A trip up the Hudson River is a voyage into Catholic America’s history. The river has been blessed by the presence of many holy men and women who have sailed into its harbors and labored upon its shores. Some of them are recognized by the Church while the holiness of millions of others is known only by God.
The river’s original European name was the St. Anthony River. A century before Hudson sailed up America’s river, the Catholic navigators Giovanni da Verrazano (1485-1528) and Estêvão Gomes (1483-1538) piloted their ships along its shores and placed it under the patronage of St. Anthony of Padua. More likely than not, Verrazano and Gomez brought priests with them, so Mass was offered in New York City long before Europeans actually settled there.
In 1655, Jesuit Father Simon Le Moyne sailed down the river to Nieuw Amsterdam to minister to French Catholic sailors. In 1684, when the Duke of York claimed New York as an English colony, the City’s Catholic governor, Thomas Dongan, enacted the first law in the colony establishing religious liberty. It is believed that the first non-clandestine Mass said on Manhattan was on October 30, 1683 in a chapel Dongan opened about where the U.S. Custom House now stands (i.e., One Bowling Green) which is very close to where Mother Ann Seton set up shop to assist new immigrants.