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History of Saint Clare Parish

Rectors of Saint Clare Mission:
1. Father Charles J. Parks (1918-1922)
2. Father David C. O'Connor (1922-1925)

Pastors of Saint Clare Parish:
1. Father David C. O'Connor (1925-1931)
2. Father Daniel M. Dougherty (1931-1944)
3. Father Christopher B. McCann (1944-1948)
4. Father William J. Farricker (1948-1954)
5. Father/Monsignor John J. Flanagan (1954-1973)
6. Monsignor John P. Keogh (1973-1985)
7. Monsignor Joseph P. Murphy (1985-2008)
8. Monsignor Richard J. Guastella (2008- )

Principals of Saint Clare School:
1. Mother Mary Dominic, P.B.V.M. (1936-1943)
2. Sister Mary John, P.B.V.M. (1943-1951)
3. Sister Mary Monica, P.B.V.M. (1951-1964)
4. Sister Mary Assisium, P.B.V.M. (1964-1986)
5. Sister Rosemary Ward, P.B.V.M. (1986-2004)
6. Mrs. Jo N. Rossicone (2004-2015)
7. Mrs. Theresa M. Signorile (2015- )

Ordinations of Saint Clare Parishioners:
1. Father Victor S. Pavis (1943)
2. Father Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A. (1962)
3. Deacon Richard F. Mitchell (1989)
4. Deacon Nunzio A. Sorrentino (1999)
5. Father Eric D. Rapaglia (2000)
(Over the years, additional parishioners were consecrated as religious Brothers and Sisters. An Assistant Rector of Saint Clare Mission, Father Thomas J. McDonnell, was later ordained as a Bishop in 1947.)

Saint Patrick's Parish (founded 1862)
... Our "Mother Church"

After the five boroughs consolidated into New York City in 1898, rapid growth began in Staten Island's quaint fishing village of Great Kills, formerly known as Giffords, Gifford's-by-the-Sea, Newtown, or Clarendon, meaning "Clare's Hill." Schaneckberg's General Store and the Post Office were located in the Springstead Building, near the coal-burning railroad. The scent of freshly baked bread and pies from Hupfel's Bakery flowed down to the beach. The newly built Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were soon welcoming ships to the bay carrying thousands of immigrants per day, whose families quickly became the backbone of New York's workforce and congregations. A 10-year, acre-by-acre campaign against Staten Island mosquitoes finally eliminated malaria as a major health risk -- and for the first time, the average American newborn could expect to live beyond age 45.

As the village of Great Kills grew, so did the neighboring towns of Oakwood Heights and New Dorp Beach. On Sundays, Catholics would travel on dirt roads all the way to Saint Patrick's Church in the county seat of Richmondtown to attend Mass -- and then buy desserts next door, from the first generation of Holtermann's. Many parishioners took advantage of the Richmond trolley or Startz stagecoach service to fulfill their Sunday obligation, grateful for the Sacraments but understandably wishing for greater convenience for their families. They could hardly have imagined how God would "multiply those humble loaves and fishes of old Great Kills" to become the largest congregation in the entire Archdiocese of New York.

Father Parks (1918-1922)
... Founding Rector of Saint Clare Mission Church

Toward the end of February 1917, Father Charles J. Parks arrived at Saint Patrick's Church to assume pastoral duties. A native of Tompkinsville and a graduate of Saint Peter's Academy, New Brighton, he was a quiet, easy-going man. Father had served for twelve years as pastor of Saint Sylvia's Parish in Tivoli, New York, where he was revered by his parishioners. His great vision and foresight would soon lead to the founding of three Mission Churches -- Our Lady of Lourdes, New Dorp Beach; Saint Charles, Oakwood Heights; and Saint Clare, Great Kills.

On July 7, 1918, during the final summer of World War One, and before the new Mayor John Hylan renamed Staten Island's main Boulevard for himself, Saint Patrick's rented a frame building in Great Kills as the Mission Church of Saint Clare of Assisi. It was located at 105 Giffords Lane, between Katan Avenue and the century-old "Holy Spring House" at Dewey Avenue.

This temporary arrangement led to long-range plans for an established parish with a larger church. In 1919, property on Nelson Avenue was purchased for the sum of $2,000 in preparation for the laying of Saint Clare's cornerstone. The new location was closer to the shoreline resorts of the day, but still just a short walk from the Great Kills train station. The Mansfield House, adjacent to the property, served as a repository for the church vessels.

