A Parish Is Born, 1898

The Old Chapel, site of first Catholic Mass in Sea Cliff

In 1668, Joseph Carpenter and a few associates purchased a large tract of land on the North Shore of Long Island from the Matinecock Indians. This area remained a quiet, rural settlement until a post-Civil War religious fervor showed itself along the Atlantic seaboard. In 1871, a group of Methodists from Manhattan and Brooklyn organized the Sea Cliff Grove and Camp Ground Association and bought 147 acres of property from the heirs of Joseph Carpenter. Over the next three decades, religious summer camp meetings and crowds of visitors transformed the area into a bustling resort town, complete with hotels, a ferry service, steamboat cruises and lovely Victorian homes.

On October 12, 1883, that Sea Cliff became an incorporated village composed of thirteen families and the pastor of the Methodist Church. As the village continued to grow, more Catholic families settled in the area. On July 18, 1897, the first Catholic services were held in the Old Chapel on 14th Avenue, just west of Central Avenue, where visiting clergymen came to Sea Cliff to conduct camp meetings. Father James McEnroe presided and was assisted by Father Frederick Lund. Throughout the following year the pair continued to travel from Glen Cove to say mass at the mission until plans for a new parish were realized.

In 1898, Bishop Charles E. McDonnell, the second Bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese, formed a new parish in Sea Cliff that he named St. Boniface Martyr, and appointed Father James J. Donohoe as first pastor. Father Donohoe celebrated his first Mass on July 3, 1898 in the Old Chapel. The Sea Cliff News of July 9, 1898 correctly predicted: “As Father Donohoe is a hustler, it will not be long before a handsome new church will be erected.”

Ground was broken for a church building on January 11, 1899, and volunteers (including many non-Catholics) carted bricks and fieldstone from the Glenwood Landing dock and from the Long Island Railroad station in Glen Head. On June 11, 1899, the cornerstone for the church building was laid.

As the church was being erected, the work of building the parish also proceeded. Father Donohoe set up a Sunday School and organized a Junior Choir, formed an Apostleship of Prayer, arranged for a mission, got the Holy Name Society underway, organized the St. Aloysius and Holy Angels Sodalities, took the first census, celebrated the first confirmation, and trained the first altar boys. He set up the St. Boniface Guards for youth aged 9 through 15. He bought an old boarding house, turned it into a rectory, and held a special collection to furnish it. Instead of charging pew rent, as was the custom, an “admission fee” of ten cents was taken at the door as one entered for mass.

The social life of the church blossomed, all with the point of fund-raising. A news account of the time tells of “lectures, balls, stereopticon views, picnics, minstrel shows, fairs (one in 1897 netted $1200), concerts, lawn parties, open-air dancing, euchre (card) parties and suppers…”.

The moment the basement of the church was completed, Father Donohoe again appealed for the parishioners to harness their horse teams to carry chairs, benches and an altar to the site, where mass was celebrated on July 9, 1899. The completed church building was dedicated by Bishop Charles E. McDonnell, D.D., on April 22, 1900.

A Temperance Society was begun in April 1901 and lasted for only five years (records indicate a yearly decrease in numbers).

In 1902, the first St. Patrick’s Day Supper was celebrated, and netted $142.40. It soon became the parish event of the year, attracting people from the whole Oyster Bay peninsula. Its eat-all-you-like meal, prepared and served by the Ladies Guild in an atmosphere of carefree joy, was finally discontinued in the 1950’s for lack of ability to handle the crowds.

Father Donohoe was transferred in 1906 to St. Martin of Tours in Brooklyn, and Reverend William L. O’Hara became the second pastor at St. Boniface Martyr (1906-1909). He soon became known for his civic interest, his instruction of non-Catholics, and his generosity. In June of 1906, he gave the commencement address at the Sea Cliff High School graduation exercises. It was he who urged his parishioners and others in Sea Cliff to send money to aid those suffering from the San Francisco earthquake and, later, to collect for victims of an earthquake in Italy.

The pastor who followed Reverend O’Hara was by disposition apparently something of a local John XXIII (before his time). The Rev. Louis J. Sloane, who served until 1926,

Early photo of the first church with new bell and entranceway in place

managed to pay off the church debt and began the dream of a parochial school. To this end, he started to build a treasury.

Father Sloane was known for his great charity toward all people. He was well liked by non-Catholics in town and made many converts. When Father Sloane was suffering from his last illness, public prayers for his recovery were said in all the Protestant churches in Sea Cliff and in the Jewish Synagogues in Glen Cove. During the last two years of Father Sloane’s pastorate, Reverend Aloysius H. Gillick and Reverend William Rhatigan served as administrators.

A new church bell was blessed on Thanksgiving Day, 1916, and began to ring out the Angelus three times each day and to call the parish to divine worship. Weighing one thousand pounds, the bell was made by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York, and was donated by Miss Mary A. Neville. It now sits in a small brick tower adjacent to the main church building and still rings joyously to this day.

Our Community Grows, c. 1900 – c. 1957

By October, 1923, a parish census showed 140 families where both spouses were Catholic, and 260 families where only one spouse was Catholic. There were then 859 Catholics in the parish. A Sunday School held at the time averaged 135 youngsters in attendance. Fifty were baptized that year; 26 made Holy Communion; thirteen couples were married; and there were 16 deaths.

Vintage post card view of the front entrance to St. Boniface School.

The “diamond-in-the-rough” who followed Father Sloane as pastor is still remembered by some in the community: Reverend Patrick J. Ford (1926-1937). Irish-born, with a tough exterior, he was the sort of pastor who visited his flock, family by family. Carrying forward Father Sloane’s dream, the school became his great effort, and it was brought to a reality at a cost of a quarter-million dollars. It opened in September, 1928, with an initial enrollment of 150 pupils, and the Sisters of Mercy of Dallas, Pennsylvania were enlisted to teach.

