Reverend Ambrose P. Donnigan, a Brooklyn-born
priest, became pastor of St. Mary's in 1924 and served for four
years (see photo right). Fr. Donnigan began St. Mary's parochial
school in May, 1925, laid its cornerstone on Sept 14 of that
year, and opened it for classes on February 1, 1926. The school
was built to match the mission style of the church. The land he
bought for the school ran from Northern Boulevard south to
Second Street. This property originally had a white frame house
on Northern Boulevard which was moved to Second Street to make
way for the parochial school construction. This white house
shown on the left served as the first home for the nuns, Sisters
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who were the first teachers in
the elementary school. Many years later, after the convent was
built, this house was moved again, this time to Brinkerhoff
Lane, and served as the first residence for the Marist Brothers
who arrived in 1950 to teach at the boys' high school.
Brooklyn-born priest, Fr. Francis J. Coppinger, (see photo left)
became the next pastor in August 1929. When he arrived at St.
Mary's a house stood between the church and the elementary
school. He purchased this house to serve as the convent for the
nuns and, after much expansion and renovation, it continues in
that role. Fr. Coppinger died on March 13, 1932, the first
parish priest to die at his St. Mary's post.
next pastor, Fr. James F. Higgins (see photo right) was also
born in Brooklyn and came to St Mary's in 1932. In May 1934 he
purchased the strip of land between the elementary school and
Brinkerhoff Lane. It was during his term in office that St.
Mary's was visited by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who shortly
thereafter became Pope Pius XII.
next and longest reigning pastor, Reverend John K. Sharp, (see
photo left) was yet another Brooklyn-born priest and was
appointed pastor of St. Mary's by Archbishop Molloy (see photo
below) on May 10, 1934 and served in that post until March 23,
1969, when he retired at age 77.
When Fr. Sharp arrived at St. Mary's, the rectory built in 1916
to house two priests and a housekeeper held a second curate
housed in the attic. The church built shortly after the rectory
had seating for about 360 people. The elementary school built in
1926 had 8 classrooms.
his arrival the parish was in debt to the tune of about $50,000.
Early on, Fr. Sharp initiated a fund raising campaign which
netted $91,000, making it possible to wipe out the parish debt,
add six classrooms to the school and make improvements to the
During the First World War Fr. Sharp conducted a "Gifts for God"
campaign inviting the parishioners to donate old gold or jewelry
and thereby raised enough money to erect the memorial fence
fronting the elementary school playground on Northern Boulevard
(see photo below) and to erect a statue of the blessed Virgin
Mary in front of the church entrance (see photo below left).
parish continued to grow. In 1948 Fr. Sharp started a
fundraising campaign to build a high school. The first high
school classes began in the elementary school building. A
memorable feature of this fundraising campaign was a benefit
concert put on in Manhasset on St. Valentine's Day by stars of
the Metropolitan Opera Company.
Performances by Lucia Albanese,
Lucille Browning, Giuseppe DeStefano, Robert Merril, Italo Tojo,
and Dick Marzello thrilled the audience, which included such
notables as the tenor Giovanni Martinelli and the baritone
Giuseppe DeLuca. Fr. Sharp in expressing his appreciation said
that he felt like singing "One Enchanted Evening" but that,
"fortunately for the audience" he "knew very little of the tune
and none of the words".
The high school was completed in 1950 with the Marist Brothers
teaching the boys and the Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary
teaching the girls. (see photo below)
In 1952 permission was granted to
expand the church, to double its size, expand the convent and
improve the Brothers' house. The photo below shows the rear
exterior view of the expanded church.
1953 saw the church expansion
completed. Side altars were recessed on either side of the main
altar with a carved wooden figure of the blessed Virgin spinning
wool in one recess and, in the other recess, a statue of St.
Joseph busy at his carpentry. Suspended from the ceiling over
the main altar was a unique carved wooden scene of Calvary. The
cross held two bodies of Jesus, one facing the new, and one
facing the old sections of the church. At the foot of the cross
were two—life size wooden statues, one of the blessed Virgin and
the other of St. John. That cross hung undisturbed for fifty
years but crashed to the altar below in 2001.
In June 1954 Fr. Sharp was named
Right Reverend Monsignor, a title he enjoyed very much, but he
was not ready to rest on his laurels. In the fall of 1955 he
purchased three acres of land on the west side of Clapham Ave.
on which he secretly hoped to build a second high school. In the
spring of 1956 Archbishop Molloy gave permission to proceed with
the construction of the second high school. Shown below is a
photograph of the second high school. The original high school
became the girls' high school and the new building became the
boys' high school. The Marist Brothers moved from the old frame
house to the top floor of the boys high school.
Bishop Molloy, who was so helpful in the development of St.
Mary's Parish, died on November 26, 1956, and shortly
thereafter, on April 6, 1957, the old Brooklyn diocese was
partitioned with the counties of Nassau and Suffolk becoming the
new Diocese of Rockville Centre with Bishop Walter P. Kellenberg
as its first bishop. Monsignor Sharp continued on as pastor
under Bishop Kellenberg until March 26, 1969, when he retired
after 30 years of service as pastor of St. Mary's.
During all this time, many priests served as assistants. Their
names and periods of service are listed below:
Rev. W. Francis Miller, 1923-1925
Rev. James J. Dolan, 1949-1954
Rev. Walter A. Kiernan, 1925-1926
Rev.Joseph E. O'Brien, 1949-1950
Rev. John F. Bukey, 1926
Rev. Bernard Burnes, 1953-1959
Rev. Francis J. Burns, 1927-1928
Rev. Albert J. Hoffmann, 1954-1967
Rev. Thomas F. Code, 1928-1937
Rev. William F. Costello, 1958-1964
Rev. Vincent A. McCarthy, 1935-1939
Rev. William J. Conlon, 1959-1966
Rev. Lawrence W. Kalch 1937-1939
Rev. Harold H Paul, 1964-1965
Rev. Florence W. Crowley, 1939-1941
Rev. John P. Murphy, 1965-1968
Rev. George M. Driscoll, 1939-1940
Rev. William Marrin, 1966-1967
Rev. Joseph A. Holzheimer, 1940-1942
Rev. Raymond H. Nugent, 1967-1969
Rev. Robert S. Barnwell, 1942-1949
Rev. Edwin C. Collins, 1967-1968
Rev. Joseph F. McNicholl, 1942-1945
Rev. Robert L. Brown, 1968
Very Rev. Msgr. Francis B. Concannon, 1945-1958
Rev. Alfred J. Rogers, 1968-1973
a few photos are available shown here below (left to right): Fr.
Francis Concannon, Fr. James Dolan and Fr. Albert Hoffman