On May 19, 1920, during the first year of national Prohibition and women's right to vote, the cornerstone was laid for the "new" Saint Clare Church (today's Chapel) and construction began. It was said to be the first Catholic church in the United States built in simple Colonial style. Its young designers, Otto R. Eggers and parishioner Daniel P. Higgins, were featured in an article of The American Architect for their patriotic innovation, and they went on to design many prominent American buildings over the next forty years. At a cost of $15,985, the Church was equipped with heat and electric lights and accommodated 250 people.

At a dedication ceremony on October 30, 1921, Archbishop Patrick Hayes formally blessed the new Mission Church of Saint Clare. Father Parks led a procession of altar boys, mounted police, and members of the Knights of Columbus and of the Holy Name Society to celebrate the event. This was followed by a Solemn High Mass sung in Latin by the Assistant Rector, Father Thomas J. McDonnell (a future Bishop), and accompanied by Mrs. Phoebe Mansfield Colon on an organ donated to the Church by her family.

The Presentation Sisters (1922 arrival)
... Religious Education

Religious instruction for more than two hundred boys and girls began in 1922 with the arrival of the Presentation Sisters, arranged by Father Parks The pioneers -- Mother Mary Vincent, Mother Mary Dominic and Mother Mary Aloysius -- held classes every Wednesday at 3:15 P.M. and again after the 9 o'clock Mass on Sunday morning, at Saint Clare's original property on Giffords Lane. This building served as a Parish Hall until it became an American Legion post in the 1950s.

Father O'Connor (Rector 1922-1925, Pastor 1925-1931)
... An Independent Parish

Father Parks oversaw the youthful stages of growth in Saint Clare Mission until his death on October 15, 1922. He was succeeded as Pastor of Saint Patrick and Rector of Saint Clare by Father David C. O'Connor, who was named the first Pastor of Saint Clare when it became an independent parish on January 5, 1925. It is interesting to note here that from 1918 until 1925, Saint Clare remained a Mission of Saint Patrick's Parish. However, it was not until February 1926 that Saint Patrick's transferred to Saint Clare's, for the sum of $1.00, the deed to the Church and its adjoining properties.

Father O'Connor found his tenure at Saint Clare exhilarated by the needs of the infant parish and the growth of Catholicism on Staten Island (30% of its residents by 1931, rising steadily to 60% in 2015). Under his direction, the present Rectory was built and property was acquired for the eventual construction of a school, as Staten Island received its three New Jersey bridges. Father's energy continued to galvanize the young parish for six years until he was called for pastoral duties at Saint Joseph's Parish in the Bronx.

Father Dougherty (1931-1944)
... A New School

In November 1931, Father Daniel M. Dougherty, a classmate of Father O'Connor, became the new Pastor of Saint Clare. Father Dougherty wasted no time in meeting the needs of the growing parish. Almost immediately, architect Higgins was commissioned to design a grade school on Lindenwood Road behind his 1921 Church building. Even the burden of the Great Depression wasn't enough to sway the parishioners' determination to see this dream fulfilled. On July 1, 1935, Monsignor Joseph A. Farrell, Dean of Catholic Clergy for Staten Island, blessed the school grounds and assisted Father Dougherty in removing the first shovelful of dirt. The cornerstone was laid with the inscribed motto "PRO DEO ET PATRIA" (For God And Country) and construction began.

Mother Mary Dominic
A little over a year later, on September 14, 1936, after a cost of approximately $175,000, Saint Clare School opened its doors, staffed by the devoted Presentation Sisters. The main floor housed four classrooms and a gym/auditorium (seating capacity 700) that doubled as a lunchroom; a statue of the Blessed Mother stood at the end of the hallway. The second floor contained four more classrooms as well as a Teacher's Lunchroom and Principal's Office. Mother Mary Dominic Ward served as the first Principal and the teaching staff consisted of Mother Mary Aloysius and Sisters Mary Clare, Mary Alacoque, and Mary Aquinas. The Sisters commuted to the school every day from their residence at Mount Saint Michael's Home for Children, in Greenridge.

By the end of the 1930s, Saint Clare was a flourishing social center for the community. The Parish Hall was being utilized by Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Cheerleaders, the Saint Clare Catholic Club, and other parish-sponsored groups for meetings and activities. The school played host to CYO Basketball and a weekly Games Party held on Monday nights. Other activities included the annual Society Circus bazaar and carnival, summer fairs by the shore at the foot of Nelson Avenue, as well as the annual Winter Dance.

