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E. Elmhurst church celebrates half century of community

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The 50th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church’s home in East Elmhurst has come and gone, but the parish is not yet done celebrating.

Monsignor John Mahoney, administrator of the church, said on May 29, a day after the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the church at 25-02 80th St., the parish held an English-Spanish mass and reception for the parishioners in its school hall. The church will also hold events throughout the coming year in honor of its five decades in the community.

“My hope is that the anniversary will help people remember the past and the debt that we owe to the people who built the parish,” Mahoney said, “but also that it will give people a sense of hope and enthusiasm for the future.”

The church’s celebrations will be posted at olfparsh.catholicweb.com, but Mahoney said the next major fete for the church will be an antique car show and outdoor flea market July 30, which will be coordinated with state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights), a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima.

On Sept. 26, parishioners will have a golf outing at Clearview Golf Course, at 202-12 Willets Point Blvd. in Bay Terrace. Next month on Oct. 27, the parish will host an evening of games, raffles and prizes. On Nov. 20, Daniel Rodriguez, a former NYPD officer known as “The Singing Policeman,” will perform a concert at the church. The final event, the date of which is still to be determined, will be a mass and dinner-dance in May that will end the anniversary year.

Mahoney said that while the building is 50 years old, the parish goes back to 1948. Many World War II veterans and others had moved into that section of Queens around that time.

“There was a feeling that a new parish was needed up in this area,” Mahoney said.

The parish originally held its services in an automobile showroom, Mahoney said. Before the church was built, the original pastor, the Rev. Maurice Lenihan, wanted the parish to build an elementary school, which the church continues to operate. The parish moved to a tent and then to a Quonset hut, but eventually laid the cornerstone for a church in 1959. The church was finished and dedicated two years later.

Mahoney said the antique car show July 30 was not a hearkening back to the parish’s original home.

“It is kind of an odd coincidence, but is certainly not deliberate,” Mahoney said.

Since it began the community has changed quite a bit, Mahoney said. Of the 1,400 families registered, the church is a mix of old-timers and the burgeoning Hispanic population. The most heavily attended mass is the Sunday Spanish mass.

“I hope the parish will continue to grow and thrive,” Mahoney said when speaking of the church’s next 50 years, “both spiritually and pastorally and also operationally.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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