St. Boniface Expands 1956-90

St. Boniface Grows along with Long Island

A new Diocese, a Bigger School and a New

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.

The original Church building being torn down in 1964 .

Dedication of the new church building, 1964

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, presided.

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.  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.

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 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.

Diamond Jubilee

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

New Roles for Parishioners After Vatican II

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.

A New Pastor, Donald F. Diederich

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 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.

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.

1985 Church Renovation

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 re-positioning 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.

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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Pilgrimage to National Basilica: September 28, 2013

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception                    - photo by Robert Lynch

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
– photo by Robert Lynch

Our Parish will be participating in an historic Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. on September 28, 2013. 

The Pilgrimage will be led by Bishop William Murphy and the Auxiliary Bishops of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Bishop Murphy will preside at a Mass at the Basilica  to honor Mary, Patroness of the United States, to mark the Year of Faith.

Join us for a day-long experience filled with opportunities for prayer, reflection, reconciliation and fellowship.

Our bus will be leaving from St. Paul the Apostle Church in Brookville, Address: 2534 Cedar Swamp Rd, Glen Head, NY 11545, click here for directions, at 5:30am, Saturday, September 28, 2013.  Seats must be reserved in advance, and are going very fast!  Please call the Parish Center at 516-676-0676 to reserve a seat. A deposit of $20 is required to reserve your seat, but that money will be refunded on the day of the trip; there is NO charge for the trip.

For information, please contact Mary Jo Lilly, email:  mjlillysc@aol.com or phone:  516-965-4896.