Saint Clare School recorded a milestone in the spring of 1938 when a class of 16 eighth-graders became its first graduates. By the following year, the Senior Class had nearly doubled to include 28 students.

In July 1940, Father Dougherty took a leave of absence for health reasons and was temporarily replaced by Father Joseph A. Tytheridge. Fortunately, Father Dougherty rebounded quickly and by October was back in the stream of progress created by the growing parish. With the help of Father Tytheridge, who stayed on as Assistant Pastor, Father Dougherty organized a release-time program that went into full swing in October 1941. On Wednesdays between 2:00 and 3:00 P.M., the Saint Clare students assembled in the school auditorium for a film, while religious instructions were conducted by the nuns.

Sister Mary John
The end of 1941 brought the Second World War and the reality of Air Raid Drills to the school. The sight of students sitting on the hallway floors was not unusual, heads tucked in their folded arms, I.D. tags visible, waiting for the "All Clear" sign. In May of the following year, Father Dougherty blessed a service flag honoring parishioners serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The flag contained one blue star for each person serving (75 in all) and one gold star for a Marine who had died. It was suspended from the choir loft for the duration of the war, with changes made as needed.

The parish continued to grow as the 1940s progressed. When Sister Mary John assumed her duties as Saint Clare's second Principal in 1943, all eight classrooms were in use. Parishioner Victor Pavis was ordained as a Priest, after coaching Saint Clare's baseball team as a seminarian. By May 1944, time and the Pastorate had taken their toll on Father Dougherty's health and he was forced to turn over the reins to Father Christopher B. McCann.

Father McCann (1944-1948)
... Post-War Demobilization

Father McCann hailed from Saint Joseph Parish in New Paltz, and at one time had served as a Commissioned Navy Chaplain. Through his efforts and guidance, Saint Clare Kindergarten was instituted in September 1945 at war's end, and a uniform dress code found its way into student life. The Mothers' Club was also founded in 1945 to raise funds for the school through social functions and to assist in its daily activities. Most important of all, it served to unite the mothers of the parish to create a force of immeasurable impact.

Though ill for much of his term as pastor, Father McCann had a strength and quality of leadership that served to unify the people of the parish, as the nation demobilized from World War Two. At a time when transportation conveniences weren't taken for granted, bringing together parishioners distributed over such a large area was no simple task. Father McCann's pastorate was an inspiration to many who furthered the goals of growth and unity. When he left Saint Clare's in November 1948 and died the following year, it took the competence and spirit of Father William J. Farricker to continue his work.

Father Farricker (1948-1954)
... Post-War Growth

The parish buzzed with activity during Father Farricker's pastorate. Growth came with post-war immigration and the many large families of the "Baby Boom." Extra Masses were added, the classrooms filled up, and planning began for a larger church.

The School became a model of organization under the direction of Sister Mary John. Each morning, prayers were at 8:40 and classes, starting with Religion, began at 8:45. Art classes became a regular part of the curriculum, and Miss Dillon came from Manhattan every week to teach Music. The responsibilities of the students went beyond their studies, however. On Sunday mornings they reported to their classrooms at 8:45 for 9 o'clock Mass in the auditorium. They also stayed after school to assist the nuns in cleaning the rooms, while the fathers volunteered their time for repairs and maintenance.

Edmund Dobbin graduated from the School in 1949, and would later become an Augustinian Priest and the longest-serving President of Villanova University. He happily returned to Saint Clare in 2011 to lead our school's 75th Anniversary Mass.

Saint Clare had become a suburban community as well as a Church and School. The Fathers' Club, founded in 1950, sponsored two plays, three dances, and two picnics every year to benefit the school's textbook supplies. They also organized a sports program that included Little League Baseball and a CYO Swim Team.

Sister Mary Monica
In September 1951, Sister Mary Monica came from Our Lady Queen of Peace, New Dorp, to become the School's third Principal. Sister Mary John had been called to the Bronx to serve as Principal of Our Lady of Grace.

In December, the Sisters sponsored Saint Clare's first Christmas Pageant. The auditorium provided the setting, as it had for many other seasonal affairs such as the Society Circus bazaar, Turkey Festival, Saint Patrick's Entertainment Night, and the Children's Christmas Party sponsored by the Mothers' Club with Penny Sale proceeds.