When the Great Depression hit the country, it seriously affected St. Boniface Martyr Parish. Few could meet pledges made in good faith, and the church was burdened with debt. Father Ford, in 1932, organized a “conference” of the St. Vincent de Paul Society as one bulwark against personal need suffered by the parishioners and others in Sea Cliff during those stark days. To make matters worse, in 1936, an arsonist set fire to the church building on three occasions, causing heavy damage and adding to the financial debt of the parish.

When Father Ford was moved to St. Sylvester’s in Brooklyn, he was succeeded by Reverend Charles B. Garvey (1937-46), a native of Cutchogue who was one of the first vocations from Suffolk County. During his pastorate, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) was organized, the Confraternity of the Rosary was begun, and the Carmelite Third Order set up a chapter here.

During W.W.II parishioners knitted scarves, held blood-banks, rolled bandages, sat fire-watches, and entertained “the Boys” from Mitchell Field and Roslyn Air Base. They whispered about the strange boats quartered at Fyfe’s Shipyard in Glenwood Landing that were tested up and down the harbor (which they later learned were the “PT Boats” of Pacific fame). They wrote a lot of V-Mail letters and also held special prayer services for a victorious D-Day. As a matter of fact, they did a lot of praying! During the war, more than 400 men and women of St. Boniface served in the armed forces and of these, 15 made the supreme sacrifice of their lives.

During the era of post-world war prosperity, many Catholic families moved out to the suburbs and into the parish. Despite the return to better times, many still felt the pinch of the long depression. To aid them in adjusting financially, while helping them avoid the high interest rates of the loan companies, a cooperative credit union was established among the parishioners. Small loans at very low interest rates were of untold value.

Father Garvey died as pastor in 1946, and was succeeded within a month by the Reverend William J. Gately. Under Father Gately’s leadership, the parish debt was paid off, and the church, school, convent and rectory were repaired and redecorated.

In May, 1947, a census revealed that the parish had grown to 1,198 families representing 3,645 individuals. During Father Gately’s stay, the parish celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1948, with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving, with the Most Reverend Thomas E. Molloy, Bishop of Brooklyn, presiding. Father Gately was instrumental in establishing a Mothers’ Club as a support for the parochial school.

In 1952, Reverend Thomas W. Smiddy succeeded Father Gately. After a year of dedicated pastoral work Father Smiddy, in 1953, was transferred to the Chancery Office in Brooklyn where he was eventually elevated to Papal Chamberlain as a Very Reverend Monsignor. In exchange, the man who held that post in Brooklyn, Very Reverend Monsignor Vincent J. Baldwin, came to St. Boniface. He was aided in his adjustment to the life of pastor by Fathers O’Mara and Canning, who had long served in the parish. Three years later, Monsignor Baldwin left for St. Aloysius in Great Neck, and was succeeded by the Reverend John J. Fee.

Since three successive pastors, Fathers Gately, Smiddy and Baldwin, had each won high office in the Church after leaving St. Boniface, it was said at the time that a priest apparently “is never simply transferred from St. Boniface — he’s promoted!”

About a year after Father Fee’s arrival, an important change occurred. The Brooklyn Diocese had, from 1853, extended control over the entire length of Long Island. In May 1957, Nassau and Suffolk counties were separated from the old order and designated as a new diocese with its seat at Rockville Centre. The Most Reverend Walter P. Kellenberg became the new Bishop. At this time, Father Fee’s devotion to Mary was recognized and he was appointed director of the Legion of Mary for the new diocese, a post which he held until his death.

St. Boniface Expands, c. 1956 – c. 1980

In 1959, the Diocesan Commission on Parish Boundaries began its work to provide more realistic borders for the parish. It was eventually decided to increase the St. Boniface boundaries so that Shore Road to Glen Cove Avenue began the northern limit, continuing up “back road hill” to Sea Cliff Avenue, and from there to the railroad tracks. The eastern edge of the parish followed the tracks to Glen Avenue in Glen Head, and Scudders Lane provided the southern border with Hempstead Harbor the western extremity.

Father Fee sensed that it was time to build. The lovely small church built in 1900 seated just over 300; the school, built in 1928, needed more classrooms; the greater number of classrooms would demand more teachers and, hence, more convent space; and the rectory, which had never been large enough, would in any event be demolished if a larger church were to be built.

With Father Fee’s leadership and much work and sacrifice on the part of the St. Boniface lay people, a fund-raising campaign began in 1960. The goal of a quarter-million dollars was quickly oversubscribed. Six additional classrooms were completed within the original school building, an extension providing for thirteen sisters was added to the convent, and an adjacent house was bought and made into a rectory. A new and larger church building was designed and constructed. All of this took until 1964 to complete.

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The original Church building being torn down in 1964 (click on photo to enlarge)

  Finally, on May 3, 1964, the Solemn Dedication of the new edifice took place. The Most Reverend Walter P. Kellenberg, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, pontificated, and the Most Reverend Vincent J. Baldwin, S.T.D., V.G., Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre, who had served as pastor in Sea Cliff (1953-56), preached the homily

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The new Church building in 1964 (click on photo to enlarge)

The new church building in 1964. (click photo to enlarge)

There were other familiar faces serving as Officers of the Pontifical Mass that day: Right Reverend Monsignor William J. Gately, Assistant Priest; Very Reverend Monsignor Thomas W. Smiddy and Reverend James F. Bradley, Deacons of Honor; Reverend George F. O’Mara, Deacon; Reverend Joseph F.X. Canning, Subdeacon. The Masters of Ceremonies were the Very Reverend Monsignors Francis J. Williams and John R. McGann.

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St. Boniface dedicates its new church on May 3, 1964. (click photo to enlarge)

The souvenir program for the day explained very well the rationale for the new church building, and permitted the architects to describe what they thought they had accomplished:

The new church building we dedicate today replaced the old St. Boniface Martyr Church which stood for more than sixty years on the same site. Much local affection was held for the old church which had become a landmark in town…. [P]arish growth demanded an enlarged, more up-to-date church. In the demolition of the old church, Father Fee had hoped that something of the original building might be incorporated in the new design. The original church bell atop the front facade of the old church was in excellent condition and would provide auditory as well as visual memories of the former place of worship. To bridge this old and new, the old bell has been placed in a free-standing bell tower, and has been made automatic, with clock and manual controls inside the new church.

