Diocesan News

Long Island City Parish Celebrates 150 Years

Long Island City Parish Celebrates 150 Years
Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez celebrates a Mass in thanksgiving for 150 years of faith at St. Mary’s Church, Long Island City, Sept. 12. (Photo by Maria-Pia Negro Chin)

St. Mary’s parishioners celebrated 150 years of faith and love in Long Island City with a Mass on Sept. 12.

Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez was the main celebrant of the Mass, which culminated a year-long celebration that included opera concerts, a Christmas pageant and an art show.

“We have been planning for this for approximately five years and now finally we have arrived at this great day,” said Father Ralph Barile, pastor.

In his homily, Bishop Sanchez talked about the faithfulness of St. Mary’s community, asking God to continue blessing old and new parishioners.

“It is this 150 years of love and service and good works that enable the Catholic faith to be alive in this Christian community,” Bishop Sanchez said. “Always remember that it is God who enables us to pray and continue to be instruments of God’s work.”

Long Island City Parish Celebrates 150 Years
150th anniversary committee members sing the opening hymn. (Photo by Maria-Pia Negro Chin)

The closing celebration included the dedication of a new parish center across the street, which will host multiple activities.

“We really needed a space for religious education classes. We have been using the parish hall,” Father Barile said. “We decided to keep that building in the parish and we are renaming it the St. Joseph Parish Center.”

The building – which had to be redone after four years of abandonment – is tied to the parish’s rich history. Before turning into a senior center in the 1970s, it was a convent for the Sacred Heart of Mary Sisters, who taught at St. Mary’s School. Earlier, the building was a Lyceum for young men. The property had been purchased by Father John McGuire, who was pastor from 1879 to 1912.

Four Sacred Heart of Mary Sisters, including Sister Catherine Patten, provincial superior, visited the center and joined in the festivities.

During the year, a committee organized the anniversary festivities. One way to celebrate the church’s history was through an all-color journal that includes a copy of the original parish incorporation document signed by Brooklyn’s first Bishop John Loughlin in 1865, photos and congratulatory messages. The journal was dedicated to Dr. Esperanza San Miguel Angeles, a parishioner and local physician since 1979.

Rich History, Bright Future

In the journal, Msgr. Joseph Mulqueen, a retired priest who has been part of St. Mary’s for 13 years, shares the parish’s history based on records from the American Guild of Organists and local real estate site Brownstoner.

St. Mary’s Church was incorporated in 1865 to serve the growing Irish Catholic population in Hunter’s Point. About 50 parishioners participated in the first Mass celebrated in a local schoolhouse in 1868 by the parish’s first pastor Father John Crimmins. A small 45-foot by 90-foot wooden church was erected at the site of the present-day church in 1869. Father McGuire commissioned a new stone church that was dedicated in 1891. In July, 1893, a fire broke out in the Vernon Avenue corridor, destroying the church, the newly built school, the rectory as well as 30 other houses and buildings. After the fire, the East Avenue Baptist Church offered to share its facilities until St. Mary’s could be rebuilt.

The new church, this time made out of brick in the Gothic style, was created by Patrick Charles Keely, a prolific Catholic architect. By Christmas Eve parishioners were able to celebrate a Mass in the basement level. The completed church was dedicated by Bishop Charles McDonnell in October, 1894. The school was rebuilt in 1902. The current altar, tabernacle, pulpit and baptismal pool were made of the marble from the altar on which St. John Paul II celebrated Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack in 1995.

In his 12 years at the parish, Father Barile said the community has grown a lot. He tries to meet the needs of the parishioners who have been here for three generations and the newcomers who have moved to the sprawling Long Island City waterfront.

“The community has grown tremendously,” he said. “There have been new families, new mothers. We are having more baptisms.”

This has been a time of joy and opportunity for St. Mary’s 450 registered families. “We have great hopes to do more,” said parishioner Ana Azeglio.

Parishioners continued celebrating at Riccardo’s by the Bridge.

“I love my parish. I think St. Mary’s has given so much to so many people in times of great pain and happiness,” said Gilda Incantalupo, whose six children got married in the parish. “This church has been my life. … May it be here for ever and ever.”

4 thoughts on “Long Island City Parish Celebrates 150 Years

  1. I was a Parishiner at St Mary’s back in the 70’s. Was Baptised here and made my First Communion and Confirmation as well. My grandmother was also the cook at the senior center for many years! Are the commemorative books still available for purchase?

  2. Congratulations to all parishioners past and present. St.Mary’s school provided so many with a basic educational base. The Religous of the Sacred Heart of Mary were kind, gentle educators. Prayful rememberance of Father Reynolds, Miss kelly (7th grade) Miss McGee (3rd grade) and Mrs. Reynolds (4th grade). Gratefully, Catherine O’Keeffe Class of June 1954

  3. Just doing some genealogy and discovered St. Mary’s was the church my Great grandparents were married in on February 7, 1917. The names were Peter Joseph Doyle who married Marie Alice Mitchell. (her father was Samuel Mitchell, the Sheriff of Long Island City.) Peter Joseph was member of the Colon Council team (?) Knights of Columbus, and the Holy Name Society of St. Mary’s.
    Fr. Patrick J. Cherry, rector of the church married them.
    Peter Joseph’s mother was a long time parishioner of St. Mary’s also, her name was Ellen McLean Doyle. She was born in Hunter’s Point around 1870.
    This information is from a newspaper article that was in my mother’s baby book.
    Peter Joseph Doyle worked for the Star newspaper as a pressman.