The outdoor Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, donated by parishioners, was blessed and dedicated by Father Farricker in 1953. The ceremony included a procession of students who placed flowers at the Shrine and a crown of golden roses on Mary's head.

In May 1954, Father Farricker was called to assume Pastoral duties in Manhattan, and his tenure at Saint Clare came to a close. He was succeeded by Monsignor (then Father) John J. Flanagan, a hard-working man who had once served as Chaplain of the Yonkers Police Department.

Monsignor Flanagan (1954-1973)
... A Larger Church, an Expanded School, and a Convent

During the 1950s, Great Kills grew at an extraordinary rate, and the newly approved Narrows Bridge (today's Verrazzano) was sure to bring even more residents to Staten Island from Brooklyn. New homes sprung up all over the parish to replace woods and farms. Additional Masses were scheduled, and school classes swelled with over fifty students each. The time had come to move ahead on expanding the parish facilities. Father Flanagan's drive and enthusiasm were all that was needed to launch the ambitious program, building on the preliminary plans from Father Farricker.

In February 1956, the Mansfield House and property, adjacent to the Church, were purchased to serve as the site for the new Church and the expanded School. A major fund-raising campaign began. Three hundred parishioners worked tirelessly from April 22 to June 14, 1957, far surpassing the minimum goal of $225,000, and initiating the largest building project ever undertaken by a Staten Island parish.

It was at this critical time that an additional blessing came to Saint Clare's with the arrival of Father Eugene J. Hicks as its new Associate Pastor. This fiery preacher was the first black Catholic priest ordained in New York, and would become Saint Clare's longest-serving priest (29 years, 1957-1986). Among other innovations, he introduced the Great Kills Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service for Christian unity, which has been a wonderful annual event with our Lutheran and Moravian neighbors ever since.

Construction preparations involved relocating classes to make way for the School's new wing, as well as physically moving the old Church to allow space for the new Church's foundation. Although there had been plans to donate the old Church from 1921 to Our Lady Star of the Sea in Huguenot, the final decision was that it remain at Saint Clare as a Chapel. In October 1957, parishioners helped roll the building a few hundred feet down Nelson Avenue to the site where it stands today.

On October 25, 1958, Bishop Joseph F. Flannelly presided over a Confirmation Mass followed by the new Church's Cornerstone Dedication Ceremony. Despite a steady downpour, the spirits of the parishioners that gathered remained exuberant and undampened. Construction commenced after a metal box was placed in the cornerstone, containing Church organizations' and School staff rosters along with pictures of the Chapel, Francis Cardinal Spellman, and the just-deceased Pope Pius XII.

Work progressed quickly on both buildings, and by September 1959 the School addition was ready for students. The three-story annex, faced in brick and limestone, doubled the capacity of the School by adding ten classrooms and a fully equipped cafeteria. Finally, it seemed, there was enough space to accommodate the student body.

The new Saint Clare Church, which at this time had been undergoing its final stages of construction, was completed by the end of the year. In such a very short time, it had grown from an idea to a structure of imposing beauty, through the leadership of now-Monsignor Flanagan and the perseverance and generosity of the parishioners. Its open octagonal shape allowed it the luxury of accommodating 700 people, and it also had the distinction of being the first church on Staten Island with central air-conditioning. Fund-raising for the Church and School actually surpassed $1 million (more than $10 million in 2018 equivalents). As a result, the new Church was able to include nine beautiful stained-glass windows depicting the Life of Clare in 13th-century Italy, as well as a modest pipe organ (later expanded in 2002).

On Christmas Eve, 1959, the parishioners gathered for Midnight Mass to celebrate the birth of Christ and the birth of their new Church. They stood proud and thankful to God for giving them the means to fulfill a task of such magnitude.

Saint Clare's 1959 church combined both a modern flair and a distinguished architectural lineage, thanks to its architect Joseph Sanford Shanley, a leading specialist for Catholic churches on the East Coast. As a fine example of adaptive design progression, Saint Clare's octagon-shaped, red-brick exterior in Colonial Revival style was patterned after Shanley's earlier Church of Saint Charles Borromeo (Newark 1937), which The New York Times hailed as "outstanding." Saint Clare's open, brightly domed interior drew inspiration from America's first Catholic cathedral, which was consecrated in 1876 by one of Shanley's prominent relatives (Baltimore Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley) and which was prestigiously declared a Basilica in 1937. Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, the family's Catholic founder whose vocation led her from New York to Baltimore, was the archbishop's aunt and the architect's great-great-great-aunt. Shanley designed her Shrine Church as his final project, at the former site of her Manhattan home by the Staten Island Ferry.

