FOREST HILLS — Even before parishioners enter Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, they’re reminded that the parish is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
It would be hard to miss such a reminder. It’s there, built right into the sidewalk in the plaza in front of the church’s main entrance. The church installed an inscription with the letter “M” to signify Mary, and a crown to remind all that she is the Queen of Martyrs.
“If people are walking on it, it’s OK. It’s been venerated,” said Father Francis Passenant, the parish administrator.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio came to the church in Forest Hills on Sept. 19 to celebrate Mass and to bless the plaza, as well as the interior of the church, which recently underwent an extensive restoration.
The church’s stone floor was restored, with contractors removing red paint that had covered it for decades. The walls, which hadn’t been touched in nearly 80 years, underwent a deep cleaning. New kneelers were put in the pews. New lighting was installed along the building’s perimeter.
Bishop DiMarzio’s coat of arms, which bears the motto: “Behold, You Mother,” was installed above the church’s side entrance, along with the coat of arms of Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, the church’s pastor. The motto of Bishop Sanchez’s coat of arms proclaims, “God’s Grace is Sufficient.”
Bishop Sanchez remarked on the significance of Mary in the lives of Catholics. “We celebrate and rejoice in Mary,” he said. “We look to Mary for her intercession.”
Bishop DiMarzio blessed the two coats of arms at the start of the Mass. After the blessing, the altar servers and clergy led a procession outside the church and around the corner to where the insignia is located, and the plaza was blessed.
Bishop DiMarzio was impressed by the work done in the church and by the spirit of the parish. “Every parish tries to keep things up to date. And this parish is well managed. Bishop Sanchez and his administrator, Father Passenant, do a very good job,” he said. “I’m happy to be here today. I think we’ll have a nice crowd because people are coming back to church, and we just hope it continues.”
For parishioners, it was a big day as they welcomed Bishop DiMarzio and celebrated their restored church.
“Everything looks so beautiful. I’m overwhelmed,” said Jennifer Delaney, fighting back tears.
Careful thought and planning went into every aspect of the renovation, including the design of the sidewalk insignia, said Father Passenant.
“I originally thought the Jerusalem Cross was going to be helpful. But then I thought we need a Marian symbol because this is a Marian parish. As you come through the door, you know that Mary is here,” he said.
The area around the Marian insignia was treated with an acid wash to raise the blue, white, gray, and black pebbles that are embedded in the cement. The beauty of the work will become more evident in the years to come, according to church officials; as the top wears away, the colors will become more pronounced.
Heat tracers were placed beneath the sidewalk so that the insignia won’t be covered with ice and snow in the winter.
Asked for his thoughts, Enrique Roque, an usher who has attended Our Lady Queen of Martyrs for 40 years, said he felt a sense of renewal.
“This church was, in a way, neglected for a few years. Now it’s coming back to life,” he said.