Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, the mother church of Queens, began celebrating its 175th anniversary with the dedication of its newly restored church Nov. 14.
The dedication Mass’ main celebrant was Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, former pastor, and the chief concelebrant was Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, a native of the parish.
Bishop Sanchez anointed the church’s new altar and both bishops anointed the walls. The dedication ceremony included the chanting of the Litany of Saints, incensation of the church and the lighting of church’s candles.
In his homily, Bishop Sanchez spoke about the challenge of “hearing the voice of God’s spirit within us but living the grace of God’s spirit in our relationships with one another.”
He called the restored church “a beautiful place to worship and to hear God’s word.”
Bishop Chappetto felt happy to come home and celebrate this milestone with the multilingual, multiethnic congregation of Mount Carmel.
“I have seen this parish grow and develop and change,” Bishop Chappetto said. “They are so many people from different countries here all blending together as one family.”
He called the renovation of the church a blessing that would strengthen the parish’s spirit of joy, faith and good leadership.
“It’s a tremendous gift to the parish to have a newly renovated worship space and I think it’s going to enhance the good liturgy that is here,” he said.
The restoration included replacing wall plastering, rebuilding marble floors, restoring paintings, replacing furnishings and adding a new altar. The goal was to restore the parish to its Victorian Gothic style while making it more fitting to the current style of worship, said Msgr. Sean Ogle, pastor. “We called it a restoration every step of the way.”
Leonard DiVittorio, anniversary committee member, said he was blown away by the results. After 1966, he explained, the church was painted and renovated. The restoration brought back the original paintings.
“When we celebrated our 125th (anniversary), the church that you see now is pretty much what you saw then,” he said.
James Thai, a graduate of Cathedral Prep School and Seminary, said the beautiful renovation would allow people to focus on what is most important: the Mass.
“The restoration (of the church) is beautiful and is a great testimony to our love of God, to give glory to God,” Bishop Sanchez said.
In Tandem with Holy Year
The dedication Mass kicked off the 175th anniversary year of the parish, which will take place almost in tandem with the Holy Year of Mercy.
“We think that this anniversary in this Holy Year is a good time to celebrate (the parish’s uniqueness) and make it something memorable humanly as well as spiritually,” Msgr. Ogle said.
Jane Ann McGettrick was ecstatic to celebrate her parish with the two bishops who came out of Mount Carmel.
McGettrick is a parish trustee, a Lady Grand Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a Dame of St. Sylvester and parish committee member. She said dozens of parishioners took an active part in making the anniversary Mass possible.
“This is a parish that is very close,” she said. “This celebration is really special.”
According to the church’s history, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the first Catholic community in Queens County to have a resident priest, and the first to conduct Mass in its own church building.
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Nearly two decades before the Brooklyn Diocese was established, Father Michael Curran sought to open a Catholic church in North Queens to serve Irish immigrants. A wooden church was built on donated land in 1841. The church, with Father Curran as its pastor, served 118 people, including 16 non-Catholics.
As the community grew, parishioners raised funds to build the current church on Crescent Street, which was dedicated Aug. 7, 1873. The parish school opened with 300 pupils and six Sisters of St. Joseph in 1891. In 1915, a parish center was opened and the church was enlarged and renovated with stained-glass windows and a limestone facade. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of the changes brought by Vatican II could be seen in the parish. Masses were added in different languages to serve the population.
As more Catholics populated the area, at least 10 churches emerged in the territory originally covered by Mount Carmel. One of them, St. Margaret Mary Church in Long Island City, was joined to Mount Carmel as part of a diocesan reconfiguration plan.
Ten Masses, Five Languages
Now the parish has 10 Masses every weekend in five languages – English, Spanish, Czech-Slovak, Italian and Vietnamese. More than 1,400 people attend Mass on a regular weekend. It also started offering different programs to address the community’s needs.
Ruby Hernandez, a member of the Jornada movement, said her parish opens its doors to everybody. “I feel proud to be part to a parish that has helped many people,” she said.
Leslie Romero, who came to the dedication Mass with her two daughters, found a home at Mount Carmel when she moved to Astoria over a year ago.
“It is heartening to see a community in prayer, especially given the things going on in the world,” she said.
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Chappetto said he was “eternally grateful” to the parish that nurtured his faith and vocation.
“You are a wonderful faith-filled community, all united under Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” he said. “I’ll always call this my home.”