Virtually every day for the past 50 years, through rain, sleet and snow, 97-year-old Rose Loos has made it to the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Quiogue and taken her seat in the third row promptly before 8 a.m.
“If I’m not there at a certain time, they call,” she said, of her friends and fellow parishioners.
A devout Catholic, Ms. Loos said she joined the parish when she moved to the area permanently with her late husband, Leonard, and children in 1965. It became her second home—a place where she could practice her faith, but also the center of her social life. “It has been a place of comfort for me,” she said. “It had a tremendous camaraderie.”
In the kitchen of her Westhampton Beach home on Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Loos and her daughter, Ellen Loos, flipped through old photos, smiling as they recalled past jamborees and church events. The most joyous occasions were the annual barbecues, attended by close to 1,000 residents and visitors, with endless amounts of food and laughs. “They had a ball,” Ellen Loos said.
This month marks 100 years since Father John Patterson was instated as the first resident pastor of the church, and the start of a yearlong celebration leading up to June 2014, the 100th anniversary of the church’s incorporation. On Saturday, June 8, at 5 p.m., Bishop William Murphy will lead a 100th anniversary mass, followed by a reenactment barbecue from 6 to 9 p.m., the first the church has held since 1973.
The event, which will take place at the Parish Center, promises enchiladas, hot dogs, salads and desserts from Shane Crennan Catering Service. Mr. Crennan, a local resident, said his father, Chuck, remembered attending the barbecues during his youth.
Jeanne Lewin, also a parishioner for about 50 years, pointed to a recipe called “Dave Sieminski’s Barbeque Sauce for Chicken,” appearing in the church’s 100th anniversary cookbook. It calls for 800 chickens, 15 pounds of butter, 2.5 pounds of salt, 5 gallons of white wine, seven bottles of Worcestershire, and A1 Sauce, which Mr. Sieminski simmered together for the barbecues—a testament to the magnitude of the annual events.
The church has also planned a golf outing on Monday, June 10, a gala on Saturday, June 22, and has invited a panel of senior members to sit and share their memories of the church on Thursday, July 11. Additional events will be planned for this summer.
But equally important in the anniversary celebration is keeping a connection with the deep history and mission of the church, Father Diarmuid McGann said on Tuesday. He arrived at the church from Ireland in 1965, at the age of 23. Though he was assigned elsewhere for a period, when he retired about 8 years ago, he returned to the church permanently.
“I consider this basically my home,” he said. “They introduced me to America.”
The parish dates back to 1869, when the Mission of the Church of St. John the Evangelist was established to serve the area stretching from Riverhead to Quogue. Father Patrick Creighton traveled by horseback to the home of Francis and Margaret Foley, located along Aspatuck Creek, near Franklin Avenue, where the church is now situated, to celebrate mass. He continued those visits until sometime between 1883 and 1885, when the Foleys gave two plots of land fronting Main Street to the Most Reverend John Loughlin, Bishop of Diocese of Brooklyn, where the first church was built on the current site of the rectory.
The family donated a second property in 1891 where a second, larger church was built; it is the site of the current church. The original church, meanwhile, was transformed into a store and a home for Stephen Foley, the son of Margaret and Francis. In 1913, Father John Patterson was instated as the first resident pastor, and a year later, on June 1, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was incorporated, with a steady influx of summer parishioners, as well as a population of central European and Polish residents. The rectory was also built that year.
Parishioners affectionately remembered the Reverend Joseph Slomski, who was appointed when he was only 27 to replace Father Patterson. He oversaw the construction of a third church in 1922, replacing the 1891 structure, which was moved and now serves as the Parish Hall.
“When he built the existing church people complained that it was much too big,” the Reverend Joseph Mirro, the current pastor, said, with a chuckle. “Of course, now it’s small.”
Rev. Slomski retired in 1958 after 40 years of service. He was succeeded by Father Joseph Canning, who served until 1963, when Very Reverend James Griffin was appointed. Under his leadership, a School of Religion opened in 1968 to serve the parish’s roughly 500 students.
With the advice of an architectural firm, Father Mirro said the church has established a list of priorities that will be addressed through its “The Next Hundred Years” campaign, including the installation of a new roof, repairs to the bell tower and a renovated narthex with handicapped access and a larger gathering space. The stained-glass windows also need replacing.
In total, the church hopes to raise $1.2 million for those projects, which could also be used to purchase new heating and air conditioning systems, a new organ, and repaint and repair the Parish Center.
“My hope for the church is that we be filled with the spirit of the founders, and continue the mission for future generations,” Father Mirro said.
He explained that it is the people—the church now boasts more than 1,500 families—that make the parish unique.
“It renews us in terms of our own vision and how it has changed, and yet remains true to the vision of Christ,” Father McGann said.
He and Ms. Lewin recalled how the church has evolved since they first arrived. One change they noted is the growth of the Spanish community, which they said has enhanced the church.
“They’re bringing a vibrancy to the parish—their music, their attendance,” Father McGann said.
“I think the church has evolved in terms of depth, and it has devolved in terms of attendance,” he continued, explaining that he feels parishioners have greater insight now, but go to church less often. Still, he said the atmosphere is the same. “It’s a community-oriented church, and it’s a very warm church.”
Ms. Lewin said that with the help of other parishioners, she has compiled boxes upon boxes of photographs, including weddings, baptisms and church events, which she has organized into decades. Those will be on display on large posters at the church during the yearlong celebration.
“We’re family,” she said.