Immaculate Conception Church | About Us

Parish History

Fr. Michael D. Lopez
Father Michael D. Lopez

In January 1924, the Most Reverend Bishop Thomas E. Molloy, STD assigned Father Michael D. Lopez to institute in the Arleigh Section of Queens (now Astoria) a new parish to relieve the strain on the few existing parishes in the fast growing community. The site of the first Mass was the home of Dr. John J. Dempsey, Principal of P.S. 85, located at 28-19 Ditmars Avenue (Blvd.) The cornerstone of the new Church/School was laid in July 1924, with Bishop Molloy presiding. At this time, enthusiasm and dedication of parishioners brought into existence the Holy Name, Rosary and Altar Societies. In October 1924 Fr. Lopez said the first Mass in the basement of Immaculate Conception Church. The upper Church and four classrooms were completed. The Sisters of St. Francis of the Mt. Hope Community arrived to staff the school.

Rev. Edward J. Higgins
Monsignor Edward J. Higgins
Reverend Edward J. Higgins replaced Fr. Lopez in 1933. In memory of his father, Fr. Higgins erected a Grotto dedicated to Our Lady and St. Bernadette located on the side of the Church in 1934. Fr. Higgins founded the Catholic War Veterans, a movement which spread throughout the United States and its territories. Also, the Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was introduced as a special devotion to Our Lady. By 1937 the community of nuns had increased and a residence at 21-56 29 Street was purchased by the parish and blessed by Bishop Molloy. On the advice of Bishop Molloy, the present rectory was constructed and completed in 1940. The Sisters of the Holy Union, from Fall River, Massachusetts, replaced the Franciscan Sisters in 1946. Bishop Thomas E. Molloy celebrates a Mass of Thanksgiving on the 25th anniversary of the parish and ground is broken for the new Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1949 and the dedication of the new Church took place by 1951.

Fr. William D. Lyons
Fr. William D. Lyons
In 1963 Monsignor Higgins, having served as pastor of the parish for 30 years went to his eternal reward. Fr. William D. Lyons, an assistant since 1950, was installed as pastor on June 20, 1964 by Bishop Bryan J. McEntegart. Bishop McEntegart dedicated an addition to the school and a new school hall in 1964. A group known as Our Lady's Pre-School came into existence under the guidance of Fr. Lyons and the assistance of a core group of dedicated parish volunteers. The main altar in the Church was moved forward in 1967 and the baldachin constructed which enhanced the beauty of the sanctuary. In 1969 dedication of the new convent and an extension to the school hall (gym) was officiated by Bishop Mugavero. During 1970 members of Immaculate Conception parish and Grace Lutheran Church met to initiate a Senior Citizen Club for Northwest Astoria and in the following year, under the leadership of Fr. John Harrington and with the blessing of Fr. Lyons, a chapel was opened at 20-20 21 Avenue to better serve the growing Spanish community.

Fr. Walter V. Murphy
Fr. Walter V. Murphy
Fr. Lyons retired as Pastor in 1980 and was replaced by Fr. Walter V. Murphy. During Fr. Murphy's pastorship, Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors were commissioned. Also a young mother's support group met once a week in the school hall. The mid-1980s saw the beginning of a Homeless Program for women.

Fr. Charles P. Boccio
Monsignor Charles P. Boccio
Fr. Murphy retired and was succeeded by Fr. Charles P. Boccio. On March 18, 1986, Fr. Boccio was appointed to Immaculate Conception Church by Bishop Mugavero and officially installed as pastor on April 20, 1986. Fr. Boccio was raised to a Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor on December 3, 1989. Sr. Bridget McGettigan spearheaded a ministry aiding the sick and homebound in 1990's. Girls took on the role of altar servers along with the boys for Sunday Masses and holy days. Three separate prayer groups from the English, Spanish and Filipino communities began meeting on a regular basis. On December 8, 1994 the Knights of Columbus Council #11449 was established in our parish. Monsignor Boccio retired in 2008 and died April 21, 2021.

Fr. Fernando Ferrarese
Monsignor Fernando Ferrarese
In January 2008, Monsignor Fernando Ferrarese succeeded Monsignor Boccio. A Parish Pastoral Council was established in 2008 to work with the community and plan for the future of the parish. In 2014 the community of Immaculate Conception Church proudly celebrated 90 years of living the Catholic faith in Astoria. A Year of Mercy Pilgrimage was held in 2016 -- 700 people walked through the streets of Astoria singing hymns and holding aloft a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After 71 years of faithful service at Immaculate Conception, the Holy Union Sisters returned home to Fall River in 2017. That same year 55 people were consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception after offering 33 days of devotion, prayer and penance.

The vibrancy of Immaculate Conception parish continues to grow and the number of programs reach an all-time high focusing on the spiritual and religious education of adults and young people alike.