BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Astoria has seen enormous transformation in 90 years and neighborhood church Immaculate Conception reflects that change.
Immaculate Conception Church celebrated its 90th anniversary on July 26, the day its cornerstone was laid in 1924. Highlights of the church’s long history include the founding of the Catholic War Veterans of America in the 1930s, which now has posts throughout the country.
Immaculate Conception Church also prides itself on decades of dedication to children’s education programs. In the 1960s, Our Lady’s Pre-School brought religious education to the young children of the congregation.
Monsignor Fernando Ferrarese has been pastor at the church for about six years. He said he has witnessed “remarkable” change even in that short time, citing added children’s education programs as well as greater Latino and Filipino representation.
Today, the church conducts mass in four languages: English, Spanish, Italian and Tagalog.
“We pride ourselves on welcoming everyone to our community,” Ferrarese said. “We learn from one another’s perspective and it keeps us from a narrow parochialism.”
However, he added, “what has been consistent over the years is our Catholic faith and the service to the Astoria community, which springs from that faith.”
The church’s community service programs include a parish food pantry and short-term shelter housing for homeless men.
Astoria resident Giovanna Traugott said she has been a member of the church for about 60 years.
“It was always very open, now it’s even more so,” she said.
“I’m always happy when institutions stay and grow,” Traugott added.
Ivania Castillo said she joined the church in the early 1990s, then moved away from Astoria, returning in 2006. She said that when she came back to Immaculate Conception, she noticed the growth of the Latino congregation.
“What I remember is we were in the lower basement in the church and when I came back, I guess because we are a big group now, we have our mass in Spanish in the upper church,” Castillo said.
Immaculate Conception Church will hold several events throughout the fall and winter to commemorate its 90th birthday. Coming up this fall, a celebration on Oct. 4 will commemorate the anniversary of the church’s first mass.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.