The design of the church is simplified Romanesque style with contemporary feeling… typified by the large entrance arch of limestone, the slate roof and the circular head windows in the nave and the transepts. The short walls of the transepts… carry carved limestone statues… of the Patron of the Parish… and … of the Patron of the Diocese….

The architects described their use of oak (symbolic of St. Boniface’s having destroyed the Pagans’ sacred tree) in the nave and in the church doors, and of the oak leaf and acorn design in the altar rail, votive stands, lectern and speaker grilles. In great detail they describe the eight stained-glass windows in the transepts which depict “historically accurate events from the life of the patron of the parish”. The four windows in the nave illustrate the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and the large entrance window depicts the Coronation of the Blessed Mother as Queen of Heaven and Earth. When the celebration was over it was realized that with the cost of the expansion and of the new buildings and of the purchase of the two adjacent parcels of land, the parish had a $440,000 debt.

While the physical structure of St. Boniface was expanding, so too was the role of its parishioners. Lay activity had always been a hallmark of the parish, but with the advent of Vatican Council II came the formal changes of a Parish Council, a School Board, and a CCD board composed of laymen and laywomen. These lay efforts continued to be reinforced by those organizations already in existence and the Adult Choir and the Folk Group were added.

To celebrate its Diamond Jubilee, the parish began 1973 with a New Year’s Party. Two dinner plates were designed to commemorate the occasion of the 75th Anniversary. A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on Sunday, June 24, 1973, with Bishop Kellenberg as the principal celebrant and with Fathers James Bradley, George O’Mara, Joseph Canning, Hubert Spinner, Thaddeus Semla, and, of course, Father Fee, as concelebrants. Father George O’Mara, who had been associate pastor at St. Boniface from 1935 to 1961, gave the homily. The record shows — reflecting Vatican II — that Joseph Vulpis was the cantor and Robert Bolger was the Lector.

Click here for rare historic photos of our 75th Anniversary Celebration

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The 75th Anniversary Mass celebrated on June 24, 1973. (click photo to enlarge)

In 1976, the School Board initiated a parish pre-school program to provide early childhood education for the community. The parish continued to prosper and to grow, and as one observer from outside the parish noted, Father Fee played “a dignified and important role in Sea Cliff,” as well as in the St. Boniface community. He was honored by the North Shore Kiwanis Club as “Citizen of the Year” in 1980 and, when he reached the age of obligatory retirement, continued to reside at the parish as Pastor Emeritus. It was then that the Reverend Donald F. Diederich was installed as pastor.

In the fall of 1982 the priests moved to the newly renovated Parish Center, a building that since 1928 had been the convent for the Sisters of Mercy, and the former rectory was rented to the Sisters of St. Joseph.

May 31, 1983, was the 25th Anniversary of Father Diederich’s ordination. Quite secretly, the parish determined to send Father on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which he had never visited. Arrangements were made for him to depart on May 22, so he could celebrate a special mass in that most sacred place, on his actual anniversary. On May 15, Father Dederich was honored at a mass and afterward a reception was held in the school auditorium to wish him well.

Father Fee’s sudden death from a heart attack on November 19, 1983, came as a great shock. Sadly, members of the parish said good-bye to their former pastor of 25 years. The funeral mass for the Pastor Emeritus was celebrated with Bishop John McGann as the principal celebrant.

Father Diederich’s pastorate was marked by strong emphasis on the liturgy. “The parish community begins with the Eucharist, and the other sacraments,” said Father Diederich, “and everything else flows from that.” Among his efforts, a successful half-million dollar fund-raising campaign to renovate the church was realized.

The renovated church, re-dedicated on March 24, 1985, by Bishop McGann, gave St. Boniface a stronger sense of active participation in the liturgy. Further involvement with music was encouraged, and a musical director was hired. The involvement of scores of Eucharistic Ministers and lectors was also enlisted. Changes in the church itself included removal of the altar rail, creation of a permanent altar facing the people, addition of a wide but shallow sanctuary and a repositioning of the pews to bring the congregation and celebrant closer together. The original baptismal font was relocated to the sanctuary and the tabernacle was repositioned to a place of prominence in the sanctuary. Architectural history was preserved by refashioning the original marble altars into a single permanent altar, a substantial base for the tabernacle, and the eye-catching face of the ambo. Original oakleaf fretwork from the communion rail adorned the wall above the tabernacle.

Social concerns were also made more visible by an active Justice and Peace Committee; a parish outreach position was added to the staff and ecumenical ties grew. Social life in the parish was encouraged for the youth by Father Thomas Mulvanerty and, later, paid youth ministers were added. Parish-wide activities such as the Family Luncheon, Country Fair and Service Auction added vitality to St. Boniface’s social life and also to parish funds. A parish census done in 1982, reported 1,447 homes in the parish with 3,902 Catholics.

Sacramental programs involving parents continued to develop under the leadership of Sr. Margaret McPeak, school principal, and Mrs. Ita Levesque, religious education director. Parishioners now helped prepare engaged couples for marriage and new parents for their children’s baptisms. A Mass of Anointing of the Sick and a Marriage Renewal Mass became part of the annual parish calendar, and in 1987, under the direction of Father Jay Madacsi and Maureen Kelly, the restored Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) was celebrated at St. Boniface for the first time. In September, Father Reginald Camilleri arrived at the parish from Malta.

In June of 1988, after eight years as pastor, Father Diederich left St. Boniface to become pastor at St. James Parish in Setauket and Father David Farley was installed as pastor. Though here for only one year, parishioners knew Father Farley to be a kind and gentle man. He will be especially remembered for leading a parish prayer vigil in the spring of 1989, while a St. Boniface School student lay in a coma after sustaining a serious injury at school. The entire parish participated in the round-the-clock vigil, until the third grader’s life was out of danger. It stands out as a special moment of faith for St. Boniface — the parish’s own miracle.

