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St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church as
Pro-Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island
Photo: Matthew Pritchard

A cathedral is the principal church of a diocese. It contains the bishop’s seat (cathedra, in Latin), and is a place for diocesan celebrations and episcopal services. The Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York, serves this role in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. Where a diocese already has a functioning cathedral, a pro-cathedral may be named. On November 11, 2017, at the 151st Convention of the Diocese of Long Island, the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, announced his intention to designate St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights as pro-cathedral at a service of Evensong on September 16, 2018, and did so in a special service preceded by a joyous procession.

While serving as diocesan pro-cathedral, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church holds a bishop’s seat and provides a location for special diocesan events in the densely populated western part of the diocese within the bounds of the City of New York. The church remains under the control of its rector and vestry, and its status as pro-cathedral continues only through the tenure of Bishop Provenzano. Pro-cathedral status may be extended by the next bishop.

From the perspective of history, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity comes naturally to pro-cathedral status. A pro-cathedral is most commonly the church that functions as the seat of a bishop until a cathedral has been erected. It was here in the former Church of the Holy Trinity that then rector, the Rev. Abram Newkirk Littlejohn, was elected the first Bishop of Long Island on November 19, 1868. This building was Bishop Littlejohn’s pro-cathedral from the time of his consecration on January 27, 1869, until the opening of the Cathedral of the Incarnation on April 9, 1885.

More than half a century later, on May 16, 1950, Bishop James P. DeWolfe announced to the 83rd convention of the Diocese of Long Island that he had accepted an offer by the vestry of St. Ann’s Church (then located on Clinton and Livingston Streets in Brooklyn Heights) to use the church for “diocesan purposes” in Brooklyn. In other words, he agreed that St. Ann’s would serve as pro-cathedral. St. Ann’s rector at the time, the Rev. Melville Harcourt, became “Rector and Bishop’s Vicar” and an honorary Canon.

St. Ann’s Church, the first Episcopal parish in Brooklyn, took up residence in the former Church of the Holy Trinity in 1969. The members of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church are honored to have our building serve as pro-cathedral for our bishop and the people of the Diocese of Long Island in a new season of ministry.

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