St. Luke’s ready for big fix

Dennis Ring (l.) and Monsignor John Tosi stand in the stately hall of St. Luke's Catholic Church, next to a wall blemished by water damage. Photo by Christina Santucci
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You would have to be a man of faith to ask for $3 million, joked Monsignor John Tosi, but the pastor’s prayers were answered by the parishioners at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Whitestone.

Tosi started a fund-raising campaign last fall to renovate the towering house of worship on Clintonville Street after 100 years of wear and tear started to show, and the church has raised about $2.6 million so far.

On the whole, the church has retained its majesty. The vaulted wooden ceilings still command awe and the stained glass windows allow in the same filtered light that has characterized the building since it was erected in 1898 by farmers who settled in the area.

But upon closer inspection, cracks have crept up in portions of the brickwork. The mortar has eroded in other areas. Along the seams where two brick surfaces meet, the walls have allowed water to wend its way inside and damage the interior.

And water damage has rendered unusable a whole wing of the church, once used to conduct simultaneous masses but more recently used as a parish hall.

“We are a very old parish, and that is a blessing,” Tosi said in a recent interview. “But our buildings are also old.”

Tosi estimates that about 3,000 families are members of the parish. In the spring of 2011, he put together a committee to tap into their feelings. He wanted to know if now, despite the economic downturn, was the time for capital improvements.

He received a resounding yes.

“They felt we should do it,” he said. “I think the results speak for themselves.”

First Tosi asked some of the more well-off parishioners to commit a donation to be paid over a five-year period.

But by the time he formally announced the campaign in September, he had received nearly half his goal of $3 million.

Tosi expects to reach the mark by the end of January.

The money will go toward first repairing the gutters and outer brickwork of the church and school, and then the interior.

“Restoring the buildings we have will help us do our mission and ministry,” Tosi said.

But a new building could be in the works if the campaign exceeds its goal, according to Dennis Ring, a parishioner and former student of St. Luke’s.

The school has never had a proper gym nor auditorium, Ring said, citing his experience of playing dodgeball in the “gym-a-terium” when he was in school.

If St. Luke’s can raise another $1 million to $2 million, the church will be able to tear down the unused convent in the lot next door and construct a place for the students to play, perform and attend cultural events.

Ring stood in the empty church with Tosi recently and recalled the history of the church’s founding.

“If farmers built this 100 years ago, we should be able to preserve it for another 100,” he said.

Tosi recalled a parable from the biblical Book of Peter, which referred to a church as made of stones, but a congregation made of “living stones.”

Basically, both need care, he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 7:52 pm, January 11, 2012
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Reader feedback

Devon O'Connor from Whitestone says:
Excellent! Anything I can do to help, please let me know!

Devon O'Connor, President
The Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association
Jan. 16, 2012, 5:19 pm
bill from whitestone says:
will they build it with union labor
Jan. 16, 2012, 5:29 pm
JJ Burkard from Visitation Parish, Brooklyn says:
Congratulations Fr Tosi....You left out an important biblical quotation...."Ask and it shall be given to you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and it shall be opened to you..." Not necessarily in that order(lol) But we in Visitation Parish Red Hook Brooklyn, could have used you last year in our beautiful 150 year old church.....But the Lord works in strange ways. Instead he sent us the Koinonia John the Baptist Evangilists, headed by Fr Claudio Antyecni and his associate, Fr Johannes Siegert who have performed miracles in less than one year, we have managed to pay off the massive debt that was threatenng to close the doors of a beloved church.... Keep up the wonderful noble work you are doing and Father, beware of that dark angel discouragement.....John, a parishioner who loves his church........I also write a history column twice a month for the Red Hook Star Review a successful neighborhood newspaper.....
Jan. 17, 2012, 8:03 am
Carmine from Malba Gardens says:
Now that is what community service is all about. No shameless plugs, no look at me mentality, a good cause where the people come out and help. It pays to be in one of the wealthier sections of the community but they came out and helped. Congratulations Fr.Tosi and the St.Lukes congregation.
Jan. 17, 2012, 4:09 pm
Steven says:
What are you talking about, "shameless plugs", When, were or who? Carmine, Alfredo or whatever name you use this week, ENOUGH ALREADY!
Feb. 29, 2012, 3:24 pm
greco family from old howard beach says:
my dear Monsg. John Tosi, i cannot believe we found you , we've been thinking of the past years of our lives in Howard Beach and we thought of looking you up and here you are a Monsignor,!!! congratulations and we are the family that baptized our son GIANFRANCO GRECO back in April 1974 in OUR LADY OF GRACE . It was your first Baptismal in our Parish, in Howard Beach , you were so nervous , but we loved you from the first day, and now we found you , CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 40YRS, GIANFRANCO WILL BE 40 IN APRIL 2014 , as you can see youve been together with time from the beginning of my sons life and your apostle life , Its wonderful , stay well, and i'm thinking that my son will be in touch with you if not come visit you once he gets to NY> again, GOD BLESS YOU greco family
Dec. 14, 2013, 10:18 pm

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