Approaching a New Century, c. 1980 – c. 1999

Fr. Mike Torpey

Fr. Mike Torpey

In June, 1989, a new pastor, Reverend Michael J. Torpey, arrived at St. Boniface.

Shortly after his arrival, in response to senior members of the parish, Father Torpey hired Sister Mary Butler, O.P., to begin a senior outreach program. (In 1995, after being elected Regional Director of her order, Sister Mary moved on, but the successful program has continued). Other staff changes came when Sr. Margaret McPeak retired as school principal and Mrs. Lenora Brisotti was appointed. In June of 1990, Ita Levesque, longtime director of the parish Religious Education Program, moved on to become the director at St. Brigid’s Parish, and Father Torpey appointed Julie Byrne as administrator of the program.

In June of 1991, the parish schools of St. Boniface, St. Mary’s in Roslyn, and St. Patrick’s in Glen Cove and St. Hyacinth’s in Glen Head regionalized to form All Saint’s Regional Catholic School, supported by those parishes and St. Rocco’s of Glen Cove

Under diocesan direction and the leadership of principal Sister Helen Dolan, S.S.N.D., the school began on two campuses with a nursery through third grade at the Lower Campus (St. Hyacinth’s) and grades four through eight on the Upper Campus (St. Patrick’s).

In 1995, Sister Maureen Vellon, R.S.H.M. was appointed as principal of ASR. At present, 40 of the approximately 400 students are St. Boniface parishioners, and the school continues to flourish. In the fall of 1999, all grades will be located on St. Patrick’s parish property, allowing for total technological integration of all classrooms, leading the school into the 21st Century.

The school is supported by each of the five parishes and the school board is comprised of each parish’s pastor and representatives appointed by that pastor.

The decision to regionalize the schools and close the St. Boniface School building made for a very painful time in the parish, especially for the parents and children who attended. Since then however, space made available by the closing of the building has been put to good use. For much of the 1990’s, the third floor of the school had been rented to St. Christopher Ottilie Home, and during that time the the parish offices were moved to the lower level.

Update, 2017:  Since about 2002, AHRC has leased and renovated the lowest level of the building, where they run a private school.  The three classroom levels of the building now provides classroom space for the children who attend the the parish’s religious education program.  The Gym has been renovated and provides both practice and game space for the parish’s CYO program and a venue for the parish’s social events.

The priests’ residence was moved back to the old rectory building, now renovated, and the building directly across the street from the church, which had served as a convent or rectory at various times has also been renovated and now houses the parish offices, a chapel, a youth center and meeting rooms for the parish. 

In time, it became clear that Father Torpey considered liturgy a major focus of his ministry. Nowhere was that more evident than at the family liturgy celebrated each Sunday. At ease with children, he fostered liturgy where children were both comfortable and involved. “If we focus on kids, it creates a focus on the family,” said Father Torpey. “If the children know they’re loved, it involves the whole family and it helps the parish to celebrate that love in the present; which, in turn, prepares us for the future.” This focus attracted many new young families to the parish. Liturgical music continued to be important, with Jeffrey Schneider as the music director. To assist the pastor in keeping a clear feel on the pulse of parish finances, in 1993, Father Torpey hired Eileen Krieb to help oversee parish business and finance. On June 6, 1993, the parish joined in the celebration of Father Torpey’s 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood with a mass followed by a lovely garden party.

Focus on the parish’s 100th anniversary (1998) began in 1993, with an elegant dinner dance at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, where parishioners, Ceil Herbert and Robert Bolger, were honored. It was the first of many Centennial celebrations. Reflecting on the Centennial, Father Torpey praised the work of the previous pastors. He pointed out Father Diederich’s work with liturgy and Father Fee’s strong sense of Church and how they have provided a foundation to present celebrations, involving some of the same people who worked with these previous pastors.

In 1995, St. Boniface became a one-priest parish when Father Camilleri (Reggie), who had won the hearts of parishioners in his seven years here, left St. Boniface to do further study. We gained Sr. Kathleen Murphy, O.P., however, who was appointed pastoral associate and has proved to be an invaluable asset to the parish as it continues to grow. Sr. Kathleen assists the pastor in the many aspects of running a parish and also conducts some liturgical services. Besides supporting parish programs already in existence, in 1996, Sr. Kathleen started a new program, M.O.M.S n’ Tots, for mothers of pre-schoolers.

In 1996, the parish embarked on a diocesan Stewardship Program. Consciousness-raising on its theme of giving back time, talent and treasure in thanksgiving for all God has provided has been an impetus for parish growth. This program has not only improved the parish’s financial situation, but has put new blood into volunteerism. Consequently, appreciation for the many gifts already shared within the parish community has grown among parishioners.

St. Boniface Martyr Parish began its preparation for the Jubilee Year of 2000 on Christmas Eve, 1998, when the front doors of the church were closed and draped with a Jubilee Banner, to remain closed until Christmas Eve 1999, when they were ceremoniously reopened, just as Pope John Paul II opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to symbolize the Church’s “Opening Wide the Doors to Christ” at the dawn of the Third Millennium.

Our Parish at the start of the New Millennium

The dawn of St. Boniface Martyr Parish’s second century began not long before the end of the 20th Century, as the Church prepared for the Jubilee Year declared for 2000 by Pope John Paul II.  On Christmas Eve, 1998, the front doors of the church were closed and draped with a Jubilee Banner, by our then Pastor, Fr. Michael J. Torpey, to remain closed until Christmas Eve 1999, when they were ceremoniously reopened, just as Pope opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to symbolize the Church’s “Opening Wide the Doors to Christ” at the dawn of the Third Millennium.

The Internet Age

Our parish also marked the coming of the new millennium by becoming one of the first parishes on Long Island to establish a presence on the internet, launching a website at www.saintboniface.org, on October 15, 1999.  With the rise of “social media”, the parish has also developed Facebook pages and uses such tools as Twitter, Instagram and a YouTube channel.  The weekly parish bulletin and newsletters are distributed posted digitally on these platforms and are also sent by email to over 500 online subscribers.

