Church of the Most Precious Blood, Davis Park, Looks Back as It Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary
Sunday Mass has been celebrated in Davis Park for as long as our most senior residents, 92 year old Peg and Bob Wilson, can remember. They recall when priests from the Patchogue area parishes, most notably Father Montelione from the old Mt. Carmel Church on Montauk Highway, took the ferry over on Sundays to celebrate Mass in the Casino Restaurant. Present parishioners remember as children attending those Masses and seeing the bottles on the bar covered with sheets!
With the establishment of the parish in 1962, a church was built by Hobbie Miller in the shape of a whale. The Diocese of Rockville Centre assigned different administrators each year for this seasonal mission church, until the late 70’s. Those priests assigned came from the faculty of St. Pius X Seminary in Uniondale. In 1978, Msgr. John C. Nosser became the first long-term administrator. During his tenure, he was assisted by then Franciscan Brother Pierre, now Msgr. Paul Rahilly, pastor of St. Joachin’s Church in Cedarhurst. According to Msgr. Donald Beckmann, who was administrator from 1985 to 1996, “it was Paul who became a fixture in the life of the parish creating a viable community and helping to bring the parish out of debt.” During Beckmann’s tenure, Masses were offered from June until Labor Day.
It wasn’t until the Montfort Missionaries were given stewardship of the parish in
1997 and named Father Francis Pizzarelli Administrator that the season for
worship was extended from May to October. With responsibilities shared by Pastoral Associate Sister Grace Rowland, CSJ, and Deacon John Newhall, efforts were made to find more ways of creating community through church sponsored events, such as the Welcome Back Barbeque and Breakfast Party on the deck after the Masses on July 4th weekend and an End of Summer Barbeque and Breakfast Party Labor Day weekend, weekly Movie Night for Children, “Project Fun,” a two week bible school/arts and crafts camp for young children. Since 9/11, the parish has celebrated a candlelight memorial service in the church on the Saturday evening closest to the anniversary, which culminates at the ocean and is attended by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Through the many events sponsored by the parish during the six month season, the Church of the Most Precious Blood, its Administrator, Pastoral Associate and Deacon continue to foster community among the residents of Davis Park and Ocean Ridge.
In 1998, a project was begun to replace the plexiglass windows in the church with
stained glass. Designed by artist Sister Patricia Manning, CSJ, and executed by craftsmen Ernest Porcelli, the 31 panels are constructed of antique, mouth blown imported glass. Surrounded by the elements of creation, these artists were inspired to tell The Story of Creation. And because God’s work was not really completed on the seventh day but rather continues to be operative in our world, it is the artists’ hope that the parishioners and visitors alike will leave the church reminded of the challenge that God presents to us continually to make God visible and operative in our world.
Most Precious Blood Church has a long and rich history in the community. Since its opening in 1962, many events have become a “tradition” on the beach, the oldest being the Art Show, which this year marked its 49th anniversary as a fixture at the church on Labor Day weekend. Begun by resident artist Walter Desel and then “Mayor” Lou Pennachio, the Art Show continues to attract people not only from the community, but also from the mainland and from other Fire Island communities, who travel by boat to this wonderful annual event.
In 1963, John Sacco III became the first child baptized in the new church. In 1965, Adelaide Flaherty and Peg Wilson were named the first parish trustees. In 1969, now Deacon John Newhall and his wife Patti were the first couple married in the church. In the mid-sixties, Adult Movie Night was started by Barbara Daglian and Lydia Carmody. In the late 60’s P. J. O’Rourke began holding dances to benefit the church. Begun in his home, the dances moved to the church and continue to this day, most recently held on September 8th, “The Formal” celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the church. This event, as so many others, was attended by a cross-section of the community who have come to see the Church of the Most Precious Blood as a place of prayer, service, solace, celebration, fellowship, and fun for everyone who calls Davis Park/Ocean Ridge home, even if only for part of the season.
Our present parish trustees, Bonny Underwood and John Newhall, give witness to the spirit of generosity so alive in our community. So many people take responsibility for the parish; volunteers are always ready to share time and talents in various capacities around the buildings, the grounds and at the sponsored events. The church is used by the Davis Park Association for its meetings, the Guide Dog Foundation assemble in the church for its annual gathering, there are weekly yoga classes held in the church in inclement weather and the church continues to celebrate baptisms, weddings, renewal of vows, memorial services and jubilees as part of its mission to build community by “living more deeply” the gospel message.
Father Francis Pizzarelli, Administrator since 1997, said when asked about his
experience as pastor of a beach parish, ..”I have been blessed as a priest to
see firsthand the power of God’s love alive within the people of God here at
Davis Park/Ocean Ridge. I have spent 16 seasons as the local shepherd of this community. It has been a graced- filled time in my ministry as a priest. I have witnessed the power of this little community of faith make miracles happen, change and transform peoples’ lives. Our liturgies each weekend are filled with people of faith who choose to celebrate Eucharist, and hunger to become what they have received-the body of Christ! That is seen in the way they live their lives here at the beach and back home on the mainland.
We are probably the only Catholic Church community in the state of New York that is open 24/7 from Mother’s Day to Columbus Day-for prayer and reflection. There has not been one incident of vandalism these past 16 seasons! Our guestbook is a powerful testament about the gift of this holy place within our beach community.
As I look back on these past 16 seasons, as we celebrate 50 years of being a presence within this wonderful community, I know I am a better Christian and a better priest having shared life with the people of God here at the beach.They have strengthened my faith and have continuously reminded me that we are the Church and what it really means to “belong more deeply!”
On September 22, 2012 at 5 P.M. a 50th Anniversary Mass will be celebrated by Bishop William F. Murphy in the Church of the Most Precious Blood, Davis Park, Fire Island. This will be followed by a cocktail reception at the Casino Restaurant.
Everyone is invited to celebrate this milestone with us.