A HISTORY OF SAINT ROSE OF LIMA PARISH, ROCKAWAY BEACH
A Catholic parish is made up of people whose combined love and effort help their parish to grow. It is through this combined effort that men and women, led by their priests and religious, learn to know and to serve God and to bring others to know and to serve Him.
This page provides a brief overview of the history of St. Rose of Lima Parish, from the days it was just a dream in the hearts of a group of Rockaway Catholics until today. No matter how long anyone has been a member, you are part of this history, and a review of this history will help us understand how important we all are to the future of our parish.
No Place of Their Own
It was very difficult for the early parishioners of St. Rose to think of themselves as part of a Catholic community. They were not really parishioners at all. They had no place of their own to gather for Mass or to work together to build a parish. Prior to 1847, Rockaway Catholics had to journey to Jamaica, Queens, to attend Mass.
According to records, the first Mass in Far Rockaway was celebrated in William Caffrey’s Hotel in 1847. Catholics attended Mass in Far Rockaway until 1884.
In the year 1884, a small group of Catholics made an appeal to the Right Rev. John Loughlin, Bishop of Brooklyn for Catholic Services, and the Rev. Anthony Farley of St. Monica’s, Jamaica, was delegated to celebrate one Mass on Sundays. In that year Mass was celebrated at various places along the beach – first at Datz’s Hotel, then at Curley’s Hotel and then at the old school house.
The Dream Comes True
The dream of having a church of their own was given a big start through the generosity of Seraphina Magliola, who donated $150 toward the building fund. Other amounts quickly followed, and two lots were purchased on North Fairview Avenue and Barry Place. In 1886, the work on the original church began.
The first St. Rose of Lima Church, built on Fairview Ave. and Barry Place, was 50 x 100 feet. It could hold 500 worshippers and cost $6,000 to build. The first Mass was celebrated on August 30, 1886, and this small community of Catholics now had a Church of their own under the guidance of their first pastor – the Rev. E. J. Connell.
The newest parishioner, Margaret Rose Desmond, was baptized on May 3, 1887. John Freidenburg and Katie Code were united in Holy Matrimony on August 18, 1889.
The first rectory was also built on Fairview Ave., and a succession of hard-working and dedicated pastors led the parish through its early years. During the pastorate of Father Thomas J. McCaffrey, and once again due to the generosity of the Magliola family, additional lots were purchased.
The early 1900’s saw a huge increase in Irish immigrants to St. Rose of Lima parish, and it soon became apparent that a bigger church was needed. This new church would also absorb the great Italian immigration that would take place in 1910.
It is also interesting to note that St. Rose Church was at one time the Mother Church of St. Camillus and the mission church of St. Virgilius and St. Francis de Sales.
The New St. Rose Becomes a Reality
The groundbreaking for the St. Rose we have today took place on July 1, 1906, and the first Mass and dedication took place on September 27, 1907.
The architect of this beautiful church was John W. Ingle. It was built in the Romanesque style at a cost of $125,000 and has a seating capacity of 800. All of the stained glass windows add so much beauty to the church, but one window in particular came a long way. The window depicting the “Good Shepard” came all the way from Germany.
Over the next decades, the parish grew under the guidance of several dedicated pastors and assistants. Father John F. Stack became pastor in 1920. He was the youngest pastor in the Diocese of Brooklyn and was pastor for 32 years. It was during his pastorate that the combination bell and clock was erected in the towers of the Church on December 18, 1929.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
On December 11, 1910, the statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament was dedicated. St. Rose was the first church in the world to possess one of Anotona Bibolotti’s famous statues. The Rev. Henry F. Murray visited the great sculptor at his studio, at Tietrosania, Italy, on a trip abroad and procured the statue for St. Rose of Lima.
The statue is of white marble and about five feet tall. The carving of this rare work of art took six months, with the artist working 8 – 9 ½ hours on most days.
