In 1892, the newly built Church of Saint Francis of Assisi was a unique expression of the Roman architecture of the Renaissance period. Down through the years, many changes have been made within the sanctuary and the church, but Fr. Ludger Beck’s creation remain basically intact. The original cost of the project was estimated at $60,000, but Fr. Ludger had to borrow an additional $15,000 from Archbishop Corrigan to complete the jewel of ecclesiastical art in mid-Manhattan.
Fr. Ludger left his missionary mark on the people of Saint Francis Parish. His care of the poor and the afflicted was outstanding. Anyone who suffered mental or physical distress found in Friar Ludger a never-failing friend. His generosity had no limits and he is said to have given alms with such kindness that the poor considered him their own saint. Fr. Ludger spent a great deal of time and energy with the laboring men of the city. He was the spiritual director of the New York Catholic Mechanics’ Society, a group of German working men struggling to make it in the new world.
Upon completion of his work at Saint Francis Church in 1902, Fr. Ludger was assigned to the headquarters of the new established Holy Name Province in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1904 he was appointed Guardian of Saint Bonaventure Friary there and served until his death on August 10, 1909. He had hoped to be relieved of his responsibilities and had asked to return to 31st Street – his beloved parish of Saint Francis of Assisi, and the church he had erected. Perhaps he wanted to hear again the four church bells he had procured and had installed on December 20, 1891 – the bells he had named “Immaculate Conception,”“Saint Francis,”“Saint Clare,” and “Angelus Domini” – over six thousand pounds of bells which chime out “Pax et Bonum” to all people of goodwill in New York City.
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writ-4 ings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.