It was 1936… The growing communities of Bellerose and Queens Village were still dotted with small cottages that were once used only as summer homes. At the time, the Diocese of Brooklyn comprised Brooklyn and all of Long Island. Bishop Thomas Molloy had been serving as its third bishop for 14 years.
It was in 1936 that the parish of St. Gregory the Great was established. Father William J. McLaughlin was installed as the first pastor.
Shortly after the parish was established, Robert Moses laid out plans for the Cross Island Parkway. These plans included claiming Bellerose Blvd. This effectively divided the parish. It would not only split the parish, but it divided the parish plant itself.
The second pastor of St. Greg’s, Father Daniel Halloran, accumulated property on the eastern side of the planned Cross Island Parkway.
The Church was built as “Temporary Church-Auditorium”, yet there were never any plans to build another church building. It was completed in 1937. In 1940, Fr. McLaughlin built the rectory which had been donated by a friend.
1957 brought another split to the parish. With the accouncement of the fourth Bishop, Brian McEntegart, the diocese was split making Rockville Center the new See including Nassau and Suffolk. Many of the families living in Nassau County in Bellerose Village and Bellerose Terrace were now technically, no longer part of St. Greg’s. But many remained, of their own choice and their selection of St. Gregory’s as their parish continues to this day.
The church has undergone three major renovations. The original Church did not have adequate space for sacristies, storage or bathrooms, and it was not accessible for handicapped persons. The first renovation took place in the 1950’s. The second in 1979 which made permanent the changes of Vatican II with Mass facing the people.
The third renovation began in the Fall of 1993. A committee of about thirty parishioners was formed – some enthusiastic about change and some not. This team studied documents about the liturgical needs of a Church, visited other renewed churches; and drew up the particular needs of St. Gregory’s parish. It was a year-long effort.
Building an addition on the 88th Avenue side of the present Church meant turning the Church 180 degrees and connecting it to the Rectory building meant claiming the kitchen for a sacristy. There are those parishioners who still say the Church feels backwards to them.
Very important to the project was the Church basement, called the “Oak Room” which is used for Pre_school, senior citizens and parish meetings. Handicapped access, decent rest-rooms, and increased space were very necessary.
A major fund-raising campaign took place during February – May of 1995 which raised $1,370,000 against a goal of $1,100,000.
During the construction, the crew came upon a hidden treasure: a richly colored mosaic of St. Gregory the Great uncovered during the demolition work.
Sunday Masses were once again celebrated in the renewed Church on the weekend of February 17/18, 1996.
On May 10, 1996, Bishop Thomas V. Daily, sixth Bishop of Brooklyn, dedicated the new Church.
St. Gregory the Great School was opened in 1953 and was staffed by the Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Dubuque, Iowa. Though the school was opened in 1953, it wasn’t quite finished and some classes were held in the garage next to the church.
The convent was built in 1959 which accommodated all the Sisters.