Holy Child Jesus Marks A Century In Richmond Hill
Parish Preps For Year Long Observance
This past Christmas Eve marked the kickoff of Richmond Hill’s Holy Child Jesus Church’s yearlong 100th anniversary celebration, which will include pilgrimages, an outdoor procession and other ceremonial events in 2010.
The 12-month observance of the historical feat, according to Rev. Francis Colamaria, will focus on the church itself, which he said continues to serve as a beacon to people of the area.
Along with bringing back various priests and pastors who served in the parish, Holy Child Jesus will also feature the Latino Children’s Choir, hoping to create a renewed fervor among active church members.
Colamaria, who also acts as an administrator, expounded upon the enthusiasm he sees around him, adding: “People have already said that they see it—it’s palpable. The energy is visible. To decorate a church, to restore its glory based on volunteer [work] is a sign that people are contributing their time, their talent.
“People have given substantial donations toward the maintenance and renovation of the church,” Colamaria continued. “It’s coming out in all different directions—people are responding. Sometimes you walk into a church and it’s stale, but that’s not happening here.”
To prepare for the centennial, the church recently restored its sanctuary to its former glory, as well as moving the tabernacle back to the center of the altar.
“People who’ve been in this parish for 40, 50 years have told me that they have never seen this church look this beautiful,” he stated.
While the parish has existed for 100 years, the current version of the church, located at 111-11 86th Ave., was built in 1930 as the offshoot of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, known as the mother church of Richmond Hill. The holy structure was built “in the finest style” and received awards; the New York City Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Buildings for being one of the city’s most beautiful new buildings the year it opened.
Colamaria went on to explain how the centennial will function as an opportunity for community members to learn about the past of Holy Christ Church.
The parish, he recounted, began seeing an influx of new immigrants from the very beginning. Back then, the area surrounding Holy Jesus was predominantly German and Irish, but an inflow of Italians followed soon after.
In the modern-day era, however, the church has developed Filipino, Hispanic and Caribbean followings.
“It’s still a place where people come to get married and bury their dead. Compared to the other parishes of the neighborhood, we’ve had the strongest mass attendance over the years,” Colamaria aserted.
He attributed high attendance numbers to the work of his fellow priests, along with the children’s and sports programs made available by the church.
One offering that he was particularly fond of was Holy Jesus’ food pantry services to the needy.
“It’s not like a major distribution center; it’s more like a place where we get to know the clients that come. We try to get to know their families, their personal needs … we look out for them,” he said about the 70 participants receiving assistance.
The parish’s strength was reportedly founded upon the sisters of St. Joseph and St. Domenic.
The nuns that once lived in a nearby building no longer reside there due to a “drastic” decrease of women entering the sisterhoods.
The absence of the nuns, he continued, has had a profound effect on the adjoining school, which now depends on lay people, who require more monetary compensation for their services.
Unlike many parochial schools, Holy Jesus has a healthy number of students currently enrolled at the institution. But growing financial demands reportedly make balancing the books very challenging.
The current $4,700 tuition, observed Colamaria, isn’t nearly enough to cover teacher’s salaries, pay taxes and present the type of environment that Holy Jesus is renowned for locally.
“You go to Jewish schools in Brooklyn, they’re charging ten-, eleven-, twelve-thousand dollars a year tuition for private education. A reason why schools close is because they are dipping into next year’s budget. We don’t do that here. At the end of the year, there’s a balancing game that’s a little hairy,” stated the Brooklyn-born priest, who formerly served for six years at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ozone Park.
While Colamaria expects the school to eventually turn into an academy that would serve as a separate entity from the church to help alleviate the financial situation, he decried the lack of support Holy Jesus is getting from state government.
A recently imposed Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax charging the school an annual $6,000 fee has reportedly thrown a monkey wrench into matters.
“It was imposed arbitrarily. I understand the MTA’s failings, but we don’t use the MTA. All our teachers are local; they either walk or drive right into the neighborhood,” argued Colamaria. “What’s unfair about it is that the public schools are being charged the tax, but are being reimbursed— that’s a scandal. I just want to renew the vigor of this parish and make a mark in this neighborhood for who we are. We’ve boldly preached Jesus Christ for 100 years, and will continue to do so.”
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