The new Saint Clare Church and the expanded School were officially blessed and dedicated on May 22, 1960, by Cardinal Spellman. The morning ceremonies were also attended by Borough President Albert Maniscalco, Lieutenant Governor Malcolm Wilson, and former pastor William Farricker, followed by a Solemn High Mass offered by Monsignor Flanagan. In a profound and memorable sermon, he called the day an auspicious one of joy and significance. He stated that the completion of such an immense project and the inauguration of its services was a source of pardonable pride and gratification to the priests, nuns and parishioners whose sacrifices made it possible. It was a day of celebration for Saint Clare, but there was still work to be done.

In November 1961, Saint Clare Parish purchased the house next to the School, for its faculty of Presentation Sisters who had been commuting every day since 1936. Monsignor Flanagan hired parishioner Kenneth W. Milnes to plan the conversion of the 1931 house into a sixteen-room Convent, with its own chapel funded personally by Monsignor and Mae Flanagan, his sister and close advisor. By autumn of 1963, construction was complete, the rooms were furnished by parishioners, and twelve Presentation Sisters moved in. The Chamber of Commerce bestowed an architectural award to Saint Clare's Presentation Convent soon after, proclaiming it one of the best building projects completed on Staten Island that year.

In a ceremony the following April, Bishop Joseph M. Pernicone blessed and dedicated the new Convent. He congratulated Monsignor Flanagan for completing such a large building program and for so formidably growing with a parish that had tripled in size in the decade since his arrival. (An alternative plan had been to divide Saint Clare's into three parishes.) At this time, the School had twelve nuns, six lay teachers, over a thousand full-time students, and eight hundred release-time students. Monsignor Flanagan praised the dedicated Presentation Sisters and their new home, which would let them be fully accessible to students and parents.

Sister Mary Assisium
Sister Mary Monica left Saint Clare School in June 1964 to assume her duties as principal of Countess Moore High School, now known as Moore Catholic. She was succeeded at Saint Clare's by Sister Mary Assisium, who had previously taught at Saint Paul's School in New Brighton. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge opened on November 21, 1964, after the Kennedy family declined to have it named for President John F. Kennedy who had been assassinated one year earlier. (They opted instead for New York's largest airport and a Staten Island ferryboat.) When Eltingville's Holy Child Parish was established in 1966, Saint Clare's official parish boundaries took their current form, very similar to Great Kills' 10308 zip code -- though of course parishioners from anywhere are always welcomed!

Saint Clare's challenges of the 1960s were met head-on, with somewhat less turbulence than in more-urban areas. The expansion program initiated by Father Farricker and Monsignor Flanagan enabled the parish to accommodate the community's dramatic growth. In 1965, Sister Assisium and Monsignor oversaw the integration of male and female students, who had been taught in separate parts of the School for years. Monsignor also began implementing the many important Church reforms brought about by the Second Vatican Council, including the change from Latin Mass to English. By dutifully managing and effectively delegating his pastoral duties, he watched the results perform like a well-oiled machine.

Toward the end of the 1960s, however, Monsignor Flanagan's health began to fail. While he was still quite capable of running the parish, it was clearly taking its toll on him. Monsignor died on September 2, 1973. On September 6, Terence Cardinal Cooke officiated at a Mass of Christian Burial.

Monsignor Keogh (1973-1985)
... New Activities and a Parish Center

During the last week of October 1973, Saint Clare welcomed Monsignor John P. Keogh as its new Pastor. Monsignor Keogh came from Saint Boniface, a parish he'd established in Monsey, New York, with a wit and personality that quickly endeared him to the parish.

With the same foresight and energy that seemed, by now, to be requisite for the Saint Clare Pastorate, Monsignor rolled up his sleeves and got to work. In a short time, events like Irish Night, the Italian Festival, and the Polish Festival became annual affairs. He helped establish Folk Group Masses (1974), Musical Productions (1974), Pre-Kindergarten (1977), Bingo, the Varsity Club, Girls Basketball, Soccer, Track, and many other social and athletic groups that enticed more parishioners into getting involved. He saw the want and provided the means. In no time at all, there was something for almost everyone to participate in.

