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History of St. Mary

Founded in 1898, the history of St. Mary’s (originally entitled St. Mary of the Assumption) goes back to 1840. It was attended by priests from Brooklyn.  In the photo, you see the church with the original school (on the left), and the original rectory (right of the church).  Here is the history of St. Mary's.

During the early 1800's, the few Catholics in the Islip area attended Mass, whenever possible, at St. Patrick's in Huntington.  On July 29, 1853, Pope Pius  IX established the Diocese of Brooklyn under the leadership of Bishop John Loughlin.  It was Bishop Loughlin who enabled a missionary priest to celebrate Mass in the Bay Shore/Islip area.  In 1860, the Bay Shore/Islip area became a mission of Huntington.  The priest assigned to the area was Fr. Jeremiah Crowley.

In 1879, a group of East Islip and Islip Catholics purchased the old St. Mark's Episcopal church for $510 and moved it to the sight of the present St. Mary's.  It is at the present time Sacred Heart Hall.  In 1883, Fr. James Bobier was named resident pastor of St. Patrick's in Bay Shore and St. Mary's became a mission of St. Patrick's.

On July 1, 1898, St. Mary's was established as a parish with Fr. Edward Duffy as our first pastor.  The first congregation numbered between 150 and 200 people.  Most of the parishioners worked on the large estates in the area.  They were Germans, English, Irish, Czechs, Italians, Slavs and some French.  On March 25, 1901, ground was broken for the present church.  It was completed in the summer of 1902 at the cost of $15,000.  The church seated 500 people.

In 1905, Fr. Duffy was transferred to Brooklyn and Fr. Joseph Sinkmajer was named as the the new pastor.  It was Fr. Sinkmajer who built the first St. Mary's school.  The School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived on August 29, 1914.  Our school opened in September of that year with 160 students.

Fr. Sinkmajer died in 1917 and was followed by Fr. Thomas Connolly who served as pastor for 17 years.  Msgr. Connolly died in 1935.  He was succeeded by Fr. Charles Rohr.  A new convent was built in 1936.  Fr. Rohr died suddenly in 1940.  Fr. Charles Hughes served as pastor for one year.

In 1941, Fr. Andrew Heany became pastor and remained in St. Mary's for nine years.  By 1950, there were 387 students in St. Mary's school.  In 1951, Fr. Thomas Code was named as pastor.  It was Fr. Code who began plans for a new school.

In 1954, Fr. Code was moved to Westbury and Fr. Joseph Kirk became pastor.  In 1955, the choir was formed under the direction of Edward McGill.  In 1957,  ground was broken on Harrison Avenue for a new school.  By 1959, there were 845 students in the school.  Fr. Kirk died in 1961 and was followed by Fr. James McKelvey.

By the time of his arrival, there were more than 2,700 Catholic families in the parish.  There were almost 1,000 students in the school, 1,000 children in Religious Education programs, and 15 Sunday Masses.  It was Fr. McKelvey who began plans for the expansion of the school.

Fr. McKelvey left St. Mary's in 1963.  Fr. William Govern came to our parish that same year.  Work on the additions to the school and the convent was completed in 1965.  Fr. Govern served St. Mary's parish for 18 years.  In June of 1980, Msgr. Peter Chiara arrived in St. Mary's as administrator.  He was appointed pastor in 1981.  During the next ten years many initiatives began as the life of the parish changed.  Parish Outreach, Religious Education, Life Sharing Christian Communities, as well as other parish activities developed.  In 1990, after ten years of pastoral care for St. Mary's, Msgr. Chiara retired.  Fr. Steven Peterson was named pastor of St. Mary's in 1990 and served for 18 years.  In June 2008, Fr. Donald Babinski was appointed pastor of St. Mary's, and is our current pastor.

In January 1997, renovation of the church started.  It was completed in time for the solemn celebration of Easter.  Bishop John R. McGann rededicated St. Mary's church on June 29, 1997.  In 1998, we celebrated our 100th anniversary as a parish.  As of 2004, there were more than 6100 families in St. Mary's.  There are 740 children in our parish school and more than 1800 children involved in our Family Faith  Enrichment Formation programs.  There are approximately 60 weddings each year, 320 Baptisms, 300 children celebrating First Eucharist, and over 300 students celebrating Confirmation.


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