A Brief History of Saint Mary’s Church, East Islip, New York
Founded July 1, 1898, by Bishop John Loughlin, the First Pastor being Rev. Edward Duffy
The history of the parish pre-dates the establishment of the parish. In 1840 the area Catholics were served by several priests from Brooklyn. In 1853 Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Brooklyn, comprising the four counties of Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk. The Diocese of Rockville Centre was created in May 1957, comprising Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
In 1879, the Catholics of the area purchased the old Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church at the cost of $510 and moved it down the road to where it sits today as Sacred Heart Hall.
At the parish’s establishment, the congregation numbered about 200 people.
The parish served a mixture of people from Europe. They were Germans, English, Irish, Czechs, Italians, Slavs, and some French.
On March 25, 1901, the ground was broken for a new church. It was completed in the summer of 1902 at the cost of $15,000. The church held 500 people.
On August 29, 1914, four School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Provence, arrived to staff the new Saint Mary School. The school opened with 160 students. By 1950 there were 387 students. In 1951, Rev. Thomas Code (Fourth Pastor) began to plan for a new school. A good move because by 1959, the student population numbered 845.
In 1961, the parish could boast 2,700 Catholic families and a school of 1000 children. There were also 1,000 children in Faith Formation.
In the 1960s people began to leave the city for the country. To serve the faithful moving to the area, there were 15 Sunday Masses celebrated weekly. This migration also required plans for an expansion of the school.
By 1981the whole Catholic Church was changing. The Constitutions and Encyclicals promulgated by the Second Vatican were in full swing. Msgr. Peter Chiara pastored the parish into creating new programs and ministries. Hundreds of people accepted the call to serve the Church.
On June 29, 1997, Bishop McGann came to rededicate a newly renovated church. The church building had seen a few moments of redecorating, but the 1997 renovation addressed the need for air conditioning, sound systems, lighting, and paint.
The renovation was completed in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish the following year.
Rev. Donald Babinski and the members of the Finance Committee, with the support of generous parishioners, brought the parish out of financial ruin while addressing much-needed repairs and renovations many of the buildings desperately needed.
On July 1, 2020, on the 122nd Anniversary of Saint Mary’s parish, Rev. Anthony Iaconis became the fourteenth pastor while retaining the pastorate of Saint Peter the Apostle, Islip Terrace. Along with some other parishes, the diocese began the Shared Pastorate system.
Over the last 125 years, the parish has been blessed with numerous priests, religious sisters, and lay volunteers. We have over 6500 registered families, 400 students in the school, more than 150 ministers, and about 120 employees.
There have also been several vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life from the parish over the years.
The work of the Lord continues in our parish community. The end of the Gospel of John says it best, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written (21:25).”