From Chicken Coup to Chapel - Our Building has a Story
We often hear the comment, "But it doesn't LOOK like a Catholic Church"...Perhaps that's because our current church building started its life as a chicken coup in Nassau County. It was transformed into a chapel by the people of faith in the Parish of St. James in Seaford. After it served its purpose there, it was dismantled and relocated to a lot in Manorville (feathers still in the walls!). Simultaneously, a small but dedicated congregation worshipped in a traditional white country church with a seating capacity of 100, known as Sts. Peter and Paul Mission Church in Manorville. Our faith assembly had a dream of becoming a parish. After much frustration and faith, persistence and faith, dedication and faith, the dream began to take shape.Faced with the challenge of utilizing the relocated chapel, the reconstruction of the transplanted building began. Then Parochial Vicar, Fr. John McGratty (our founding pastor)had to overcome many obstacles. With him, the congregation met the challenge, and our current building became the home of the newest Parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Our Humble Beginning
In 1912, Rev. John Naab, a priest from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, was sent to Manorville, Long Island to establish a parish. As pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Fr. Naab celebrated the first parish Mass on June 30 in the parlor of the rectory, then located on Eastport-Manor Road. The church building that was to be the home for the people of Sts. Peter and Paul for eight-two years was dedicated in 1913. At that time, the parish territory included Manorville, Ridge, Wading River, Shoreham and parts of Calverton and North Shirley.
In 1915, Fr. Naab was transferred and Rev. Francis X. Wunsch became pastor. Rev. Henry Spengler followed and was Pastor from 1917 until 1921. Rev. John Reguiski succeeded Rev. Spengler and remained until 1935.
In August of 1920, Mary A. Hurliman donated land on North Country Road in Wading River and Fr. Regulski built a church and rectory on the property for the purpose of creating a Polish parish. He moved to Wading River from Manorville and established St. John the Baptist Church as the central church in the area. Sts. Peter and Paul became a mission church.
In 1935, Msgr. Emil F. Strenski was assigned to the Wading River parish as pastor and remained there until his death in 1956. Rev. Paul J. Mastalski was appointed pastor in 1956 and was eventually replaced in 1959 by Rev. William J. Crowley. Fr. Crowley introduced the first religious education program to the parish and c6nducted the first parish-wide census of Catholic families. When Fr. Crowley died in 1962, Rev. John J. Madden was appointed pastor. During his tenure, associate pastors were first assigned to assist in the spiritual and temporal care of the people of Wading River, Manorville and surrounding communities.
In 1969, Fr. Madden died and Rev. Richard V. Tierney became pastor. Fr. Tierney resigned from the priesthood and was replaced by Rev. John Vitsas in 1973. During this time, more and more Catholic families relocated to Manorville. A group of Sts. Peter and Paul parishioners raised the possibility of reestablishing a parish in Manorville. With Fr. Vitsas' blessing, a recommendation was sent to Bishop John McGann in January, 1979 requesting a return to parish status for Sts. Peter and Paul Church. In March of that year, Auxiliary Bishop Ryan and other diocesan officials met with Fr. Vitsas and Manorville parishioners to discuss the future of the Mission.
In 1980, Rev. Paul J. Dahm was assigned to St. John the Baptist parish as administrator. Fr. Dahm reinstated baptisms, confirmations, confessions, marriages and funerals, as well as a religious education program, at Sts. Peter and Paul. A parish council was formed and two trustees were elected by the Manorville parishioners. In 1989, Fr. Vitsas became Pastor Emeritus and Fr. Dahm was appointed as the next pastor.
In 1988, Rev. John J. McGratty was assigned to St. John the Baptist Church as associate pastor. On February 26, 1991, Fr. McGratty was given the responsibility for the pastoral care of the people of Sts. Peter and Paul and became the Parochial Vicar of the Mission Church.
The growing number of Catholic families in Manorville made the seating capacity of the Sts. Peter and Paul Church building seriously inadequate. To remedy this situation, the original church building from St. James in Seaford was moved to diocesan-owned land on North Street and Wading River Road in Manorville. Although the reconstruction project was delayed four years due to environmental concerns, the building was restored and redecorated and now provides the people of Sts. Peter and Paul with space to seat 330 parishioners. The first Masses celebrated in the new Sts. Peter and Paul Church building were held on Christmas Eve, 1995.
On January 21, 1996, the Diocese of Rockville Centre restored Sts. Peter and Paul Church to parish status. The boundaries were officially defined as the postal area of Manorville. Fr. McGratty was named as the founding pastor of this newest parish in the Diocese. He was installed as pastor on Sunday, February 18,1996.
The new church building was dedicated on Sunday, June 30, 1996 when the parish celebrated the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. John R. McGann, Bishop of Rockville Centre, presided. A new three story rectory, which includes the parish offices, was built in 1998. A prayer garden is planned for the year 2000.
Since 1996 the parish staff has increased from three to seven members plus two permanent deacons. The entire community of Manorville has grown and the increasing Catholic community has greatly expanded the parish registration. Anticipating that our present church will no longer provide necessary seating space within the next few years. Fr. John and the staff are planning for another larger church building to be built in 2002. The present church will become the pastoral center.
-Complied and edited from A History of Sts. Peter and Paul Mission Church by Dorothy K Magnani