From Great Neck’s St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church come holiday greetings from the church’s pastor, Monsignor Brendan Riordan. “Our warm and personal greetings for a holy and happy Christmas and a blessed New Year,” is the message from Msgr. Riordan, who leads the worship at this historic house of worship on Middle Neck Road, in the heart of the Old Village.
Msgr. Riordan promises that each person who comes to worship at St. Al’s “will be welcomed with love and understanding.” He added his hope that “some of our parish family who have been away for a while might be encouraged to take advantage of this special season of grace.”
Msgr. Riordan wants all to know that they will be welcomed “with love and understanding” and all would be welcome to bring a friend or relative “to share the spiritual benefits” of a Christmas Mass.
St. Al’s Church traces its roots back to 1876 when Bishop John Loughlin, the first Bishop of Brooklyn, established the parish and appointed Reverend Patrick Sheridan its first pastor. Father Sheridan celebrated the first Mass in Great Neck in February 1876 in a near-by private home. Later that year the first church was dedicated on May 20, 1876, located further back than the current site.
Father John J. Molloy, fourth pastor, was responsible for the building of the present church. He chose a distinguished architect, Gustave Steinbach, an expert in Byzantine Romanesque style of church architecture. The cornerstone was laid on Aug. 13, 1913.
The cornerstone of the new St. Aloysius School was laid in 1922. In September of 1923, the St. Aloysius School was opened.
Over the years the rectory was enlarged, a wing was added to the school as well as a wing added to the convent. Eventually a library was added.
Then, in 1990, due to low enrollment and financial considerations, St. Aloysius School closed and then reopened later as a thriving Parish Center. The daily pre-K program continues to serve children of working families from the community.
The current pastor, Monsignor Brendan Riordan, came to St. Aloysius in 1970 as a newly ordained priest. He was assigned to “St. Al’s” until 1975 and then reassigned. Monsignor Riordan returned to St. Aloysius and became pastor in June 1998. “Almost a third of my life,” said Msgr. Riordan. He explained that once you leave a parish, you generally do not return but return he did, eager to help the community he loves. “My heart has always been here,” he told the Great Neck Record.
Over his 43 years at St. Al’s, Msgr. Riordan has enjoyed serving three generations, often baptizing the grandchild of a parishioner he had baptized so many years ago.
Today, under Msgr. Riordan’s guidance, the church includes a Hispanic Catholic community and a Korean Catholic community.
For all his years in Great Neck, Msgr. Riordan has looked towards the goal of bringing “understanding and tolerance.” And, this he said, he has “accomplished to some degree.”
Even after 100 years, many people still consider St. Aloysius one of the most beautiful churches on Long Island,” said Msgr. Riordan.
For Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the following masses are planned: 5 p.m., English Mass ; 7:30 p.m., Spanish language; 9 p.m., Korean language; 11:30 p.m., singing of carols in the Church; midnight, English language Midnight Mass.
On Christmas Day, Thursday, Dec. 25, at 7:30 a.m., 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., there will be three masses in English.