Monsignor saw both potential and need in Saint Clare. It was this visionary gift that initiated a campaign in November 1976 for a Parish Center, a sports and social facility on Nelson Avenue for the entire parish. Once again the congregation banded together to help make a dream materialize; this time $800,000 was raised. A pond was drained and construction was completed within two years. Then in June 1979, Terence Cardinal Cooke dedicated the Center that bears his name.

Saint Clare's Cooke Center (originally spelled Centre) is equipped with basketball courts, locker facilities, conference rooms and offices. Outside stands a contemporary 16-foot statue of Saint Clare, one of her largest in the world, sculpted by longtime parishioner Hans Karl. Today, in addition to countless hours of basketball, the Center is used for everything from Pre-Kindergarten to Track.

Over the course of Monsignor Keogh's Pastorate, it was not unusual to see him in the School stopping to talk to the students, or in front of the Church before and after Mass with his hand out to greet everyone, or leading hymns with his rich baritone voice booming from the back of the Church. His kindly manner and dedication to his congregation made him beloved by young and old alike, even when a tuition system had to be instituted to support the over-subscribed School. His entire Pastorate was during Sister Mary Assisium's record 22-year tenure as Principal.

Monsignor Keogh's leadership continued until he retired and was named Pastor Emeritus during the summer of 1985. He was succeeded by Monsignor Joseph P. Murphy, the seventh and longest-serving Pastor of Saint Clare.

Monsignor Murphy (1985-2008)
... Engaging Lay Parishioners as Leaders

Monsignor Murphy arrived at Saint Clare after 17 years of service as Archdiocesan Chancellor for Cardinals Cooke and O'Connor. Monsignor's next 23 years at Saint Clare kept a steady focus on improving parishioners' experience of the Sacraments -- but in an era when clergy were in short supply, he increasingly succeeded by turning to the laity as Saint Clare's source of strength.

Growing numbers of faithful laypeople from throughout the community, including a great many women, began answering the call as teachers, lectors, musicians, ushers, Communion ministers, Parish Council members, and more. Parishioner Eric Rapaglia was ordained as a Priest, and two parish men were ordained as Permanent Deacons, Richard Mitchell and Nunzio Sorrentino. Many other members contributed "Time and Talent" to provide valuable Christian service, such as counseling fellow parishioners, welcoming new residents, guiding new parents, coaching young athletes and scouts, organizing social activities, maintaining the parish properties, leading prayer groups, caring for the sick and unborn, advising the unemployed, feeding the hungry, consoling the bereaved, and assisting hundreds of surviving relatives after the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. (Our Eternal Flame honors the 29 parishioners who died suddenly from the tragedy, including 11 firefighters.)

With Monsignor Murphy's encouragement, the people of Saint Clare were answering Christ's call to serve one another, as never before. Starting in 2003, the archdiocesan Safe Environment Program further assured that the parish's clergy and employees and volunteers would always be systematically screened and trained for the necessary protection of children and young people, bolstered by civil authorities.

Sister Rosemary
Saint Clare School also adapted to the times in pursuing its mission. Sister Rosemary Ward was the last nun to serve as Principal, from 1986 to 2004. Then Mrs. Jo N. Rossicone became the first Principal to join from the public school system (without religious consecration) as the Presentation Sisters retired. Science and technology aspects were greatly modernized for the 21st century, while the School maintained its strong Catholic identity. In 2008, Saint Clare received a "Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Award for Innovations in Education," one of only twelve schools nationwide. Saint Clare's educational programs also received a national "Mustard Seed Award" that year, following a national "SPICE Award" for exemplary parish use of Internet technology. Saint Clare's adopted a modern website, podcasts, email groups, office network, membership database, online payments, social media, extensive desktop publishing, all in the service of Catholic faith formation and overall parish goals.

As usual, Saint Clare's physical facilities had to be updated in response to changing needs. Thanks to the leadership of Sister Rosemary and Monsignor Murphy and the generosity of parishioners, the bursting-at-capacity School was expanded again in 1987 with a new library, computer lab, science room, and offices. The new wing was named the Hicks Center, honoring Father Hicks' remarkable 29 years of service here that ended with his fatal collapse during Mass the previous Thanksgiving.

