Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Our awesome faith community has gathered together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist for the last 182 years in our church building. Many generations of the faithful have called this church their spiritual home, including some of your own ancestors. Countless Masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals, First Communions, Confirmations, graduations and so many other significant events have taken place here. With God’s blessing, we will continue to gather and celebrate our faith with passion and perseverance in this place.
Over the years, as we age, so does our beloved church building and its associated structures. Approximately five years ago, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our parishioners and the competent leadership of our beloved pastor emeritus Msgr. Sean Ogle, the Upper Church has been restored to its original splendor and sufficiently modernized with many useful enhancements. This spring, we hope to begin the project of creating two votive shrines for Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Guadalupe in the vestibule of the Upper Church, thus fulfilling a dream that many of you have expressed to me over the past year.
Since our parish was concentrating on the renovation works in the Upper Church, we could not give attention to the Lower Church at the same time. Recently, it has become apparent that we must address the aging needs of our lower church, as well as those of the Rectory office building, as they relate to building safety and the safety of our parishioners, priests, and staff, sooner rather than later. I also believe that we have a responsibility to maintain the aesthetics of our sacred environment. With that in mind, I have looked into the task of necessary repairs and improvements to our Lower Church and the Rectory office building. I want to ensure that this project is managed responsibly. Due to funding restraints, these works will need to be handled in multiple phases. This is a collaborative effort that includes the Parish Staff, Pastoral Council, Finance Council, professional contractors, the Diocese, and most importantly, parishioners like you.
With an aim towards keeping you informed, I am proud to announce that our first undertaking for the Lower Church has already begun last week. We have replaced the broken water pipes along the sidewalls that were the leading causes of water leak and damage. We have also replaced the broken floor tiles along the side corridors, repaired all the drywall water damage in and around the confessionals, and fixed the broken votive candles.
This summer, we will begin the renovation project for the Lower Church that will include a new sanctuary, a new altar, and a new drop ceiling. We will relocate the Tabernacle to the center of the sanctuary and create space for the statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. We will also incorporate the liturgical appointments that we have brought over from the former Chapel of St. Margaret Mary into the new sanctuary so that we can preserve the patrimony of that Chapel for generations to come.
We will continually update you on our progress. In the meantime, take a look at the newly restored Crucifix behind the altar in the Lower Church, which came from the Chapel of St. Margaret Mary, and envision for yourself how a completely restored sanctuary in the future will enhance and improve our sacred environment. We may need to reach out to you, our parish family, for support in sponsoring certain updates for church furnishings, altar, pulpit, statues, millwork designs, murals, and other needed items. It would be wonderful if you could consider memorializing a certain item or donating it in the loving memory of a loved one.
I hope you are as excited as I am for the beautification and revitalization project of our Lower Church and Rectory office building. I am confident that after this worthy project, our parish church will be poised to further entrench its status as Astoria’s signature architectural beauty and, more importantly, as the Mother Church of Queens County. With the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I pray that our parish family may continue to flourish and that our faith may continue to grow as a result of this endeavor.
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham