Diocesan News

‘Mother Church’ of Queens Marks Its 175th Anniversary

New altar at the at the newly restored and renovated Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Astoria. The Upper Church was dedicated Nov. 14. (Photos Maria-Pia Negro Chin)
New altar at the at the newly restored and renovated Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Astoria. The Upper Church was dedicated Nov. 14. (Photos Maria-Pia Negro Chin)

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.

Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, former pastor, sprinkles holy water on the congregation at the beginning of a dedication Mass Nov. 14. The Mass kicked off the parish’s 175th anniversary year.
Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, former pastor, sprinkles holy water on the congregation at the beginning of a dedication Mass Nov. 14. The Mass kicked off the parish’s 175th anniversary year.

“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.

Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, a native son of the parish, distributes Communion.

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.”

4 thoughts on “‘Mother Church’ of Queens Marks Its 175th Anniversary

  1. Such a wonderful occasion to celebrate OLMC’s 175th Anniversary!
    My two sisters (Linda & Mary) and myself attended OLMC school. We had the Sisters of St Joseph teaching us. I graduated in Jan 1955 (I went on to St Joseph’s High School in Brooklyn as did my two sisters (also being taught by the sisters of St Joseph). I have so many great memories of my years at OLMC. I can remember my 1st Grade teacher (Sr. Mary Marcus). Back then we did not have a lunch room, we ate in one of the candy stores near by and spent our lunch time playing in Crescent Street (that was closed off during that time). One of my favorite things was to go into the church during lunch time to pay a visit (especially at St Joseph’s altar – he has always been my patron since I was born on 03/19/41) The church was always so quite and reverent. Congratulations OLMC – you will always be part of my happy memories.

    1. Congratulations OLMC on your 175th Anniversary. I was Baptized and made my Communion and Confirmation there.. What great memories of my years in school. My 1st Grade teacher was Sr. Mary Marcus (God bless her and all the Sisters). I loved going into the quiet church during lunch time to visit St Joseph’s altar (my birthday is Mar. 19th his feast day) So many wonderful memories that will always be a part of my life.

      1. hi pat i went to school at olmc also i graduated in 1965 is your sister Mary Mosono? I also had Sr Mary Marcus is tthe 1st grade. Great memories from that school. Josephine the crossing guard also

  2. When I moved to Astoria my Parish was St Margaret Mary. The memories are my treasure of the many activities that we had – the social events were phenominal but, above all, our spiritual guidance was superb. I remember our priests and how they not only guided the adults but the children were predominantly on their daily routines. We had the good fortune of Fr. Ogle as a parish priest and now as the guiding light of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. My youngest daughter was married @ Mt. Carmel, graduated from Mt Carmel – Sr. Louise was her principal. I treasure my memories not only of St Margaret Mary, know as the hut, but of Our Lady of Mt Carmel now the mainstay of a very large and varied community.