Mrs. Rossicone
As more of the Presentation Sisters retired after decades of dedicated teaching, in 1999 the parish's under-utilized Presentation Convent was renovated into the Presentation Center. This building now provides much-needed office space and meeting rooms for the many lay ministers carrying forth the Sisters' legacy of service to Saint Clare parishioners.

Finally in 2003, when a deteriorated foundation required extensive reconstruction of the Chapel building (the old Church from 1921), the parish took the opportunity to build a finished basement. This large and flexible meeting space was designated the Faith Formation Center, and was later renamed the Murphy Center, after his well-earned retirement to become Pastor Emeritus at age 79.

Monsignor Guastella (2008- )
... Saint Clare Parish Today

When it came time to appoint Saint Clare's eighth Pastor in July 2008, Monsignor Murphy recommended and Cardinal Egan agreed to assign Monsignor Richard J. Guastella, affectionately known to all as Father Richard. Prior to his arrival at Saint Clare, Father Richard vigorously led Holy Rosary parish in South Beach for 21 years, after previous service as Archdiocesan Vocations Director and in other parishes. Reflecting the shifting demographics of the Catholic Church in metro New York, Father Richard was Saint Clare's first Italian-American Pastor, after eight decades of mostly Irish-American leadership. He was also the first dog-owner, enlivening the parish with first Max and then Benny.

Like Monsignor Murphy before him, Father Richard brought to Saint Clare's a strong emphasis on Christian faith as a foundation for everyday life, a strong pastoral commitment to active participation by the laity, and a strong business sense for managing the parish's resources wisely. Also like Monsignor Murphy, Father Richard had to shepherd the parish through an unexpected disaster, as Saint Clare's became a major distributor of information, goods and services for hundreds of neighbors severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Mrs. Signorile
Saint Clare School marked its 75th Anniversary in 2011 with events including a pair of special Masses led by Father Edmund Dobbin (Class of 1949) and Archbishop Timothy Dolan. The School continued as a model of excellence, with its former teacher Mrs. Theresa M. Signorile smoothly following Mrs. Rossicone as Principal in 2015. Archbishop Dolan returned as Cardinal in 2018 to lead a prayer service for the School and a feast-day Mass for the Religious Education program, as well as blessing the updated computer lab.

Parish life continued as a non-stop whirl of activity in Saint Clare's six major buildings and reaching out to the wider community. The annual summer Feast of Saint Clare served to highlight all of these items, along with the important enhancements that Father Richard prioritized for the safety, accessibility, comfort and appearance of the parish property. Parishioners supported these projects with more than $2 million in pledges to a "Renew and Rebuild" capital campaign during 2016-2018.

Thanks to Staten Island's post-Verrazzano population surge to a half-million, the once-tiny Mission Church of Saint Clare has grown to become the largest Catholic congregation in the Archdiocese of New York. Today the parish is the vibrant spiritual home of more than seven thousand registered families from every background, including well over a thousand students (Saint Clare School plus Religious Education), dozens of dedicated full- and part-time staff members, and hundreds of active volunteers. A typical sacramental year includes over a thousand public Masses, two hundred Baptisms, First Confessions, First Communions, Confirmations, Anointings of the Sick, Funerals, and fifty Weddings, led by an experienced Pastor and three or four additional clergy. In good times and bad, our collective efforts and prayers continue to build God's Kingdom, striving to give witness and share His love with our neighbors in the parish and throughout the world. The challenge is great, and more participation is always welcome!

Though fully engaged with modern life in America's largest city, Saint Clare's parish family appreciates the rich "small town" heritage and the milestones that have brought us to this day, a hundred generations since Jesus walked the Holy Land, and barely a hundred years since the horse-and-buggy era when Great Kills was still named after "Clare's Hill." Together now, the parish enters its second century, asking God's help to live up to the legacy of those generations who have gone before us -- in the words of our school slogan, a legacy of Faith, Service and Excellence. May our gracious God bless Saint Clare Parish as its mission continues with all of us -- from the past, to the present, and on into the future.

Most of this Parish History was taken from the commemorative journal "Saint Clare's School: Golden Jubilee 1936-1986." The original 1986 version was researched by Angela Ryan with archival assistance from Monsignor Florence Daniel Cohalan and Sister Marguerita Smith, and written by Thomas Reilly. Subsequent updates were made by Jo Rossicone and Gregg Patruno. Further suggestions are welcome.