Nostalgia Reigns as Woodside Parish Completes 75th Year

Corpus Christi church, Woodside, celebrated “Nostalgia Day” June 24 to conclude its 75th anniversary year. A 12:30 p.m. Mass was celebrated by Father Patrick J. West, administrator.

Following the Mass, the church hosted a “Pot Luck” luncheon, served by parish Youth Ministry volunteers, in the parish auditorium. Church memorabilia was displayed. Local historian and author Catherine Gregory presented a slide show detailing the parish in its early years and how Corpus Christi has served the area as new development took place.

In the 1930s, the building boom brought thousands of Catholics to the area, which had been the rural northern part of St. Sebastian’s parish. As a result, this area faced an urgent need to have its own Catholic church.

Third generation parishioner Deidre Andrews is shown alongside a display prepared by fellow parishioner Catherine Gregory. (Photo (C) Eugene Gregory)
Third generation parishioner Deidre Andrews is shown alongside a display prepared by fellow parishioner Catherine Gregory. (Photo (C) Eugene Gregory)

Corpus Christi was established on June 18, 1937, with Father Charles J. Cary as its founding pastor. Over 3,000 people attended the four Masses that were celebrated the following Sunday in the newly constructed Hobart Theatre on 31st Ave. and 51st St.

The theatre served the church during its first three years, with Sunday Masses celebrated using a portable altar on the stage and daily Mass celebrated in a large room on the upper floor. The groundbreaking of Corpus Christi’s current church building began on May 15, 1938, with the first Mass celebrated there on May 22, 1940. The formal dedication of the new church occurred on July 13, 1941.

Just five months later when the United States entered World War II, the young parish threw itself into the war effort, working with war relief agencies and establishing the Corpus Christi Unit of the American Red Cross.

After the war, the parish experienced a growth in population as returning veterans and their families moved into Northern Blvd. Houses, 2,000 temporary housing units set up for them on Trains Meadow.

After the eastern parish boundary was set at 73rd St., the parish continued to grow once permanent housing became available for veterans at the parish’s western end in N.Y.C. Woodside Houses, erected on a vacant tract that for generations was the site of the Jackson-Riker family home and farm.

On Oct. 29, 1961, Father Robert E. Crowell, pastor, dedicated a new grammar school with auditorium, a convent and a rectory, extending the church plant from 32nd Ave. to 31st Ave. and from 60th St. to 61st St.

As the years progressed, parishioners continued to assist the priests in serving the spiritual and temporal needs of the community, including running the Corpus Christi Food Pantry.

Corpus Christi’s 75th Anniversary Nostalgia Day was organized by committee volunteer Mary Burkhardt; Mary and Brendan Mahoney planned the luncheon; Deidre Andrews, Nancy Colgan and Catherine Gregory set up the memorabilia exhibit; and the Youth Ministry members assisted with serving food and clean up.