Nestled in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills in Westchester County, the Church of the Magdalene is a country church drawing its parishioners from more than fifteen surrounding towns and villages. Roads leading to the hamlet pass by rolling fields protected by stone walls. A handful of homes, large and small, a school, two churches, and a fire house are located in the center of the village. The white frame country church stands in the midst of this community of homes surrounded by the large acreage of the Rockefeller homes and estates. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Christ, himself, gave us this vision for church and parish life in the Gospel of Matthew. It is this model that describes the beginnings of the parish.
The church began in 1893 as a mission Church of St. Teresa of Avila parish in North Tarrytown – now Sleepy Hollow. The church, staffed by a priest from St. Teresa, served a small number of families in Pocantico Hills and in Eastview. In those early days Mass was celebrated in the Lyceum Building in Pocantico. In those early days, Mass was celebrated in the Lyceum Building where the fire house now stands. The Lyceum also hosted religious services for what would become the Union Church and housed a library.
By June 1894, Father Joseph Egan, the pastor of St. Teresa’s, asked New York’s Archbishop Michael Corrigan to create the Church of the Magdalene as a parish to serve the residents of Pocantico and the village of Eastview. When Archbishop Corrigan laid the cornerstone of the church in October of 1894, Father Egan had already purchased and given to the new parish the house that serves as the rectory. The dedication of the Church took place in September of 1895. Shortly after the dedication ceremonies, Fr. Egan resigned and was succeeded by Fr. Joseph Sheahan.
At its start, the parish served about forty families. These families contributed both funds and labor to build the church. By the time Fr. Sheahan left in 1906, the parish was almost debt free. The $2500 outstanding debt was retired during the pastorate of Fr. Patrick Lennon with a generous donation from James Butler, the owner of a chain of grocery stores and prominent businessman living in Eastview. The Butler family is also responsible for many of the beautiful stained glass windows in the Magdalene. This relationship begun so early in the parish’s history continues today through the association and service to Mother Butler’s community, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary at Marymount.