The fourth pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Andrew Pfeiffer, joined the Tyrolian friars in 1847, and in 1860 volunteered for the American missions in Cincinnati. When he stepped off the steamer Borussia on June 4, 1861, he found a letter waiting for him directing him to go to Allegany, NY to help care for the German-speaking immigrants because the Italian friars could not provide adequate spiritual care. He wore many hats at Saint Bonaventure’s for he had many talents and a great deal of energy. He served as secretary to Fr. Pamfilo da Magliano, teacher in the seminary, and was appointed Master of Novices by the Italian Custos.
At the time of his appointment to St. Francis on 31st Street, he was in the midst of organizing a German parish in Ashford, New York.
Those were the very difficult “post bellum” days, and life in New York City was far from easy. Fr. Andrew arrived in the summer of 1864 and served as pastor of St. Francis until 1868. Education was a high priority for the new pastor and he succeeded in bringing qualified Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart from Gemona, Italy in 1866. He provided the sisters with a modest four-story convent between 31st and 32nd Streets which served as their first American motherhouse and novitiate. It stood in silent testimony to Fr. Andrew’s foresight until it was demolished in 1941. The sisters raised the enrollment of the school to over 250 boys and girls. They also visited prisoners and the sick and cared for the sacristy and church.
Fr. Theophilus Pospisilik was assistant to Fr. Andrew from 1865 until 1868 when Fr. Andrew decided to relinquish the parish leadership to his capable assistant, and chose to serve as his assistant. Two years later, both friars were transferred back to Allegany, and a Hungarian friar, Fr. Eugene Dikovich, was appointed pastor.
Top: Fr. Andrew Pfeiffer, O.F.M. Bottom: Some of the original Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.