A Regal Beauty

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The Church of Saint Mary is Manhasset’s divine landmark

For centuries, houses of worship have been designated as sanctuaries for those who feel lost, are in need of comfort or simply for those who come to pray. The Church of Saint Mary has provided many virtues for its parishioners for more than 150 years, and its commanding presence in the community has become so much more than a staple, but a second home.

Like any significant moment in history, there are several important dates of conception for the Church of Saint Mary due to the transition of the church. Although the church is technically 164 years old as the 1853 logo states, it was first St. Michael’s in Flushing prior to being St. Mary’s officially in Manhasset. Originally a mission church, the structure was moved from Flushing to Plandome Road where it was dedicated on October 4, 1857, and served the people of St. Mary’s until Aug. 15, 1917, when the present church opened at 1300 Northern Boulevard.

Eileen Symmons serves as the director of communications for the Church of Saint Mary and the Schools of Saint Mary and believes that the church and campus are truly the focal points of the Manhasset community.

“We are a community of faith with a history of strong leadership,” says Symmons, adding that the parish serves beyond the walls of the church. “What we hear inside the church we act out in society. People donate their time, their talents and treasures to the church at St. Mary’s.”

On the campus side there is a combined 159 years of excellence in Catholic education. The elementary school was established in 1926 and the high school was established in 1949. To date, Symmons says that there are more than 15,000 alumnae of St. Mary’s.

“We reference the schools together as the schools of St. Mary, but they are two separate divisions that flourish in an environment of academic excellence, inspired faith and creative learning,” she says. “Students are prepared to achieve their greatest academic potential as they grow in mind and spirit. We integrate Catholic values into our daily curriculum and promote an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and generosity.”

With almost 3,200 families in the parish, making for a total of 11,300 plus parishioners, it is safe to say that a big chunk of the town is a part of St. Mary’s. With three full-time priests on staff and a weekend assistant, it is a large undertaking to manage day to day operations. But Rev. Fr. Robert A. Romeo, will always offer words of encouragement for those interested in becoming involved at the church.

“We are a community of believers who through the Word and Sacrament, live and proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he says. “We try to minister all of our families by becoming a place of welcome and joy.”

Although modern times may have shaken the religious beliefs and practices of some, Symmons is a strong believer in the fact that faith-based education is still sought after. She also noted churches are no longer simply houses of worship, but a home base and platform for many events, fundraisers, teams and clubs. More than 1,000 children from the community are enrolled in the religious education program and about 1,200 are involved in CYO programs for basketball and volleyball.

As for the sheer majestic beauty of the church, it is apparent the moment one walks through the bright red doors. The mission-style architecture of the church is an icon in the community and is proudly perched at the tip of Plandome Road. The interior greets guests with a center altar and suspended above it, a large wooden cross. But perhaps more striking in visual beauty, are the stained glass windows that adorn the perimeter of the church.

“The stained glass windows depict several events of religious history. The colors are just magnificent, especially when the sun is shining through the windows during the day…it’s breathtaking,” says Symmons of the feeling many get upon their first visit to the church. “I feel like I’m at home when I walk in the doors and I think that’s a feeling many people get.”

“Our stained glass windows are certainly one of the jewels of our parish. The function of stained glass is to be a visual ‘Theology book,’” says Romeo. “Created at a time when the majority of people could not read or write, coming into a church, they could learn stories from the Bible through the visual adaptation of the windows. The window featured on the cover is the story of the First Pentecost as told from the Book of Revelation. It celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles of Jesus after his Ascension. It is a beautiful window that reminds us all that we have been entrusted with the message of Jesus Christ.”

St. Mary’s can always rely on its parishioners to gather in strength and spirit. Whether it is providing services to seniors, caring for the sick or forming committees for events, the community pulls together to make things happen for the love of the church, and their faith.

“Our mission truly resonates with the community in that we want children to become the best version of themselves,” says Symmons regarding academic and spiritual education across the board. “People find St. Mary’s a place they can call home in times of trouble, but more importantly, as a place of comfort they know they can always receive with warmth and welcome.”

Here’s what coming up at St. Mary’s:

Saturday, May 6

St. Mary’s Elementary School will host their 21st annual Take-A-Break Dinner Dance at Port Washington Yacht Club. The successful fundraiser benefits the N-8 students.

Sunday, May 7

The May Crowning celebrating St. Mary’s pastor, Fr. Robert Romeo’s 30th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. He will celebrate the 12 noon Mass with many of his fellow priests, family members, parishioners and friends in attendance. A reception will follow.

Sunday, May 21

A special family day at Citi Field where all are welcome to join St. Mary’s in the Big Apple section. The elementary school chorus will once again sing the National Anthem on the field pre-game, and two very lucky students will throw the first pitch and catch the first ball.

Saturday, June 10

The Parish Gala will take place at the North Hemp-stead Country Club. The event will honor longtime parishioners and Manhasset residents, Linda and Jim Sellars for their dedication to St. Mary’s Church and devotion to their Catholic faith. The event will also salute the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Church building after it was moved from Plandome Road in 1917 to its present day location.

Visit www.stmary.ws for more information on the church, the schools and upcoming events.

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Jennifer Fauci is the managing editor of Long Island Weekly, Boulevard and Anton Media Group’s local magazines. Her passion for literature, travel and the arts lend to the unique content in her publications. In her time at Anton, she has received first place in the Folio Awards, second place for the NYPA awards and is the recipient of three PCLI awards.

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