As St. Boniface Martyr Parish celebrated its Centennial in 1997 and 1998, and the Jubilee in 1999 and 2000, the same strong sense of community that had started this parish was still going strong. Many prayers and thanks go to those who have gone before us and have provided the faith community with all that it needed to sustain its first one hundred years. We pray that God will continue to bless our parish, providing it with the gifts it needs to flourish in the future.


New Growth in a New Millenium

In June, 20Spring Church 4 May 201407, St. Boniface bid a fond farewell to Fr. Mike Torpey, who had been Pastor since 1989.  Fr. Mike had led the parish through some momentous times, assisting in the founding of All Saints Regional Catholic School and helping the parishioners explore their baptismal roles as Catholic Christians by helping them grow into new responsibilities as St. Boniface became a “one priest parish”.

That same month, St. Boniface welcomed a new Pastor, Fr. Robert A. Romeo.  St. Boniface was Fr. Bob’s first assignment as Pastor of a parish, but he soon proved to be more than equal to the job and to be a great blessing to the parish, ushering in a renewed spirit and an era of great growth, much of which is detailed in this publication.

Father Bob served as Pastor of St. Boniface Parish from June 21, 2007 to June 24, 2015 when he was assigned as the new Pastor of the Parish of St. Mary, Manhasset.  Fr. Kevin Dillon, Associate Pastor of St. Aidan’s, Williston Park, became the new Pastor of St. Boniface.

 

2007 – New Pastor Appointed to St. Boniface Martyr Parish

Fr. Bob Portrait

Fr. Robert A. Romeo
Photo Courtesy of The Long Island Catholic/Greg Shemitz

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NEW YORK, June 21, 2007—The Most Reverend William Murphy, Bishop, Diocese of Rockville Centre, appointed Father Robert A. Romeo pastor of St. Boniface Martyr parish, Sea Cliff, N.Y., effective June 27, 2007. “I was shocked and very pleased in the bishop’s confidence,” Father Romeo said of the appointment.

Born in Plainview, N.Y. and raised in Dix Hills, N.Y., Father Romeo attended Cathedral College, Douglaston, N.Y. and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from St. Joseph’s College, Patchogue, N.Y. He attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, N.Y., and was ordained into the priesthood on May 9, 1987.

 His first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Christopher parish, Baldwin, N.Y., followed by Cure of Ars parish, Merrick, N.Y., where he served for 10 years. During his time in Merrick, he helped coordinate diocesan pilgrimages and served as a firefighter and department chaplain in the Merrick Fire Department.

“I miss fighting fires,” he said. “It’s the total opposite of what I usually do.”
In 2002, Father Romeo was appointed to St. Peter of Alcantara parish, Port Washington, N.Y. He said he will miss the parish, but looks forward to connecting with the people of St. Boniface Martyr.

“That’s one of the most difficult parts of being a priest: leaving your home,” he said. “There’s always a place in your heart for the people from your assignments.”

Father Romeo said there has already been an overwhelming welcome in Sea Cliff. During a recent visit, everyone from bank tellers to library guests gave him a warm greeting.

“I’ve been very blessed because every one of my assignments has been wonderful,” he said. “Every parish I’ve been in have been moments of growth for me.”
St. Peter of Alcantara is a parish of 2600 families. He will be the only priest at St. Boniface Martyr, where 1300 families worship. One of his goals as pastor is to create a youth ministry there, and to “always be grounded in Jesus and the Word.”

Father Romeo serves as an advocate for the annulment process and an assistant master of ceremonies for major diocesan events.
In his free time, he enjoys water and snow skiing, bowling, tennis and reading history and fiction novels.

Editor’s Note: Photo Courtesy of The Long Island Catholic/Greg Shemitz

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Meet Fr. Bob

St. Boniface Martyr’s new pastor, Rev. Robert Romeo, arrived at the parish on June 27. Father Bob, as he likes to be called, said he is happy to be a priest. As a priest, he feels privileged to be invited into people’s lives on a daily basis and during their joyful as well as sad moments. It’s an honor and it’s what he loves about being a priest.

Father Bob attended local schools including Commack High School South, Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue before attending Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington. He was ordained by Bishop John McGann as a priest for the Diocese of Rockville Center in 1987. Prior to his ordination, he served his pastoral year at St. Joseph’s in Ronkonkoma. His first parish was St. Christopher’s Parish in Baldwin for five years as an associate pastor moving on to Cure of Ars in Merrick in 1992. In 2002, he was assigned to St. Peter Alcantara in Port Washington until recently when he was appointed as a pastor of St. Boniface in Sea Cliff.

In addition to serving as an associate pastor for 20 years, he has served as a diocesan assistant master of ceremonies for major masses and events at St. Agnes Cathedral, as well as at Confirmations around the diocese. He also has served as an advocate for the diocese of Rockville Centre assisting people seeking annulments.

Father Bob said he is strong on well-celebrated joyful liturgies and big on prayer, scripture and teaching. He said his personal energy for serving as a priest comes from his prayer life and the people he serves. “Everything I do is based on prayer and scripture,” he said.

During his day off, he frequently goes to his family’s vacation house at Lake Hopatacong in New Jersey, where he spends time in prayer, with the scriptures and in relaxation.

His previous parish involvements range across the board from experiences with young children to senior members of the parish, involvement with liturgy, sacraments, outreach, and various forms of prayer. He particularly noted being involved in a “Midnight Run,” where he and others took a group of young adults to New York City to distribute clothing, food, and toiletries to homeless people.

Father Bob said he grew up on Long Island in Dix Hills where he is the second of four boys. Family is important to him, and he regularly spends time with his parents, his brothers and their families, and his godchildren. He also likes spending time with his friends. He especially likes quiet evenings with close friends.

He likes sports such as water skiing, snow skiing and hiking in the mountains, reading, the beach and being on the water.

Other special involvements since he was ordained include serving as a Class A interior firefighter in the Merrick Fire Department for eight years and being part of their racing team. He has been a chaplain in New York City for Squad #288 in Queens and he was very involved with 9/11.

Father Bob mentioned that he is grateful to St. Boniface’s previous pastor Father Michael Torpey, who has been very kind and helpful to him making his transition into the parish easy.

