaffo, and of 18 consuls. The consecration proper had taken place privately the day before, Auxitiary Bishop Thomas F. Cusack officiating.
Large anonymous gifts arrived in 1913: on May 22, Fr. Adrien found $10,000 in the poor box in the back of the church. On August 13, he received an envelope containing three $5,000 bills. He reported this to the Chancery and was told to keep silent about the donation. Somewhere along the tine, the Cardinal must have changed his mind and expressed the wish that the pastor would live near the church. Consequently Fr. Adrien took quarters in a five-room apartment at 611 West 156th Street. For the time being, he was alone. The fervent and generous Mrs. Penfield, noting his difficult financial situation, gave him, in early August, a check for $880 to take care of his back rent and the expenses of the apartment. Moreover she promised to send a monthly check for $100 for the rent and the services of a maid. She also helped by renting a pew for $200.
For two months, Fr. Adrien lived alone in his apartment. He said Mass daily at 7:00 A.M. On Sundays, he said three Masses, at 7:30, 9:00, and 11:00, and preached in Spanish at the last one. Every Sunday there was Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 4:30 P.M. When, in October, 1912, Fr. Crescent Armanet arrived as assistant and companion, the Sunday Masses were increased to four. Fr. Crescent handled most of the English ministry; and exactly the same thing happened at Esperanza as had happened at Guadalupe: attendance by English-speaking people grew month by month.
In September, 1913, the Vicar General, noticing that the Protestant mission centers were very active in Upper Manhattan among the Hispanic groups, suggested that the Assumptionists open similar centers in the same neighborhoods. He advised Fr. Adrien to do this despite any complaints that might come from local Catholic pastors.
In March, 1914, began a rather unpleasant interlude involving Miss de Barril, who, as we have noted, had raised a very large sum of money to furnish Esperanza. She began to clamor for a native-born Spanish priest for Esperanza. It seems that she was peeved one day when she arrived in church late and found her pew occupied. She protested loudly to the sacristan. Fr. Adrien told her she was interrupting his sermon. She complained to the Cardinal, who called in Fr. Adrien and urged him to try and pacify the lady. By now she had begun to read a book each time Fr. Adrien preached in Spanish. She stopped coming to church and circulated a petition to have the Assumptionists ousted in favor of a Spaniard. The Cardinal was told all this and answered to let her go on but to send a Spaniard to the church. The New York superior, Fr. Stéphane, requested the General to send a Spaniard, although it might create a bit of difficulty with the South Americans who preferred Esperanza precisely because it was not Spanish. The result was that Fr. Francisco Garcia, a native of Spain, arrived on November 27, 1914. He would serve the parish until 1948.
Miss Maria de Barril died on January 24, 1919, having received the Last Sacraments of the Church. Her role as an outstanding benefactress of Esperanza is remembered by a bronze plaque in the narthex.
In its original state, the Esperanza church was some twenty feet above the level of the street and was reached by an imposing set of thirty steps interrupted by landings, leading to a small terrace in front of the edifice. The facade of the church was Italian Renaissance, with Ionic pillars of Indiana limestone. A dozen years after the church was opened, the increasing number of parishioners began to crowd it seriously. It was decided that although the small building was indeed beautiful, it must give way to the needs of the parish, at least in part, and be enlarged, possibly adding a rectory for the priests who found it increasingly hard to minister to their parishioners. An extension was planned, bringing the church’s recessed front up to the sidewalk. The entrance was to be at street level, enclosing the required stairway; the rectory was to be above the new extension. The task was difficult, but the religious were fortunate in securing the services of the son of Stanford White, Mr. Lawrence G. White, of the firm of McKim, Mead, and White. To replace the old Neo-Classical facade, he chose to erect a Spanish Plateresque one. This did not suit some of the original donors and created some difficulties for the parish authorities. In any case, the work began in February, 1925, and the official opening took place on October 25 of the same year. The ceremony was presided by Monsignor Lavelle, Vicar General, representing Cardinal Hayes. Fr. Gervais Quénard, Superior General of the Assumptionists, was the celebrant of the Solemn High Mass.
Fr. Adrien Buisson served Esperanza as pastor for 40 years, except for a short period, 1930-1933, when he was at Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1952, when he was 90, he retired. About a year later, many parishioners saw him off as he departed for his native France, where he died on July 10, 1954.
Fr. Paid de la Croix Joumet served as pastor between 1930 and 1933. After Fr. Adrien’s retirement, Fr. Francis Soutberg was pastor from 1952 until 1955. Later pastors were as follows:
Fr. Bernard Gudlet 1955-1959
Fr. Antoine Philippe 1958-1961
Fr. Bernard Gudlet 1961-1963
Fr. Francisco Dominguez 1963-1966
Fr. Jean Paul Casaubon 1966-1969
Fr. William Dubois 1969-1970
Fr. John Charles Mercier 1970-1973
Fr. Francisco Dominguez 1973-1978 as Administrator
Fr. Joseph Grenier 1978-1979
Fr. Bernard Gudlet 1980-1982
During the pastorate of Fr. Soutberg, an interesting outgrowth of the ministry at Esperanza took place when the Centro Catolico de Information (Spanish Information Center) was begun in 1952 to help Hispanic Cathodes, especially the newcomers in New York City. The first purpose of the Center was spiritual: giving religious instruction to adults and offering information regarding the Sacraments and religious services. The second purpose was the temporal improvement of the situation of New York Hispanics; advice about Social Security, social services, housing problems was offered, and language classes were held.
The area in which Our Lady of Esperanza was built had borne the name Spanish Hid because of the nature of its population. Over the years the complexion of Spanish Hill changed very greatly and the links between Esperanza and the neighboring population diminished. This change, along with dwindling numbers of available Assumptionist personnel, caused the Congregation to turn the parish over to the secular clergy of the Archdiocese in 1982, and Monsignor James J. Wilson became pastor. Leaving Esperanza was obviously painful for the Assumptionists who had ministered to the parish since its inception in 1912.