Parish History

The original parish, which encompassed all of what is now northeast Queens, was established in 1878 by Bishop John Loughlin, the first Bishop of Brooklyn. From this parish six others were formed. To better serve the Polish population, the National Parish of St. Josaphat was established in 1910. The extreme westerly portion of the parish at Northern Boulevard and Broadway, Flushing, became the Parish of St. Andrew Avellino in 1914. In the following year, St. Anastasia’s Parish, Douglaston, was created. In 1926, the Parish of St. Kevin, Flushing, was formed because the extreme southwest section of the original boundaries had become heavily populated due to real estate developments in the Auburndale area. In 1930, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Bayside West, became a parish and in 1939, St. Robert Bellarmine, Bayside Hills, was formed.

Before the original church was built, Father William Connelly, the first pastor, resided at the Sacred Heart Seminary for Small Boys and served as chaplain. He also served the soldiers at the military post at Willets Point. Catholics from Bayside attended Mass at either the Seminary Chapel or the Military Post. In 1880, Fr. John A. Campbell became pastor. He died in 1882 and Fr. Connelly returned to serve as pastor until 1884 when Fr. John Cullen was appointed pastor.

When Fr. Matthew J. Tierney became pastor in 1893 he recognized the fact that both the Seminary and the Military Post were too far removed from the center of his congregation. In the fall of 1894 he began to hold Sunday school classes for children and adults at Literary Hall, Bayside Village, which was available to the public. On Christmas Day, 1894, the first mass ever to be celebrated in Bayside proper was said by Fr. Tierney in Literary Hall. The hall which seated 250 was crowded to the doors with about 150 people standing. The majority of those who attended this first mass were descendants of the original Irish settlers, representing about one-third of the population of the town.

The tremendous response to this first mass was so gratifying to Father Tierney that he immediately petitioned the Bishop for permission to build a church. The first mass in the new church was celebrated on Sunday, April 12, 1896. It was a frame, Gothic-style building, situated on a 50-by-100-foot plot on the northwest corner of Fourth Street and Warburton Avenue (now 216th Street and 38th Avenue). The seating capacity was 250 and, together with the rectory, was built at a cost of $14,000.

In 1902, Fr. William J. Dunne became pastor of Sacred Heart. It was said that he was friend to all the children of the parish, knowing each one by name.

Father William T. Brady became pastor in 1917 when the United States was heading into World War I. The parish, though growing rapidly, did not have a Catholic school and Fr. Brady proceeded to establish one. The parish owned a parcel of land on 38th Avenue between 216th and 217th Streets. Plans for the school building were formulated and in 1924, the cornerstone was laid. The two-story, red brick building had its main entrance on 38th Avenue. The cost of construction was $250,000, which debt was paid off by Fr. Brady before his death in 1933.

Sometime before 1923 Fr. Brady purchased a two-and-one-half-story building for use as a convent. This property was situated on the northeast corner of 38th Avenue and 215th Place. The cost was $8,000. Some necessary improvements were made to make it habitable for the Sisters of Mercy of Dallas, Pennsylvania, who were to teach in the new school.

The school opened in September of 1925. There were 60 girls and 57 boys in grades one through five. The first principal was Sister Mary Gonzales, R.S.M. When the school was ready for occupancy, Father Brady decided to abandon the original church building and all religious services were moved to the auditorium on the second floor of the school. The old church structure had fallen into disrepair, making it more economical to use the newer facilities. The wooden altar, altar railing and the pipe organ from the original church were used, and movable seats with attached kneeling benches were obtained.

Father Martin J. Biggane succeeded Fr. Brady in 1933. On his first rainy Sunday in Bayside, he was distressed by the fact that his muddy shoes had tracked up the altar floor. He took action and the next morning wormen were laying a bright new sidewalk. He also demolished the old church building. He added stain glass windows to the church (in the school building). Further beautification continued when Fr. James Rock successes Fr. Biggane in 1935. He installed pews and improved lighting, making it a more fitting place to worship. He died suddenly on March 21, 1941. Fr. Terence C. Sharkey became pastor.

The year 1946 marked the 50th anniversary of the building of Bayside’s first Catholic church. The church located in the school was inadequate for the growing parish. The parish had purchased a four-family dwelling on the southeast corner of 215th Place and 38th Avenue to be used as a convent. After suitable renovation was completed, the Sisters moved across the street to their new residence and the old building was torn down, as this site had been selected for the location of the new church. Ground was broken on December 16, 1956. On Sunday, November 9, 1958, with Bishop Bryan J. McEntegart presiding, the long-awaited new church building was dedicated. The pastor, Fr. Terence C. Sharkey, along with his assistants, celebrated the Mass of Dedication.

In June 1962, the Right Reverend Monsignor William F. Kelly became the tenth pastor of Sacred Heart. Vatican II brought many changes in the lfie of the church. Under his leadership the parish was a pioneer in the field of lay participation in the liturgy.

As the parish continued to grow severe overcrowding in Sacred Heart School became a problem. In 1965 a school expansion fund was started and on November 3, 1968, a 16-classroom annex was blessed by Bishop Charles R. Mulrooney.

It was time for the original rectory building, which was built along with the original church building in 1896, to be torn down. On July 2, 1978, in the presence of a large gathering of parishioners, Monsignor William Kelly broke ground for the new residence. The formal blessing took place on December 3 at the Centennial Mass concelebrated by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero.