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Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Parish
Historical Plaque Unveiling - November 5th, 2006

St. Benedict Joseph Labre PHOTOS BY CARL BALLENAS

Pictured from left to right:

Mr. Henry Gargiulo (garden designer)
City Councilman Dennis Gallagher
Most. Rev. Bishop Ignatius A. Catanello
Assemblyman Elect Roy Lancman
State Senator Serphin Maltese
Pastor of SBJL Msgr. John O'Brien
Justin Sellers (SBJL School 8th Grade Student)
President of the Richmond Hill Historical Society Nancy Cataldi
SBJL Curate Rev. Thomas R. Gilbert

By Dennis Doyle

For the benefit of those who could not make the SBJL Historical Plaque Unveiling Event in Richmond Hill on Sunday, November 5th, 2006, these are some of the highlights of that historic event:

The turnout by all accounts was quite impressive. The attendees consisted of SBLJ students, parents, faculty, SBJL alumni, guest clergy, local politicians, members of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, friends and neighbors.

The event started promptly at 2:30 PM with a Powerpoint slideshow presentation and lecture by Carl Ballenas, local historian, and a Board Member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society.

Carl Ballenas' slideshow, which was held inside the historic SBJL Church, was a most thorough and detailed history of St. Benedict Joseph Labre Church, from its founding to its present day.

First SBJL Church 1892Mr. Ballenas' intriguing slides gave us a rare glimpse into the past, such as when the SBJL Church began as a humble wooden structure that had a very tall and impressive steeple with a cross on top. Carl pointed out with other early photos of the Richmond Hill area, that the SBJL Church could be seen for miles because it was one of the tallest structures at that time (1890's) in this part of Queens which was then known as Morris Park before it was incorporated into Richmond Hill.

Carl's slideshow continued with many photos of the pastors with personal details, who helped in the developing of SBJL, the building of the school, and the first graduating class from the St. Benedict Joseph Labre School in 1916.

Remarkably, Carl had located and interviewed one of the students of this first class a few years back, who was in her 80's at the time, and she remembered all of her fellow students names and recalled how all the girls were required to make their own graduating dresses if they wanted to graduate.

Carl also showed photos of the first Rectory, the new Rectory, the expansion of the School from two floors to three floors, all with great caring detail. When Carl had completed his extensive slideshow, a proclamation was read, issued from the office of the Queensboro President, declaring that Novemeber 5th is St. Benedict Joseph Labre Day, due to the recognition of the Church's 100 years of serving the Richmond Hill community and beyond.

SBJL Historical Plaque EventAfter the reading, several local dignataries spoke eloquently on the honor that was bestowed upon SBJL, and all attendees in the Church applauded the praises. A deep sense of pride and joy was felt and shared by all.

Then all the attendees proceeded to go outside to the Church's beautiful Shrine Garden adjacent to the Church, where the Historical Plaque was ceremoniously unveiled documenting the recognition of St. Benedict Joseph Labre's historical significance in Richmond Hill and beyond.

The text on the plaque gives a brief history of this historic parish and was written with the help of students and teachers from Saint Benedict Joseph Labre School. This has truly been a unique way for our young students to be personally involved with their local history and this event has afforded them a rare opportunity to leave a permanent mark on the community.

After the ceremony all attendees were invited and welcomed to take a tour of the School and Church, and to add to the festivities, wine and cheese were being served in the Rectory.


The Parish of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre was established in the year 1892 in what was once called the Village of Morris Park which today is now part of Richmond Hill. For over 100 years this parish was the only church in the world under the patronage of this humble saint. The parish of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre was the first Catholic Church in the Village of Richmond Hill and today four parishes have been established within its old boundaries. The history of the parish is unique and deeply rooted in the early foundation of Richmond Hill.

Location: Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Church 94-40 118th St. Richmond Hill, NY 11419

>> Read more on the history of the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Parish.

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Available Books & Gifts:
Book Cover - Images of America - Richmond HillImages of America 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.

Book Cover - Richmond Hill - A Children's Tale and Coloring BookRichmond Hill A Children's Tale and Coloring Book - Author 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.


Special Features:

victorian richmond hillA 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.

Maple Grove Cemetery Walking Tour"Celebrating 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. View and enjoy the slideshow here.

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