A Brief History of Immaculate Conception Parish
By the Students of the Aquinas Honor Society
Of the Immaculate Conception School
Moderator: Mr. C Ballenas
In 1923 Bishop Thomas E. Molloy of the Brooklyn Diocese invited the Passionists to establish a new parish in Jamaica, Queens. On March 10, 1924 the order purchased the entire 16 acre Jamaica Estates hillside property of NYC engineer and contractor Michael J. Degnon who had erected a stately mansion in 1910.
On July 5, 1924 the parish of the Immaculate Conception was formally organized when founding pastor, Father Chrysostom Smith, C.P. celebrated the first Mass in the library of the Degnon mansion. A small temporary framed church was erected on the grounds and the first public Mass was celebrated on November 9, 1924.
On a chilly November weekend in 1924 the first cloistered retreat ever held in the Brooklyn Diocese took place inside the Degnon mansion. The mansion would also serve as rectory and monastery. In 1926 an addition was added to the wooden church and in 1928 construction began on the monastery, retreat house and basement church. The basement church was formally opened at the Christmas Eve Mass in 1929.
The Monastery and Retreat House were dedicated on April 23, 1930. They were designed in a Romanesque style. The Monastery Chapel with barrel vaulted ceilings features colorfully painted panels of the Stations of the Cross in the Art Deco style. The stained glass windows detail scenes from Passion of Jesus. The reredos behind the main altar displays an intricate glass mosaic of the Immaculate Conception. At that time the original wooden church was razed but the 1926 addition was moved to another site becoming a parish hall.
In the autumn of 1931 Father Chrysostom Driscoll, C. P. is added to the parish staff. He organized a catechetical school with the Sisters of Saint Joseph traveling from Flushing to give religious instructions. Father Driscoll engaged the services of young men and women of the parish to serve as assistant teachers. In 1936 Father Roger Monson, C.P. the 4th pastor of the parish, bought the Adikes property opposite the Monastery to build a school. However, at the suggestion of Bishop Molloy, the property was sold to the Sisters of St. Joseph, in order that they might build a high school for girls. The Mary Louis Academy opened their doors on September 12, 1936. The idea of a parish school was finally realized in 1937 when the cornerstone was laid for the school. It opened on September 12, 1938. Sister Mary Osmund, C.S.J. was the first principal with two hundred and thirty-five pupils and five grades. The Sisters lived at the Mary Louis convent until March 25, 1940 when a house on Dalny Road was purchased to serve as a convent. Due to a lack of space the house adjoining was also purchased.
Decades earlier in 1858 the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Manhattan on 14th Street became the first church in the world dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and above the main entrance stood a limestone statue of the Immaculate Conception. In 1945-46 the church was demolished for the creation of Stuyvesant Town. Thomas Campbell Sr. had the statue saved and placed in the schoolyard of the Immaculate Conception School, Jamaica Estates. It is an important piece of church history.
On the grounds of the parish one can find a stone Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes, a large outdoor Stations of the Cross and a Passionist Cemetery. The gardens are landscaped with trees, shrubbery and flowers and provide a meditative repose for all who visit.
In 1950 the school was expanded adding an auditorium, gym, library and additional classrooms.
In 1952 the Degnon mansion that served as part of the retreat house was demolished for an additional wing. The new facility has over one hundred rooms and offers
On July 1, 1954 the Sisters moved to a new convent erected for them by Father Owen Doyle, C.P. the fifth parish pastor. It was voted in the 1954 Queens architectural competition as the most outstanding structure erected in the borough.
In 1960 the long awaited construction of the upper church began. It was dedicated on September 22, 1962 by Bishop McEntegart. The church is designed in the Romanesque style to accommodate 1,350 in the nave and features 35 17 feet by 3 feet stained glass windows designed by Albin Eiskus of the Durhan Studio. The story of the Immaculate Conception is told in the three windows in the front of the edifice. One depicts St. Catherine Laboure. On November 27, 1830 the Blessed Virgin appeared to her standing on a globe. An oval frame formed around her and written around it the prayer, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.” This Medal of the Immaculate Conception is now known as the Miraculous Medal. In the center window are Mary Immaculate, St. Pius V and Pius IX. St Pius V proclaimed the feast and Pius IX the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The third window tells the story of Bernadette of Lourdes.
On August 7, 1970 the wooden parish hall that was the 1926 addition to the first church was destroyed by fire. Father Peter Quinn, C.P. the seventh pastor, created a new parish hall in the lower church, retaining a section for a chapel. When the new parish hall was opened it was named the Father Owen Doyle Memorial Hall.
In 1999 the parish celebrated its 75th anniversary. The main church was renovated and made handicap accessible under Father Thomas Joyce, C.P. the ninth pastor and the longest serving pastor with 25 years. The 10th pastor is Father Jed Sumampong, C.P. who was installed in October 2007. Under his care the façade of the church was restored and enhanced in July 2008.
View historic photos of Immaculate Conception Church and its history.