May 1980 Father O'Leary celebrated his fortieth year of the priesthood.
Later that year, Father Thomas William Hendel, a Queens native who was
baptized at Saint benedict Joseph, replaced Father O'Leary, first as
administrator and then as pastor. Father O'Leary became Pastor Emeritus.
Father Hendel would son become Monsignor Hendel.
In 1988 the school celebrated its 75th anniversary with a school Mass
and a parade of the students. In May at a dinner-dance, and later that
month at a Mass of Thanksgiving was offered. Many alumni, former teachers
and former parishioners attended the celebrations.
Finally on October 18, 1992 the parish celebrated their One Hundredth
Anniversary at a Mass of Thanksgiving followed by a Jubilee Dinner-Dance.
HISTORY OF CONGREGATION
"The new pastor (Father Maguire) went bravely to work, visiting the
Catholics of his scattered parish. He rented Fielder's Hall on Jamaica
Avenue at the northeast corner of 111th Street in the hamlet of Clarenceville
and celebrated the first Mass on July 24, 1892 for a congregation of
sixty people, mostly of Irish and German nationality"
The early congregation of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre parish was mostly
Irish and German. This was in the later part of the 19th century, the
parish records will easily bare witness to this.
Morris Park was more of a working man's community and was located next
to the Morris Park Railroad Shops. The older village of Richmond Hill
was at one time a summer garden area with many wealthy denizens coming
only for the summer. Many of the homes in that northern area had music
rooms, libraries and domestic quarters in their homes.
The creation of Holy Child Jesus parish
in 1910, as explained in the newspaper article, removed many of the
wealthier parishioners of the church who had resided in the Richmond
Hill area of the parish.
Well into the 1980's the population of the area as well as most of Queens
sifted to a very multiethnic culture. The influx of Spanish speaking
people rises. They came from all the various countries of Central and
South America. There was also an increase in the black population as
The largest change within the neighborhood is the population of Shiks
from India who have moved into the neighborhood in the 1990's. Their
temple is housed in the former Methodist Episcopal Church of Richmond
Hill, one block south of Saint Benedict Joseph Church, and is the largest
on the eastern seaboard.
As to the clergy involved in the history of this parish. The influence
of Bishop McDonnell and Bishop Molly is noteworthy. Saint Benedict Joseph
was the first parish established by Bishop McDonnell. Each pastor held
an imprint of their work on the parishioners and in the parish complex
of buildings including the church and school. Ranking high among them
are Father Maguire, Father Fahey, Monsignor Hald, Father Toomey and
Monsignor Hendel. The work of the Sisters of Saint Joseph is also to
be honored from the first principal Sister M. Alipius and her staff
of sister among whom we point out Sister Mary Agatha Hurley whose letter
gives us significant insights into the early life of the school. The
sacrifice of Father William Maher who was killed in Japan is also to
be made mention. Then we have the numerous vocations of priests, sisters,
brothers and deacons who came from our parish.
Among the parishioners Thomas Lally is the earliest. It was he who ventured
to petition the Bishop to establish a parish in Morris Park/Richmond
Hill. Timothy Deehan was a gentleman
farmer and had a farm located at 111th street south of Atlantic Avenue.
Mr. Deehan was the first Trustee of the parish and was instrumental
in its organization for numerous years. Many have names with our records,
baptismal records, wedding certificates, death notices, War Honor Rolls
etc. Their names can be found on vestments, chalices and tapestries
and on many plaques throughout the parish buildings. Their generous
support over the years sustained the parish of Saint Benedict Joseph
October 8, 1893 - Dedication of Church building - "At the rectory the
bishop and attending clergy, vested and formed in procession followed
in the wake of the cross-bearer and acolytes to the grand central portal
of the church, outside the building. Standing the Bishop repeated in
Latin this prayer "Assist we beseech thee O Lord, our actions by the
holy inspiration" etc. Then the Bishop began at the antiphon. This was
as followed by the chorus chanting the "Miserere." In the meantime,
toward the right, the procession of clergymen proceeded around the exterior
of the church, the Bishop sprinkling the walls above and below with
Since the early infant years of the parish the Catholics were proud
to take to the streets of their town. There were numerous articles written
newspapers describing processions, parades and rallies held by the parishioners.
The description of the Blessed Sacrament held by the pastor under a
cloth canopy and followed by a procession of children and parishioners
left an impact on the neighborhood.
The parade held in honor of the 25th Jubilee was more of a town event
with even the Borough President of Queens at the head of the parade.
Rallies were held by the Holy Name Society and were visible as they
marched through the streets of Richmond Hill. The Saint Benedict Joseph
Baseball Team was watched with eager anticipation in the early 1900's.
The Fairs, Picnics and Theatre Programs attracted all residents of the
villages of Morris Park and Richmond Hill and received numerous glowing
reviews in the local papers.
The choir and chorus especially under Father Toomey were asked to perform
at many city events.
When the clouds were darkened by war, many Societies of the church raised
money to send needy supplies to the soldiers at the front. There were
ambulances bought with funds raised at parish functions and sent to
Europe and overseas displaying the name of our parish during both wars.
The Labre Monthly was published to inform all in the area of the work
that the parish was engaged in. Comments were made about the social
changes during numerous periods of time and commented on various fades
and trends. Humorously remembered was the comments made against the
evils of the comic book that so many children had been caught reading.
In the early 1980's a drive was created not to raise money but to collect
memories of the past. An archive was created and many photographs, maps,
letters and journals were donated and cataloged. Volumes were filled
with mementoes of the past and a complete written history of the parish
was created. The numerous artifacts led to the opening of a Parish Museum
that celebrated the history of the Parish. A rather unique experience
for any parish.
Finally, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre is the only church is the world
dedicated to this saint. Upon the visit of Cardinal O'Connor in the
1980's he commented that if had the opportunity to open a parish he
would place it under the patronage of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, the
Beggar Saint. He felt that with so many people suffering from the homelessness
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre would prove an inspiration.
Richmond Hill - The
Richmond Hill Historical Society with authors Carl
Ballenas and Nancy Cataldi have written
this comprehensive book on the history of Richmond Hill. Read
more about this book and how to purchase it for your collection.
Children's Tale and Coloring Book -
Carl Ballenas created a coloring book
on the history of Richmond Hill including rare photos, text and stories.
What better way to enjoy while learning and appreciating our community.
Read more about this book and
how to purchase it for your collection.
Slideshow of Victorian Richmond Hill - Thanks
to Joseph DeMay, Jr. for his enormous contribution in creating
this fascinating slideshow of
images that show many locations of early Richmond Hill from the turn
of the 19th century along side its corresponding present day image from
2003. View and enjoy the slideshow here.
the Living Spirit" - Thanks
to Joseph DeMay, Jr. for creating this slideshow
of the Walking Tour at Maple Grove Cemetery, where students portrayed
the notable people who have been laid to rest at this historic cemetery.
and enjoy the slideshow here.