ROSEDALE — Maureen Kaczynski started attending Mass at St. Clare Church in Rosedale as a young newlywed 64 years ago and she has been going there ever since.
“I’m very happy with St. Clare’s. I find it to be very peaceful. And the people are so kind. There have been big changes in the neighborhood since I first came, but the Church has always been there for me through thick and thin,” she said.
St. Clare Church will mark its 100th anniversary in 2024 and Kaczynski is one of many parishioners who are proud of the milestone. The celebration had already begun this summer with a special Mass on July 16 to mark the start of the anniversary year.
“The anniversary is a once-in-a-lifetime event where our community of faith comes together to reflect and renew our mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Father Daniel Kingsley, the pastor.
On Sunday, Aug. 13, the parish went all out to celebrate one of the milestone events of the anniversary year, the Feast of St. Clare, with a special Mass and procession around the block of the church.
The actual feast day was August 11, but the church chose to celebrate the day on Sunday. “St. Clare obviously means a lot to our parish,” Father Kingsley, said. “We think of saints as distant figures. But they lived the faith, struggled and died just like us.”
Father Jeffry Dillon, associate priest of St. Kevin Church in Flushing, who served as the guest homilist at the feast day Mass, called St. Clare parishioners, “a community that has held the faith for 100 years.”
Parishioner Mary Graham, who has been coming to St. Clare for 20 years, said she can’t picture herself belonging to any other parish. “This has become a second home for me,” she added. “I’m so happy to be here for the 100th anniversary of our wonderful parish.”
Rosedale was a farming community populated largely by German and Irish immigrants when St. Clare Church was established in 1924 by Bishop Thomas Molloy, then the Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He would be named archbishop in 1951.
The church’s first Mass took place in a local firehouse on July 20, 1924. The cornerstone was laid for the church building in 1926 and Bishop Molloy celebrated the first Mass there on Nov. 13, 1927.
As Rosedale grew in the 1950s and young families moved in, parishioners started a drive to raise money to build a school. St. Clare Catholic Academy opened in 1957 and is still open today. Student enrollment for September is expected to be approximately 230.
Kaczynski sent all four of her children there. “It’s a great school. I remember that they made the parents do volunteer work. I worked in the school library. I loved it,” she recalled.
The 1960s and 1970s brought massive changes, along with racial unrest, to Rosedale.
Longtime residents started moving out of the neighborhood and African Americans and immigrants from the Caribbean moved in. However, not everyone was welcoming to the newcomers.
“It was a tense time. The reality was that the demographics of the community were changing,” Father Kingsley said.
The priests at St. Clare Church sought to calm racial tensions. They welcomed new parishioners and embraced the cultures the newcomers brought with them from their home countries.
But some longtime residents stayed. Kaczynski was one. She and her family remained in Rosedale. “It had been mostly a white parish before. A lot of Haitians started moving in. And there were people who didn’t like that. People moved out. But I felt that our community is universal, open to everybody. And so we stayed and I’ve never regretted it. My neighbors now are nicer than the ones I had before,” she said.
“You have to have an open heart, trust in God and things will work out,” Kaczynski added.