“A small church with a big heart”
Below is a brief summary of the history of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish. It is an honor to share this story and it is our hope that you will be blessed, as we have been, to see how beautifully God’s providential handiwork unfolds.
In the Spring of 1960, Bishop James E. Kearney, concerned that both Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Brighton and St. Louis parish in Pittsford were getting too large, decided to establish a new parish. On behalf of the diocese, Msgr. John M. Randall negotiated the purchase of more than 10 acres of land on Edgewood Avenue from Shantz Homes for $30,000. Soon after it was decided that Rev. James F. Slattery would be the person to found and pastor this new parish. Wasting no time, Fr. Slattery completed a door-to-door census and found that he had 204 households under his care. On September 14, 1960, the Bishop decreed that the new parish was official. At Fr. Slattery’s request, the parish was named “Our Lady Queen of Peace.”
Architect Edwin J. Ribson was hired to plan a structure that could be used for a while as a church building and which eventually would become the gymnasium of a parish school. Four school classrooms were also planned as part of phase one. In November of 1960, the first parish meeting was held to plan a campaign to raise $150,000 to erect a church. An additional $150,000 would be mortgaged.
In February of 1962, the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace celebrated the first Mass in the new Church. On April 29, Bishop Kearney officially blessed the new structure. The school opened its doors that following September. In 1963, under the leadership of Virginia Mack, a group of parish women organized a Rosary Altar Society. These dedicated parishioners not only helped to clean the church building, they helped to pay for it. Through craft sales and bake sales, bridge marathons and cook books, they bought vestments and recovered kneelers. They welcomed new parishioners and visited elderly ones. They arranged parties and dances and picnics. Faithful to their charge, they gathered around the courtyard statue to recite the Rosary in May and October. The personality and spirituality of Our Lady Queen of Peace faith community began to take shape.
Between 1964 and 1967 the building campaign marched forward with the addition of four more classrooms to the school and the completion of the convent which would house the Sisters of Mercy who ran the parish school. In 1966 an unexpected change in neighborhood demographics caused the parish to abandon the original church and school building plans. The homes once planned for the farms on Westfall Road were never built and where once the neighborhoods were very heavily Roman Catholic, they were now very heavily Jewish. Where once there were many households with children, now children were few. The decision was made not to build a new church and rectory and not to add on classrooms that would house the seventh and eighth grades. Our Lady Queen of Peace parish was destined to remain a “small community with a big heart.”
While parish numbers stayed just below 500 families, Our Lady Queen of Peace faith community continued to flourish and by 1973 there was an active CCD program as well as the formation of a number of parish groups that would help to further the mission of Our Lady Queen of Peace. These were: a Parish Council, an Education Committee, Liturgy Committee, Finance Committee and a Human Development Committee.
In 1985 parish membership was down to 400 families and with the retirement of Fr. Slattery, it was discussed whether or not Our Lady Queen of Peace should re-link with Our Lady of Lourdes. As providence would have it, God had other plans for this little parish ‘by the woods’. Our Lady Queen of Peace remained it’s own parish and in 1986 Fr. Anthony J. Valente was appointed this community’s second pastor. Under Fr. Tony’s leadership, the parish developed a special commitment to the poor and needy which was expressed through a variety of social ministries that continue to be a part of our social outreach to this day!
In 1988, the parish school closed its doors completely, sending the remaining pupils to Seton Catholic School. Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish continued to thrive. Our ministerial and office staff expanded as various spiritual, social and educational programs developed and grew. By 1991 it was time to renovate the original Church. A fund drive, chaired by Chris Bowker and Jerry Strauss, was organized and almost $300,000 was raised. In 1992 Bishop Clark consecrated the newly renovated worship space.
On February 4, 1995 Fr. Anthony Valente died. The parish established an endowment fund for the poor in his memory. Soon after, Fr. Joseph Hart, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at St. Bernard’s Institute, was appointed the third pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace. His appointment was to be served concurrently with his full-time work at St. Bernard’s. By 1997, parish registration had increased to 525 families, the religious education program had expanded to 19 classes over two nights, an adult education program began in collaboration with the three other Brighton parishes, the youth ministry program developed, once a month Family Mass flourished and the social ministry groups joined forces with a mission to effect education, charity and advocacy on behalf of the poor. It is no surprise then that by the end of 1997, the pastor, parish council and Diocese began to discuss adding to the church building to provide space for social gatherings, new offices and religious education classrooms.
1998 was marked by two significant events. First, Fr. Hart was appointed Diocesan Vicar General which left room for Sr. Jackie Reichart to step in as Temporary Pastoral Administrator of the parish. Fr. Hart continued to be a part of our community serving as Sacramental Minister. Secondly, discussions regarding the expansion of the church building led to the formation of a Building Committee and by 1999 the “Building of Faith for the Future” campaign was in full swing. Plans were developed that included the building of a Parish Center as well as some renovations to the Church worship space.
On December 17 in the great Jubilee year of 2000, Bishop Clark blessed the Reverend James. F. Slattery Parish Center, the new Narthex and the expanded/renovated Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Father Slattery was here to share in the dedication. He told us that when he retired back in 1986 he submitted a list of three priorities to the Bishop which he believed were critical to the future vitality of Our Lady Queen of Peace as a parish. “Today’s celebration completes the list of those priorities,” he said with emotion.
Summer of 2004 saw two major staff changes. First, Sr. Jackie Reichart retired after 17 years of service filled with love and dedication to this community. Soon after, Fr. Hart and Margaret Ostromecki, who had been serving as Pastoral Associate since 1997, joined forces to provide the parish with a team leadership approach by becoming Co-Administrators of Our Lady Queen of Peace parish.
In 2007 Margaret Ostromecki became Pastoral Administrator, with Fr. Hart becoming Sacramental Minister along with Fr. John Walsh, retired priest.
In 2008 Our Lady Queen of Peace and St. Thomas More became a clustered community of faith with two worship sites. Fr. Michael Upson was named as Full-time Sacramental Minister, with Fr. Joseph Hart as Part-time Sacramental Minister.
In 2009 Fr. Bernard Dan replaced Fr. Upson as Sacramental Minister.
In 2010 Fr. Bill Coffas was named as Director of Becket Hall, housed on the STM campus in the former rectory/church office. He also took over duties as Assisting Priest for the cluster. Fr. Hart remained as Assisting Priest also.
As the community of Our Lady Queen of Peace/St. Thomas More looks to the future, we pray that we may live ever more deeply our call to be a joyful community of saints, loving Christ above all else and serving those in need.