Piece of Papal History at Queens Church

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Canonization, Faith, Pope John Paul II, Queens, NY

by Katie Vasquez

LONG ISLAND CITY — Along Vernon Boulevard sits St. Mary Church, a beacon above the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the permanent home of a piece of papal history.

“It’s so humbling to know that I actually sit in front of a historical piece for the Catholic Church,” said St. Mary parishioner, Chris Obcena.

In 1995, Pope St. John Paul II visited the Diocese of Brooklyn, and celebrated a Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack for thousands of faithful.

D’Ambrosio Ecclesiastical Art studios was hired to construct a special altar for the occasion, but rather than keep it in storage, the company’s owner decided to repurpose it.

“He knew this setting would be perfect for this,” said Father Christopher Turczany, the pastor of St Mary Church. “He wanted to not have it stored, but used and he knew it would fit.”

The same altar, part of which was once touched by the popular pope saint, now serves the body of Christ every day at St. Mary Church in Long Island City. A smaller altar that supports the tabernacle and the baptismal font were also fashioned from the altar used at Aqueduct.

Father Turczany says being able to celebrate the Mass with this connection to Pope St. John Paul II, has been a highlight of his priesthood.

“I was an avid follower of him,” said Father Turczany.

As the global Church prepares to celebrate 10 years since his canonization, parishioners are proud to say their spiritual home has a connection to the beloved pope.

“We’re that much closer to God. And I think that’s part of the reason why the saints’ lives are just so interesting personally for me, where they go through so much human suffering but internally they don’t realize they’re going through this metamorphosis or transformation of being holy,” said Obcena.

If you want to also commemorate Pope St. John Paul II’s canonization this weekend, just come to St. Mary Church, where you can not only see these pieces, but this plaque recognizing this important piece of papal history.