‘Church is Like Family to Me’
JAMAICA ESTATES — Immaculate Conception Church is like a second home to Vilma Daley, a devoted parishioner who has been attending Mass there for 34 years and is deeply immersed in parish life.
“I love Immaculate Conception. Church is like family to me,” she said.
Daley served three terms on the parish pastoral council and still lends her beautiful soprano voice to the church choir.
“I don’t have the greatest voice but I think I do adequately,” she said modestly.
Daley is a regular at 10 a.m. Mass on Sundays. Next door to the church is the Immaculate Conception Monastery for Passionists priests. Daley said she feels a sense of pride whenever she’s exiting the 179 Street Station and sees the sign in mosaic tile on the wall directing people to the Monastery: “I feel proud to see it in such a public space.”
She started attending Immaculate Conception after moving to Jamaica Estates from Cambria Heights 34 years ago and immediately began offering her services as a volunteer, something that gives her great satisfaction.
“Whenever they call me, I’m there. I help out the church any way I can,” she said.
In the past, she managed the Christmas Bazaar at Immaculate Conception and continues to be involved in its annual International Food Fair.
In 2020, Daley planned, as the host, to take a group of parishioners to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, through “Educational Opportunities Tours” but had to cancel the trip because of the pandemic.
It helps that Daley doesn’t have to travel far to get to church.
“I live right across the street. From my window, I can see the church,” she said, noting that she is often teased by fellow parishioners about her short commute and that she can’t complain about not getting a parking space.
She grew up in a devout Catholic family on the island of Jamaica and developed the spirit of volunteerism at an early age.
“Growing up, we would prepare priests’ vestments. On Saturdays, we would go to polish candle holders, and other items used for serving, and get everything in the church shining for Mass on Sundays,” she recalled.
Daley, who has two master’s degrees from Columbia University, is an adjunct lecturer at the City University of New York, teaching classes on Observation and Recording Procedures in Education at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She also taught a Foundations of Education class for 16 years at Queensborough Community College.
She and her husband Dalbert have been married 43 years and have a son, Gregory, who is 38. Dalbert Daley is not Catholic — something the couple discussed before they married.
“I told him, ‘I am Catholic. I don’t know how to be anything other than Catholic.’ We understand each other,” she said.
After serving three terms on the parish council, she decided not to seek re-election.
“I thought,” she says, “It’s time to give someone else a chance.”
The story has been updated.