“The parish has been extremely welcoming. I enjoyed the sign. It was very comforting. I love the people stopping by at the rectory to say hello. I look forward to meeting everyone and hearing about your visions and hopes for the parish. Please don’t hesitate to contact me over anything.  To sum up my feelings about St. Boniface, I want to quote McDonalds, ‘I’m lovin’ it,’ said Father Bob.

The parish welcomes Father Bob and wishes him much success and happiness in his time at St. Boniface.

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The following article appeared in what happened to be the final print edition of the Long Island Catholic on October 10, 2012

 

Jubilarian ‘ran from vocation,’ but later found it

SEA CLIFF — While still very young, Father Bob Romeo recalls, “I knew that God was calling me to the priesthood, but I tried to run from it.“I wanted a typical life,” said the pastor of St. Boniface Martyr Church here. “I wanted to be married, to have children, but God had other plans for me.”In April, Father Romeo celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest when his parishioners threw a surprise party for him.Father Romeo, son of Fran, a homemaker, and Gabriel, a banker, grew up in Plainview, one of four boys. They attended St. Pius X Church. “My parents were really involved in the life of the church,” participating in groups like the Holy Name Society and the Altar-Rosary Society.“We had priests who were friends and visited our home,” Father Romeo said. Msgr. Jim Kelly was associate pastor. “He was a great friend” and an influence on young Romeo.

Later the family moved to Dix Hills, where they belonged to St. Matthew’s Church. Among the priests who influenced him there was Msgr. James McDonald “who was in love with the priesthood and in love with the Eucharist. He saw God in everything.”

Though he felt the calling, Father Romeo said, he went to Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania to study business. After one semester he left. Eventually, he entered the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington. “The academics were great. I was opened up to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.”

He also valued his pastoral year at St. Joseph’s, Ronkonkoma, both for the experience of living and working in a parish and for knowing the pastor, Father Charles Kohli.

“He is one of the most spiritual men I know, but also very human. Fun,” Father Romeo said. “He’s been a powerful influence on me and my priesthood.”

Father Romeo was ordained May 9, 1987, and assigned to St. Christopher’s Church, Baldwin.

“I heard a priest say that you leave part of your heart at your first parish, and that was true for me,” he said. He cited Msgr. John Bennett, the pastor, and two other associate pastors, and how well the four worked together.

“We had different spiritualities, but we were united in ministering to the parishioners. I learned the meaning of unity,” Father Romeo said. They also served as chaplains at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, “which was a place that had special moments for ministry.”

In 1992, he was transferred to Curé of Ars, Merrick. “I served under two pastors, Msgr. James Swiader and Father James Mannion, and I learned from both of them.”

At Curé, he also became a volunteer firefighter and chaplain for a fire company. He said he was profoundly affected by the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

“You could see that people needed Jesus in their lives,” Father Romeo said.

At Curé of Ars he also had more opportunities for ministry with adults. “I loved Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).”

Father Romeo became associate pastor of St. Peter of Alcantara, Port Washington, in 2002. He praised the pastor, Msgr. Dan Picciano. Father Romeo enjoyed visiting the parish school as well as working with the youth minister.

“We had about 80 to 90 kids” who were involved in a variety of activities, from regular meetings to such projects as “The Midnight Run,” where they go into Manhattan to offer food to homeless people.

“Most important we focused on Jesus,” Father Romeo said.

For years, he resisted becoming a pastor because, “in the words of one of my former pastors, I wanted to avoid ‘the Three Ls, leaks, locks, and ledgers.’” Yet in 2007, he was assigned to his first pastorate, St. Boniface here.

“I found that I love being a pastor” because it offers unique opportunities to serve.

An important element of leadership is working with groups of parishioners to call upon their expertise and insight for the direction of the parish.

Still, the pastor ultimately must make the decisions, Father Romeo said, “but he must come to it in prayer so that the Holy Spirit can direct us.”

One surprise he has found since becoming a priest “is how warmly people welcome you. I was once at a family’s house for a barbecue and realized after a while that I was the one person there who wasn’t part of the family.” His first reaction was that he didn’t belong, but soon realized: “No. I am a part of the family.”

One difficult aspect he sees is the fact that priests are regularly transferred from one parish to another. “You build relationships and then you have to move on,” Father Romeo said, “but I understand it because it involves the greater good of the diocese.”

What he likes best about being a priest is celebrating the Eucharist. “If you do more than say the words but actually pray them,” Father Romeo said, you can see the Eucharist for what it is — Jesus’ “great gift of self to us.”

Despite his past reservations, “I love being a priest and I’m amazed that I became one. I can’t imagine being anything else.”

 

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Church Renovation 2015

Dedication sign welcoming Bishop MurphyA three year effort aimed at ”Renewing and Restoring the House of God” came to joyful fruition on April 12, 2015 when Bishop Murphy dedicated and consecrated our new church and altar.

We also renamed the Parish Center after our founding Pastor, Fr. Donohoe, and we renamed the Chapel located there the IHM Chapel in honor of the religious Sisters who taught at the former St. Boniface School.

In 2011 our Parish began a discussion as to whether to renew, restore and update our church building. After positive discussion with parishioners, the first phase, a Capital Campaign began. This phase was designed to confirm that we plan had sufficient support to move forward. An overwhelming response to the Capital Campaign saw pledges of over $1,230,000.00.

With monies pledged we began the design stage of our church renovation. Thirty-five people signed up to be part of the committee. They worked very hard with liturgical designer, Lawrence Hoy, to develop five alternative designs which were presented to the parish after Mass on two weekends. In addition, groups of our younger parishioners from among our Youth group, altar servers and First Communion families were asked for their input.

These designs gave rise to some wonderful discussions and excitement among the Parishioners. The committee used their suggestions, ideas and comments and developed a design proposal incorporating the three designs which had received the strongest support, and then presented that design to the Parish.

