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St. Fidelis celebrates 150 years in College Pt.

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As it stands today, the Roman Catholic church and its four outlying structures encompass nearly two blocks just off College Point Boulevard and 14th Avenue in the heart of College Point.Father Arthur Minicello said the church has changed with the community character over the years, noting that more than a century ago the parish consisted of only a few families meeting in a private house.Eventually, those families followed Austrian immigrant Pastor Joseph Huber in his desire for an independent place of worship and the cornerstone of St. Fidelis' first parish was laid in September 1856. When completed, that structure was modest by today's standards, consisting of nothing more than a wooden shed where about 10 families worshipped.For 30 years, local worshippers would attend St. Fidelis at a time when College Point was a simple dairy and vegetable farming community called Strattenport.In 1894, as the community grew, the current church was built in the Gothic style of European Catholic churches.More than 100 years later, the sanctuary now has a 500-person capacity and four additional buildings to provide services for a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school, church rectory and a residence to house young adults with children as an alternative to abortion.St. Fidelis has more than 3,000 registered congregants and about 500 students in the school.With its swooping arches, the architecture and artwork of the church today is reminiscent of the ancient European churches it was modeled after. Inside are 10 intricate, stained glass windows made in Munich, Germany in 1894. Two windows panes, however, are still shuttered as they were in the church's early days when devout semi-cloistered nuns used to listen to sermons behind the barricades because they would not take part in the outside world.And still the church continues to evolve with the changing community, said church member Mike D'Errico, a sixth-generation parishioner of St. Fidelis."The church has always served an immigrant population. It used to be German, Irish, Italian and Polish," he said. "Now we have a lot more Hispanics from South America and Asians as well."In fact, there are so many Hispanic attendees that the church has hired a Hispanic pastor and holds a service in Spanish every Sunday that fills the church to capacity."The future holds a lot. I'd hate to think of what life would be like without a church in this community," Minicello said. "People really do rally around it."The church will hold several sesquicentennial events to celebrate the anniversary beginning with an opening mass this Sunday and continue with various events until closing ceremonies in October.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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