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Church History
Immaculate Conception ChurchThe Catholic Community of Brownville and Dexter was formed in December 2004 as a result of the merger between the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Brownville and St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Dexter. The two parishes had been joined under one pastor since 1959. Both parishes brought rich histories to the formation of the new parish.

Immaculate Conception Church traces its history back to 1838. In that year, Father Michael Gilbride from Watertown purchased a house on Paddy Hill for the celebration of Mass for the Catholics in the Brownville area. In 1865, Father James Hogan of Watertown purchased an old hotel on Paddy Hill. This hotel was used for the celebration of Mass for 35 years. Priests from Watertown served the spiritual needs of the Brownville parishioners during these years.

In 1897, Father Corbett became the first resident pastor in Brownville. He purchased a home in the Village of Brownville and celebrated Mass in the Paddy Hill property. On August 13, 1900, Father Corbett purchased the old Universalist Church which was located on the site of the present church at the corner of Main and Franklin Streets. In 1902, Father Joseph Pontur succeeded Father Corbett as pastor at Immaculate Conception Church. The church was dedicated by Bishop Gabriels on April 16, 1903.

Father Pontur was succeeded by Father James McGowan who served as pastor from 1910 until 1960. Father McGowan lived in the rectory, which was located on the site of the present parish center in Brownville. He oversaw the building of the present church in 1917 when the old church was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. The present church was dedicated by Bishop Gabriels on December 1, 1918.

The first Catholic Church in Dexter had it's beginnings when a lot was purchased on the corner of Bronson and Orchard Streets in the early 1900's. There were few Catholics in Dexter and raising money for the construction of a church was a daunting task. Mass was celebrated in Bloom's Hall in Dexter until the church could be built. On March 6, 1906, Father Pontur and Bishop Conroy incorporated the church in Dexter. Father Pontur named the church in honor of his mother, Elizabeth Pontur. St. Elizabeth's Church was constructed in 1908 and was designed by D.D. Keefe of Watertown. A window to his honor is present in the reconciliation room of the church. The church was dedicated on March 14, 1909. St. Elizabeth's Church was a mission of the Brownville parish for a short time, and then from 1925 until 1959 it was a mission of the Chaumont parish. Dexter never had a resident pastor.

The old rectory in Brownville was demolished in 1960, and the present rectory was purchased at that time to serve as the home of Father McGowan and his successor, Father James J. Ruddy. The parish center was built on 1963 to serve as a Catholic school, but it never opened as a school. It has served as a parish center and catechetical center since its construction. Father Ruddy also oversaw renovations to the church in Dexter and the undercroft. The undercroft was made usable for religious education classes and social events for the parish.

During his tenure as pastor, Father Ruddy purchased up the real property surrounding St. Elizabeth's church and for Catholics living in Dexter, Brownville and Chamont. However, in 1970, the decision was made to not construct a new church.

In 1970, Father Ruddy was transferred to Star Lake and eventually became pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Watertown. Much loved as a pastor, the Knights of Columbus Division in Dexter and the Ancient Order of Hiberianians Chapter in Watertown were named after Msgr. James J. Ruddy. The parishes saw a rapid succession of pastors after the departure of Father Ruddy. Father Joseph Gagnier served as pastor from 1970 until 1973. Father Francis Menard served as pastor for one year, as did Father Joseph Elliot and Anthony Pease. Father Charles Cotter served as pastor for less than a year during part of 1975. He was succeeded by Father John Stasiowski, who served as pastor until 1977. From 1977 until 1980, Father Myron Hawkins served as pastor and was followed by Father Paul Oehler who was pastor from 1980 until 1982. Father William Muench served as pastor from 1982 to 1984. Father Douglas Comstock, returning from serveral years of service as Vice Rector of the American College in Louvain, Belgium, served as pastor from 1984 until his transfer to St. Bernard's Church in Saranac Lake, New York in 1986.

In 1986, Msgr. Robert L. Lawler became the pastor in Brownville and Dexter. Msgr. Lawler had served as the director of Catholic Charities for the diocese for thirty-two years prior to becoming pastor in Brownville and Dexter.

Extensive repairs to the churches and rectory were undertaken in Msgr. Lawler's tenure as pastor. Under his leadership, the catechetical program and many other programs in Brownville and Dexter were built up. On August 19, 1994, Bishop Paul Loverde named Msgr. Lawler the Vicar General of the Diocese, a position he has held under three bishops and continues to hold to the present time. In 1995, Msgr. Lawler's duties as Vicar General necessitated his transfer to St. Mary's Church in Canton.
Father Lawler was succeeded by Father Joseph Elliott. Under Father Elliott, the parish programs continued to flourish; and the parish participated in preparation for possible parish mergers due to the decreasing number of priests in the diocese. Father Elliott was transferred to St. Alexander's parish in 2002. Father Elliott was succeeded by Father John Kennehan, who served as pastor until June 2003.

In June 2003, Father Kevin O'Brien became pastor in Brownville and Dexter. Upon arrival, Father O'Brien continued to lead the parish in planning for its future. The parish councils from Brownville, Dexter and Sackets Harbor discussed how the probable merger of their parishes would be accomplished. In preparation for such merger, the parishes in Brownville and Dexter merged into one parish in 2004. The parish undertook an extensive capital drive to repair and renovate Immaculate Conception Church and parish center in Brownville. Additionally, eight parishioners participated in the Formation for Ministry Program of the Diocese of Ogdensburg to prepare to fill leadership roles in the parish.
Part of the renovation of the church included the restoration of the sanctuary of the church in Brownville. Robert Jackson, Barbara Jackson, Jack Lane, Diane Lane and Dick Lawlee were the volunteers who gave their time and talent to renovating the sanctuary. The sanctuary was repainted to contain a replica of Michelangelo's Pieta, together with scenes of the Annunciation, Presentation, Baptism of the Lord. The renovation gave the parish a warm and beautiful house of prayer and worship.

The parish looks optimistically to its future despite the many challenges facing the church today.
RCC of Brownville & Dexter

Roman Catholic Community of Brownville & Dexter
119 W. Main Street
PO Box 99
Brownville NY 13615
Phone:  (315)782-1143
Fax:  (315)782-0231
Tina Froedtert
Saturday Masses
4:00 PM - SA, Sackets Harbor
5:30 PM - IC, Brownville

Sunday Masses
8:30 AM & 10:00 AM
IC - Brownville
11:30 AM - SA, Sackets Harbor

Daily Masses
9:00 AM on M, W and F
IC - Brownville
9:00 AM on T and Th
SA - Sackets Harbor
Saturdays at 3:30 - 4:00 PM
SA - Sackets Harbor
Saturdays at 5:00 - 5:30 PM
IC - Brownville

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