We celebrated Mass for the last time in the “old” Church on the Sunday after Christmas.  Following Mass a number of parishioners, young and old, pitched in to move sacramental elements and furniture next door to the St. Boniface Gym where we celebrated Mass on New Year’s Day and on all weekends while the church was being renovated.

Enough of the work was completed to allow the first Mass in the newly renovated church to take place on Holy Thursday and we are able to celebrate the Triduum and Easter in the renovated building. During Easter Week, the new altar, ambo and many of the final design elements were completed by a construction crew working day and night so that everything was in place when Bishop Murphy arrived for the re-dedication and consecration of the church at 10:15 Mass on Sunday, April 12, 2015.

This was a very wonderful time for our parish which will continue to generate excitement and renewed devotion to our worship of Jesus Christ as Lord!

Photos taken at the dedication ceremony for our newly renovated church on April 12, 2015.  On the same day Bishop Murphy helped us rededicate the Parish Center, which has been renamed the “Fr. James Donohoe Parish Center” in honor of our Parish’s founding Pastor, and also the chapel contained in that building, which has been renamed “Our Lady of Mercy Chapel” in honor of the Sisters of Mercy, who taught at the former St. Boniface School.

Click here to read about various statues installed in the renovated church.

Reredos and Narthex April 2014

Designs for the reredos and tabernacle (top) and a view of the narthex wall from the nave of the church (bottom).

"Overhead" view of proposed floor plan.

“Overhead” view of proposed floor plan.

 

Next Page:  Renewing and Restoring the House of God by Carol Griffin Gold Coast Gazette January 12, 2012

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A New Pastor, 2015

In March, 2015, Bishop Murphy appointed Father Kevin Dillon as the new Pastor of St. Boniface, Martyr Parish.

Born to Gerard and Dolores Dillon in March of 1961, Father Kevin is the oldest of four children.  Fr. Kevin has two sisters and one brother all residing here on Long Island.  In 1965, his family moved from Brooklyn to Williston Park, where is mother still resides.  He attended St. Aidan School and graduated in 1975.  From there, Fr. Kevin went on to the former St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary High School where he graduated 1979.

During the 1980’s Father Kevin attended Nassau Community College and Queens College of the City University of New York where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education.  Fr. Kevin holds New York State Permanent Certification as a teacher of English to Secondary School students.  While attending college he worked as a Training and Development Instructor for The Dime Savings Bank of New York.

Upon graduating college, Fr. Kevin taught seventh and eighth grade English in several Catholic elementary schools, including Our Lady of Fatima, Scarsdale , St. Mary’s, Roslyn, and St. Anastasia, Douglaston.

Father Kevin always felt called to the priesthood, and after his dad’s death in 1990, he thought seriously about entering the seminary, and in September 1991 he entered Cathedral Residence of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston to begin his studies for the priesthood.  From there he attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington until 1994.  At that time, still not completely certain if God was calling him to the priesthood, he withdraw to reflect and discern God’s plan for him.  He returned to teaching and worked at several Catholic and public high schools, including St. Dominic High School, Oyster Bay, Suncoast Community High School, Riviera Beach, FL and Bishop Guertin High School, Nashua, NH.

In 2000, Father Kevin still felt called to the priesthood, and so resumed his studies for priestly formation at the Diocesan Seminary in Huntington.  He was ordained June 14, 2003, and has served as Associate Pastor in several parishes of the Diocese, including St. Brigid, Westbury, from 2003-2005; Saint Jude Mastic Beach, from 2005-2007, and Saint Aidan, Williston Park from 2007-2015.  After being ordained, he was appointed to the faculty of St. Dominic High School, where he taught Moral Theology and Sacraments to juniors, and Fr. Kevin will be teaching 6th Grade Religion at our Parish school, All Saints Catholic.  .

Father Kevin is a fan of the New York Yankees as well as of the New York Rangers.  He has a passion for fitness and exercise and enjoys working out with his trainers.  He enjoys spending time with his family and friends.  He likes to travel and has run several pilgrimages to Europe and the Holy Land.  He also enjoys reading, and visiting book stores.  Finally, he likes to sing and attended a Voice Lesson Class in Vienna, Austria where he studied with the Director of the Vienna Boys Choir and composed his own song.


Fr Kevin Insatallation

History of St. Boniface Martyr School, 1928 – 1990

 

We  would very much like to stay in touch with our alumni of St. Boniface Martyr School.  As we celebrate the 100th year of Catholic school education on the Gold Coast, we also commemorate the 86th Anniversary of the opening of St. Boniface School, in 1928.  To stay informed about alumni news and events from St. Boniface School,  please complete and submit a St. Boniface School Alumni registration form.

 

Vintage post card view of the front entrance to St. Boniface School.

Vintage post card view of the front entrance to St. Boniface School.

The dream of establishing a Catholic school at St. Boniface Martyr Parish began in 1898, when the parish was established. Father James Donohoe, the first pastor, expressed a strong desire to see a parochial school created for the children of parish families. The idea stayed alive in the 1920’s, when Father Louis Sloane, the pastor at the time, began to set aside money each year to be used in building the school.

His successor, Father Patrick Ford, went a step further by organizing a fund drive to raise $50,000 of the $250,000 needed for the school’s construction. The support given by the parishioners was such that the money was donated or pledged within only a few weeks. Combined with the funds set aside by Father Sloane, that money was sufficient to buy the Amrhein Farm on which the school was to be built, and to hire Architect James O’Connor  to design the structure.

In November, 1927, ground was broken and Frank A. Droesch, Inc., a construction firm from Queens, began working on the building. The work was completed in time for the school to open its doors in September, 1928. On June 23, 1928, the Sisters of Mercy from Dallas, Pennsylvania arrived and began registering children for entry into grades 1 through 6. Another grade was to be added each year until all 8 grades were included.

The new school opened on September 10, 1928, with an initial registration of 150 students. The building contained 10 classrooms, 2 indoor playgrounds, lunchrooms, a kitchen, restrooms, offices, a clinic, storerooms, and a large auditorium. Bishop Thomas F. Malloy of the Diocese of Brooklyn formally dedicated the school on September 16, 1928, at a ceremony attended by more than 1000 people.