New Rectory, Convent and School
With the growth of the parish and the increase in the number of priests, it soon became necessary to build a new rectory. The additional growth also meant more children, so the building plans soon included a school and convent. This building program was started in 1963 and was completed in 1966. The dedication of these buildings, all built on 84th Street, took place on Sunday, May 15, 1966.
The Sisters of the Presentation opened the school in September of 1966. The first principal was Sister Eleanor O’Donnell and the first school included classes one through five. The first graduation was on June 20, 1970.
Today, the principal is Mrs. Theresa Andersen and the current school also includes Kindergarten and Pre-K classes. In a community struggling with an educational crisis, St. Rose is a shining example of what an educational institution should be, especially for Catholics, but also for those of other faiths.
A Working Parish
A church without the presence of God is nothing more than a building. A parish without the people and priests working together to do “God’s work” would be nothing more than an illusion of what a Catholic parish should be.
Over the decades since the beginning of St. Rose of Lima parish, many organizations were started and continue today, not only to help the parish grow, but also to do “God’s work”.
Traveling Roaring 20’s Review
The United Societies of St. Rose used to put on theatrical performances. In the 1970’s they actually took the show on the road to the St. Albans Naval Hospital and performed for about 200-300 Vietnam Vets.
Vocations From St. Rose
Over the years, St. Rose has sent several priests, sisters and deacons to answer God’s call in this special way.
Priests: Herman Berger, Conrad Dietz, Phillip Chieco, James Devine, John Healy, Eugene Hicks, James Reilly, Sal D’Ana
Sisters: Patricia Morrison, Helen Wilson, Rosemary Walpole
Deacons: Rafael Hernandez, Patrick Logue (St. Rose graduate), Rafael Mejia, Harold Sampson
Fathers Lou DeGaetano and Timothy Sheehan, who had served the parish as Deacons, were ordained at St. Rose. Father Sal D’Ana, a vocation from the parish, celebrated his first Mass in the Church. Father Marc Swartvagher, who had served here during the summer before ordination, offered his first Mass in the newly restored church on June 30, 1996.
Patrick Logue and Rafael Mejia celebrated their first Mass of Thanksgiving as Deacons at St. Rose, as did Harold Sampson.
The Ninetieth Anniversary of the parish was celebrated with Mass on May 9, 1976, and commemorated with a hard-covered book detailing the history of the parish and the Bicentennial History of the Catholic Church in America.
Commencement of Perpetual Adoration
Under Father Peter’s inspiration and guidance, perpetual adoration of the Eucharist began on September 10, 1994. Daily exposition and adoration of the Eucharist continues to this day.
The Eucharistic Congress took place on June 6, 1999. This was a gathering of the parishes of Rockaway and Broad Channel to celebrate the Eucharist. It consisted of Mass, adoration, workshops, and sharing of the Catholic Spirit.
Pastors of Saint Rose of Lima, Rockaway Beach
Father Edward J. O’Connell, 1886-1895 ✠
Father Thomas J. McCaffrey, 1895-1900 ✠
Father Henry F. Murray, 1900-1911 ✠
Father John P. Wilson, 1911-1912 ✠
Father James J. Bennett, 1912-1921 ✠
Father John F. Stack, 1921-1953 ✠
Father Pierce V. Brennan (Adm.), 1953-1954 ✠
Father Charles T. Carow, 1954-1956 ✠
Father Patrick J. McLaughlin, 1956-1957 ✠
Father Joseph J. Tschantz, 1957-1961 ✠
Father John B. Smith, 1961-1965 ✠
Father James F. McDonald, 1965-1971 ✠
Father Karl M. Michel, 1971-1978 ✠
Father James T. Devine, 1978-1988
Msgr. James P. Grace, 1988-1993 ✠
Father Peter D. Gillen, 1993-2007
Msgr. James F. Spengler, 2007-2015
Father Wladyslaw Z. Kubrak (Adm.), 2014-2016
Father James A. Kuroly, 2016 – 2019
Father James Rodriguez, 2019-
✠ – Deceased