1925 - New Demographics and a new Vision
The 1920's saw a great growth in population in the area that would become St. Teresa Parish. In 1925 the Diocese of Brooklyn bought land and soon began construction of a school and rectory. The school opened in 1927 with some 200 students in five grades. On Easter Sunday 1927, Reverend John Patterson, pastor of St. Raphael Church, celebrated the first Mass in the school basement, which served as the new church. A rectory followed and in 1931 a convent was built for the Sparkill Dominicans who staffed the school.
Growth in Everything
With the arrival of the first pastor, Fr. Patrick J. Manton, the parish began a period of growth. He was soon joined by Fr. Edwin O’ Sullivan and Fr. Gerald King. Spiritual and social activities abounded. A mission chapel was opened in 1931 across Queens Blvd., in what would become Queen of Angels Parish. There were feast days, novenas, musicals, excursions and dinner dances
A predominantly Irish and Irish-American working class neighborhood thrived in these years. The Great Depression and World War II delayed the building of a church, but saw a growing church community caring for one another. The story is told of Fr. Manton walking the neighborhood with a red wagon bringing groceries to needy families.
How Firm a Foundation
With the decades of hardship and uncertainty behind us and the country beginning a time of hope and prosperity, Fr. George Morrow succeeded Fr. Manton in 1948. By May 30, 1950 the parish was ready to break ground for a church building. On May 31, 1951 the cornerstone was laid and on October 26, 1952, Bishop Thomas Molloy dedicated the new St. Teresa Church.
A New Age Dawning
In January 1959, the new Pope, John XXIII, announced the Ecumenical Council that would become known as Vatican II. Pope John and the Council would call on the Holy Spirit to renew the Church and help us to bring the Good News to our age. The program and spirit of the Council would touch every parish, not least of all here in St. Teresa. The first and most visible initiative of the Council was a renewal of the Sacred Liturgy - Mass and the Sacraments. As the source and summit of Catholic life, the Liturgy has always been at the heart of life in St. Teresa's.
1960 saw the election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic President of the United States. This was greeted with pride by Catholics and brought with it a sense of confidence and having arrived.
Through these years, the priests, religious and people of St. Teresa worked to implement Vatican II with enthusiasm. This meant lay involvement as lectors and ministers of communion. Ecumenical outreach and bible study became part of parish life.
A Time of Change
During the pastorates of Fr. Driscoll and Fr. Morgan (1968-84) the Holy Name, Rosary Society, C.Y.O, the Annual Bazaar, Drama Club and Choirs continued to flourish. But the winds of change were already blowing. Enrollment in the parish school began to decline. In 1974 the Sisters of St. Dominic left St. Teresa's. Mr. Martin Abruzzo began his 30 year tenure as school principal in 1975.
With time, Mass celebrated in Spanish recognized a new wave of immigration. The sports program expanded with the help of dedicated parishioners who converted the school basement into a gymnasium. The convent was rented as a home for developmentally challenged youngsters (now adults), in what is known as the Thomas Cuite Residence.
Fr. (later Msgr.) D. Joseph Finnerty arrived in the Fall of 1984. In his short time as pastor he accomplished many things. These included bringing full-time people on staff to work with religious education and outreach to shut-ins. An important accomplishment of these years was the major repair and renovation of the church building. In October 1988 the church was rededicated by Bishop Francis Mugavero.
A Dedicated People
A rededicated building called for a rededicated people. Under the leadership of Msgr. Lawrence Hinch (1990-99), the people of St. Teresa grew as a parish community reaching out to others. The success of the Diocesan Alive in Hope Campaign enabled the parish to build a ramp making the church more accessible. The parish community reached out through the homeless shelter and the blood drive. The Rosary and Holy Name Societies sponsored a Christmas Toy Drive for needy children. The coming of Sr. Mary Jane Kelly represented a continued commitment to the religious formation of our children. Ministries expanded as girls began to serve Mass and a new deacon, Martin Soraire, was ordained (1998) to serve our parish community.
A New Millennium
At the dawn of the new millennium the parish welcomed its seventh pastor, Msgr. Denis Herron. The Parish celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the school in November of 2002 as alumni packed the church, the auditorium, the gymnasium and large tent in the parking lot. It was 'a night of a thousand stars' and memories. The celebration culminated with the visit of the newly-installed Seventh Bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas A. DiMarzio, on October 4, 2003.
The first decade of the new millennium has witnessed many challenges. In 2000 Msgr. Herron and Bobby Abundo (ordained a deacon in 2002) gathered a group which became St. Teresa's St. Vincent DePaul Society. The Society has brought together parishioners dedicated to serving the needy in the spirit of Vincent DePaul and Frederick Ozanam.
In 2005, St. Teresa School was closed. This was a sad moment for the parish and many worried about our future. In truth this was the result of a steady decline in enrollment that began in the 1960s. Yet, as the saying goes: "When God closes a door he opens a window." With God's grace and dedicated parishioners we have seen great growth in recent years.
Our Religious Education program is strong with a regular enrollment of about 350. The program is staffed by dedicated teachers, some of who have been involved for over thirty years. In the year following the school closing we began holding Parish Assemblies in November and March that bring together over 400 parishioners for prayer, learning and supper. This is an inter-generational event designed to strengthen and energize our knowledge of, and commitment to, our faith. In these years, First Holy Communions have continued to be over 100 annually and Confirmations are usually about 60 annually.
A Spanish Charismatic Prayer Group was begun in 2005, which weekly gathers over 100 people in praise of God. This has also been a place for deepening the faith through ongoing catechesis.
In 2009 the Cursillo de Cristiandad was begun with the special help of Msgr. Perfecto Vazquez. This group is already gathering dedicated parishioners and forming them for the work of evangelization in our parish.
During these years, the Parish Council has continued its involvement in directing and planning the future of the parish. In recent years they have developed a Parish Vision Statement and Pastoral Plan. Among the major features of this plan are:
Better publicity of St. Teresa Parish and its many services and activities. The parish website is one of the results of this effort.
Improved hospitality for current and new parishioners. The successful hospitality Sundays is one result of this effort.
Having completed two six year terms as pastor, Msgr. Denis Herron, went on a well deserved sabbatical in January 2012. Msgr. Steven A. Ferrari was sent by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to be the new administrator/pastor of Saint Teresa, as of January 31, 2012. Msgr. Ferrari had served briefly in the parish as assistant pastor from February 2001 thru April 2002. He brings with him former pastoral experience as well as diocesan, having served the previous four years as Episcopal Vicar of Brooklyn.
The Hand of God
This brief sketch of 'our story' could leave the impression that it is simply human. Yet, faith challenges us to look for the hand of God.
We are the work of God's hands. The twists and turns of our journey are all part of our pilgrimage following The Way. We are encouraged by what God has done these many years with ordinary people. And we are challenged to face the future with faith and hope and most of all love.
We invite you to join us on The Way and become part of our story.