In June 1931, the first 8th grade class (14 students) graduated, leading the way for the 59 graduating classes that followed it into the world.

First Graduating Class, St. Boniface School 1931

Over the subsequent decades, enrollment at St. Boniface grew (to nearly 600 students, at one point) and the building was expanded to accommodate the students. In 1962, a library and gymnasium were added and 8 new classrooms were opened. In 1963, student services were expanded to include a 5-day hot lunch program staffed by volunteers from the Mothers’ Club (later the Home School Association).

For 36 years, St. Boniface provided its students with a free education but, in 1964, economic factors forced the introduction of a modest family tuition schedule. The school continued to change. In 1969, a playground was built on school property with the help of many community volunteers. In 1976, nursery and Pre-K programs were begun, and, in 1977, the first kindergarten class started. By that time, lay teachers had replaced most of the Sisters of Mercy.  In the Autumn of 1989 enrollment was approximately 220 students.  In its 62 years of existence, St. Boniface Martyr School graduated over 2,000 pupils.

On June 24, 1989, St. Boniface Martyr School joyfully celebrated its 60th anniversary with a reunion dinner chaired by Kathleen and John Ahearn. Many of the school’s 2,000 graduates returned for the event.

Throughout its existence, St. Boniface Martyr School served as a superb example of academic excellence in Catholic education.

In 1990, the parish schools of St. Boniface, St. Mary in Roslyn, St. Patrick in Glen Cove and St. Hyacinth in Glen Head regionalized to form All Saints Regional Catholic School, a new entity designed to supported by those four parishes, joined by St. Rocco Parish of Glen Cove.  The decision to regionalize the schools and close the St. Boniface School building made for a very painful time in the parish, especially for the families whose children who attended the school. Since then however, space made available by the closing of the St. Boniface School building has been put to good use, and All Saints Regional Catholic School is thriving.

Click here to read the history of All Saints Regional Catholic School.

 St. Boniface School Principals

1928-35

Sr. M. Adrian Gillespie, RSM

1935-36

Sr. M. Gonzaga Kehoe, RSM

1936-37

Sr. M. Constance Dolan, RSM

1937-38

Sr. M. Andrew Hennigan, RSM

1938-39

Sr. M. Cornelia Dever, RSM

1939-51

Sr. M. Isabel Sheerin, RSM

1951-57

Sr. M. Philip Dillon, RSM

1957-60

Sr. M. Gemma Brennan, RSM

1960-66

Sr. M. Maureen McGroarty, RSM

1966-69

Sr. M. Philip Dillon, RSM

1969-70

Sr. M. Elizabeth Guckavan, RSM

1970-71

Sr. M. Clare Dougherty, RSM

1971-76

Sr. M. Jeanne d’Arc Salinger, RSM

1976-77

Sr. M. Elizabeth Guckavan, RSM

1977-81

Mrs. Elaine Lawless

1981-89

Sr. Margaret McPeak, DW

1989-90

Mrs. Lenora Brisotti

 

History of All Saints Catholic School, 1990 – Present

All Saints Regional Catholic School is located in this beautiful historic building on the campus of St. Patrick Parish in Glen Cove.

In 1995, Sister Maureen Vellon, R.S.H.M. was appointed as principal of ASR.

In 1995, Sister Maureen Vellon, R.S.H.M. was appointed as principal of ASR.

Sr. Maureen was succeeded by James V. Thompson, who served until his retirement at the end of the school year 2011-12.

Sr. Maureen was succeeded by James V. Thompson, who served until his retirement at the end of the school year 2011-12.

 

Fr. Elias Carr, appointed Headmaster of ASR, 2012

Fr. Elias Carr, appointed Headmaster of ASR, 2012

Joanne Fitzgerald, appointed Academic Dean of ASR, 2012

Joanne Fitzgerald, appointed Academic Dean of ASR, 2012

In 1990, the parish schools of St. Boniface, St. Mary in Roslyn, St. Patrick in Glen Cove and St. Hyacinth in Glen Head regionalized to form All Saints Regional Catholic School, a new entity designed to supported by those four parishes, joined by St. Rocco Parish of Glen Cove.

The decision to regionalize the schools and close the St. Boniface School building made for a very painful time in the parish, especially for the families whose children who attended the school. Since then however, space made available by the closing of the building has been put to good use, and All Saints Regional Catholic School is now well established and thriving, having gone from strength to strength to reach the top echelon of Catholic schools on Long Island.

Under diocesan direction and the leadership of its first principal, Sister Helen Dolan, S.S.N.D., All Saints Regional Catholic School began on two campuses with a nursery through third grade at the Lower Campus (St. Hyacinth’s) and grades four through eight on the Upper Campus (St. Patrick’s).  All grades are now consolidated in the school building on the St. Patrick’s parish campus, allowing for total technological integration of all classrooms, leading the school into the 21st Century.

All of the schools’ grades are now located at the former St. Patrick’s School building, allowing for total technological integration of all classrooms, leading the school into the 21st Century.   As of the 2012-13 school year, all of the school’s classrooms have been equipped with the latest “SMART Board” technology.

In April, 2012 it was announced that ASR would follow a new, innovative, academic vision.  Fr. Elias Carr, Pastor of St. Rocco’s and one of the Canons Regular of the Canonry of Saint Leopold who serve at St. Patrick’s and St. Rocco’s parishes was appointed as ASR’s first Headmaster, to be assisted by an Academic Dean, Joanne Fitzgerald.  The new administration has reinvigorated the school with a continued emphasis on high-quality Catholic education.

The school is supported by each of the five parishes and the school board is comprised of each parish’s pastor and two representatives appointed by that pastor. St. Boniface is represented by parishioners Síghle Lynch and Kevin Horton.

 

 

Historic Photos, St. Boniface Parish

Some historic photos of our original church building, dedicated on April 22, 1900.  It stood until 1963, when construction began on our present building.  The present one was dedicated on May 3, 1964.

Interior photos of the present church building before its first renovation in 1985:

Photos of the our present church building’s first renovation in 1985:

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