In 1955 Reverend Francis P. McLoone was assistant pastor at Our Holy Redeemer Church, Freeport when he was called to the chancery office of the Diocese of Brooklyn and informed by Archbishop Thomas P. Molloy that he was to establish a new parish in the Massapequa Park section of Long Island. The official date of founding of the parish is October 13, 1955.
Shortly after this meeting, Father McLoone corresponded with Archbishop Molloy and discussed the name to be given to the new parish. Father McLoone wrote: “May I respectfully request Your Excellency to place the new parish under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes? Should this request not meet with your pleasure, I avail your choice of patron. I do not have an alternate title in mind”. As we know, Father McLoone’s first request as pastor was fulfilled.
The initial order of business for the new pastor was the acquisition of a suitable parcel of land. This became a serious problem, since at that time, desirable sites of sufficient acreage for normal parish expansion were few and far between. The choices were quickly narrowed down to the present property, and site of our parish today and a stretch of land in the northwest section of our parish. Father McLoone began negotiations with the owner, Michael Forte, in the fall of 1955, and he subsequently moved into the rectory, converted from a farmhouse, in October 1955, although formal title was not recorded in the office of the clerk of the County of Nassau until October 29, 1956.
In selecting the six-acre site as the location of future parish buildings, Father took note of the fact that a year later in 1956, the Inter-County shopping center was due to open with vast parking facilities. Father saw that while parish property was not very large in acreage, the parishioners, with permission, could use these facilities, and that the entire property could be utilized for building purposes.
Father reflected on the desolate conditions of the farmhouse and the three shaky, decaying barns that surrounded it. The discouraging appearance of these buildings had no effect whatever on the new pastor or his first group of parishioners--pioneers in every sense, as were the parishioners in the first parishes founded on Long Island in the mid-nineteenth century.
As a stable in Bethlehem became a house of God the first Christmas, so did a barn in Massapequa Park become the House of God almost twenty centuries later. Through the hopes and labors of a small group men and women using plywood and siding with skill, imagination, and love, this transformation miraculously materialized. This chapel was used for daily mass and was the prime source of divine grace for the parish.
By December of 1955, only two short months after the official establishment of the parish, father was forced to expand the Sunday mass schedule at Hawthorne school, the first site of Sunday mass, due to the overwhelming attendance.
On Holy Thursday, 1957 Pope Pius XII announced the formation of the new Diocese of Rockville Centre with Most Reverend Walter P. Kellenberg the first ordinary. It was the sixth largest diocese in the country with an area of 1,194 square miles, 353 priests, and 111 parishes. It was Bishop Kellenberg who directed Father McLoone to alter his building plans to include a school and convent as well as auditorium facilities.
On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1961 Father McLoone displayed for the first time the artist’s drawings of the new parish buildings. None who rejoiced with Father McLoone that day were aware that on the very next evening they would be mourning the death of their beloved pastor. There was a wave of shock and disbelief as phones rang all evening spreading the sad news.
On June 24, 1961 Reverend Christopher Fagan was appointed the second pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish. The first Sunday following his appointment Father Fagan spoke at all the masses in Carmen Road school and announced that his first order of business would be to get building plans and work started as soon as possible. Less than four months later ground was broken for the new 24-classroom school, auditorium, convent and chapel. In another 8 months the buildings were in use. Sunday mass was now celebrated in the new auditorium. Our Lady of Lourdes School opened September 10, 1962. The parish was growing physically and spiritually.
During the summer of 1976, Father Fagan made the last of his annual vacation trips to his birthplace in Ireland. He was one of eight children, five of whom became priests. Three of his brothers became pastors in Ireland while Christopher and John became pastors on Long Island. On August 19, 1976, Father Fagan died suddenly in Ireland, and remained on the soil he loved to be buried with his family.
In October of 1976 Reverend Robert E. Mason was appointed third pastor of our parish. The eloquence of the new pastor was evident from the outset, as he held the attention of his congregation with his orderly, scholarly, and highly spiritual homilies delivered without any notes or reference materials. Each of the three pastors were certainly “the man for that time”. In Father McLoone’s day a man was needed to found a new parish, endure the foundation pains that are a consequence of the new beginnings, and mold a new spiritual community from “ground zero”. When Father Fagan arrived a builder was needed, and no one can deny that he was “the man for his time,” for a beautiful parish plant was erected almost overnight. Everyone marveled at Father Fagan’s undiminished faith that somehow everything would get accomplished, and that somehow the money would appear to keep the parish solvent. Father Mason arrived at a time when the emerging Catholic layman and laywomen were not only willing, but almost clamoring to be very involved with virtually every aspect of the life of the parish. By 1976, Vatican Council II was well behind us. Father Mason invited the parish to share his ministry and share his administration of the parish. Finance committees and a variety of other groups were formed. Eucharistic ministers were installed. This dramatically increased the spirituality of the parish, for now the Eucharist could be taken to those who were ill, infirm and elderly.
In 1980, at the time of the silver anniversary of the parish, a group of dedicated men and women designed and brought into being the beautiful Rosary Walk which is cherished by everyone. Its location, adjacent to the new church, is a perfect compliment to both the outside plaza and the spiritual make-up of our parish.
In April of 1982 Father Mason called together a group of parishioners to act as a steering committee for the building of a new church building. On August 15, 1982 the first public mention of a new church was made. Father Mason spoke at all the masses and delivered the joyous news that Bishop McGann authorized the parish to proceed with plans to build a new church. In mid-October, 1982 the inauguration of a building fund campaign was made. As the great families of this parish have done so many times before, the campaign was successful. On May 5, 1985 Bishop John Raymond McGann dedicated the newly built church. This event marked the start of a new era. After thirty years the parish had come of age. The period of auditorium assemblies and improvisations was at an end. We had our Church!
God has truly blessed this parish over the years with three great pastors who, by their profound dedication to the Church and their vocations, have led this parish to new heights. These three men, along with the great associate pastors who have served this parish over the years, have been examples of faith and true Catholic brotherhood. This parish is truly grateful for the service and spiritual guidance they have provided us. No Church can exist without parishioners, and the parishioners of this parish have proved to be the faithful men and women that our Lord called to follow him. The sacrifices made, joined by the faith, patience, and devotion of these men and women should serve as examples to all Christian people. Father Fagan stated, “Our Lady Of Lourdes is far from the largest parish in the diocese, and certainly not the wealthiest, but it ranks tops in parishioners”. You are the tops!
Today we invite you to celebrate our parish and celebrate our faith in Our Lord and his Blessed Mother. Join us in the celebration of daily mass in Our Lady’s chapel located in the school, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, exposed daily after the 9 am mass in the chapel, Sunday Mass celebrated in the Church, or quiet reflection in the Rosary Walk. Join us in prayer in thanking God for all of the blessings he has bestowed on our community and us.