Written by Wendy Kreitzman Wednesday, 22 May 2013 08:08
Great Neck’s beautiful, majestic St. Aloysius Church celebrates its 100th birthday this year. On Sunday, June 23, the church hosts a centennial celebration, including a special mass and a dinner dance. The historic church is located at 592 Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck.
“Even after 100 years, many people still consider St. Aloysius one of the most beautiful churches on Long Island,” said Monsignor Brendan Riordan, pastor of St. Aloysius. “This centennial celebration is a significant milestone for our parish and we are proud that St. Aloysius has been part of the Great Neck community for so many years.”
The celebration begins with a special Mass at 10:15 a.m., co-celebrated with Bishop William Murphy, Diocese of Rockville Centre, along with past and present priests of St. Aloysius. The celebration continues in the evening at Leonard’s of Great Neck with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and dancing from 7 to 11 p.m. Please visit www.staloysiusgn.org to RSVP.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the church, a new commemorative patio will be laid on the parish lawn surrounding the statue of the Blessed Mother. Bricks may be inscribed with a personal message and are also a perfect way to acknowledge special occasions or to honor a family. Bricks may be purchased by contacting the Rectory at 482-2770 or by downloading the form at www.staloysius.org
The church traces its roots back to 1876 when Bishop John Loughlin, the first Bishop of Brooklyn, established the parish and appointed Reverend Patrick Sheridan its first pastor. Father Sheridan celebrated the first Mass in Great Neck in February 1876 in a near-by private home. Later that year the first church was dedicated on May 20, 1876, further back than the current site.
Father John J. Molloy, fourth Pastor, was responsible for the building of the present church. He chose a distinguished architect, Gustave Steinbach, an expert in Byzantine Romanesque style of church architecture. The cornerstone was laid on August 13, 1913.
The cornerstone of the new St. Aloysius School was laid in 1922. In September of 1923, the St. Aloysius School was opened.
Over the years the rectory was enlarged, a wing was added to the school as well as a wing to the convent. Eventually a library was added.
Then, in l990, due to low enrollment and financial considerations, St. Aloysius school closed and then reopened later as a thriving Parish Center. The daily Pre-K program continues to serve children of working families from the community.
The current pastor, Monsignor Brendan Riordan, came to St. Aloysius in 1970 as a newly ordained priest. He was assigned to “St. Al’s” until 1975 and then reassigned. Monsignor Riordan returned to St. Aloysius and became pastor in June 1998. “Almost a third of my life,” said Msgr. Riordan, explaining that once you leave a parish, you generally do not return but return he did, eager to help the community he loves. “My heart has always been here,” he told the Great Neck Record.
Over his 43 years at St. Al’s, Msgr. Riordan has enjoyed serving three generations, often baptizing the grandchild of a parishioner he had baptized so many years ago.
Today, under Msgr. Riordan’s guidance, the church today includes a Hispanic Catholic community and a Korean Catholic community.
Looking back over the years, the Msgr. Riordan remembers the time when so many famous entertainers came to church services: James Cagney, the Fitzgeralds, Bob and Ray, Bob Eberly, George M. Cohan and Kate Smith who sang “God Bless America” at a church service.
For all these years, Msgr. Riordan had looked towards the goal of bringing “understanding and tolerance.” And, this he said, he has “accomplished to some degree.”