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.

History of St. Boniface Martyr School, 1928 – 1990

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 other use.

Click here to read the history of All Saints Regional Catholic School,
which operated until it June, 2019.

 St. Boniface School Principals


Sr. M. Adrian Gillespie, RSM


Sr. M. Gonzaga Kehoe, RSM


Sr. M. Constance Dolan, RSM


Sr. M. Andrew Hennigan, RSM


Sr. M. Cornelia Dever, RSM


Sr. M. Isabel Sheerin, RSM


Sr. M. Philip Dillon, RSM


Sr. M. Gemma Brennan, RSM


Sr. M. Maureen McGroarty, RSM


Sr. M. Philip Dillon, RSM


Sr. M. Elizabeth Guckavan, RSM


Sr. M. Clare Dougherty, RSM


Sr. M. Jeanne d’Arc Salinger, RSM


Sr. M. Elizabeth Guckavan, RSM


Mrs. Elaine Lawless


Sr. Margaret McPeak, DW


Mrs. Lenora Brisotti