In Jackson Heights, nearly half of the Eighty-five thousand residents classify themselves as being religious. The majority of those residents adhere to various Christian denominations, especially Catholicism which accounts for over half of the religious population in the area.
The term ‘Catholic’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘universal’ and is the world’s largest denomination of Christianity. Essential elements of the faith include belief in the Nicene Creed that states God exists as three persons: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the holiness of Church by the grace of Christ and the holy sacraments it provides, and adherence to the Bible as the word of God. The recognition of the Pope as the successor to Peter and thus the leader of the Church and interpreter of the Bible sets Catholicism apart from other Christian denominations.
To locate the Catholic presence in Jackson Heights, one must look no further than St. Joan of Arc Parish on 35th Avenue between 82nd and 83rd Streets.
- Part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
- Established in 1920 by Bishop Charles E. McDonnell who appointed Reverend Ward Meehan to be its rector.
- Ground was broken to construct the Church on the same day Joan of Arc had been canonized (declared a Saint) in Rome. Thus, St. Joan of Arc Parish in Jackson Heights became the first church in the United States named in honor of the new Saint (Caver).
- In 1921, Father Meehan bought a house on the corner of 84th Street and Northern Boulevard and established the St. Joan of Arc Parish School.
- Construction on the current Church building was finished in 1927.
- In the 1990’s, with Father McGuirl as its pastor, St. Joan of Arc was the largest congregation in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
- Today, St. Joan of Arc has expanded to include two Churches within the building (Upper and Lower levels), a meditation garden, and a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence (Caver).
- Pastor – Reverend Monsignor Otto L. Garcia
- Associate Pastors – Reverend Stephen Valdazo, Reverend Anthony Chanan, Reverend Anthony Alimnonu, Deacon Jorge Castillo
- Saturday Evenings: Upper Church 6:00pm (English) and 7:15pm (Spanish)
- Sundays: Upper Church 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:30am, 12:00pm, 1:30pm (Spanish) and 6:00pm; Lower Church 11:30am(Spanish)
- Weekdays: 7:30am, 9:00am, and 12:00pm
What makes St. Joan of Arc Special:
St. Joan of Arc Parish reflects the very diverse neighborhood it is in throughout the ranks of the Church. Whether it is the current Pastor, Reverend Monsignor Otto L. Garcia, who was born in Cuba or their congregation that was described as “very large, multi-lingual, and multinational.” One parish member noted how each week it is truly a new Pentecost with people from European, Asian, and Latin American descent all coming to worship under one roof (Simpson). To account for the diversity of its congregation, St. Joan of Arc Parish holds three Spanish masses each weekend and has a Spanish counterpart for all of its weekly Bullentins and signs in the Church.
Many churchgoers to St. Joan of Arc welcomed the recent change the Roman Catholic church underwent in the English-language translations for the missal – the text recited by the priest and congregants. One in particular felt the change would unify Catholics worldwide, that regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity and where they live, Catholics would be praying in the same way using the same language (Venugopal).
- St. Joan of Arc Parish School provides a sound Catholic education for grades Kindergarten through Eighth Grade as well as Pre-K programs for three and four year olds. TACHS preparation classes for the 2012 TACHS exam taken for admission into Catholic High Schools is also offered for those wishing to apply.
- St. Joan of Arc Youth Council is open to all children in the community and offers extracurricular activities that include basketball and soccer clinics, competitive basketball leagues, a track and field team, chess, art, and needlecraft among others.
- Day Care is provided for the younger children in the neighborhood.
- Bereavement is a program designed to promote healing through information, education, and prayerful support and encouragement. Services include a Monthly Support Group.
- Book Club takes place on a monthly basis where members share insights and perspectives on a selected book.
- NeedleCraft is a group open to beginners and experienced parishioners to learn how to create articles and share creativity with the community.
- Catholic Migration Office is a service provided by the Church for immigrants who feel as if they are not being treated fairly because of their immigrant status. It looks to protect basic workers’ rights including overtime pay, minimum wage earnings, and safe working conditions among others.
- Classical Music Concert St. Joan of Arc Parish Virtuosi cosponsor Classical Music Concerts at St. Joan of Arc Church every May along with the Jackson Heights Beautification Group (JHBG). Each year a range of quality musical performances are heard with a wine and cheese reception that follows in the Monsignor Boylan Auditorium.
- Filipino American Society of St. Joan of Arc & Irish American Association are groups within the Parish that provide residents an opportunity to interact with people of their own ethnicity.
Link to week of May 6th Bulletin
Caver, Barbara. “St. Joan of Arc Lands in America.” Examiner.com. 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 May 2012.
Simpson, Maxine. “Faith in the City Visiting Our Communities of Belief. St. Joan of Arc Parish.” Daily News [New York City] 02 Oct. 2005, Final ed., Suburban sec.:3. 02 Oct. 2005. Web. 7 May 2012.
Saint Joan of Arc Parish. Web. 13 May 2012.
Venugopal, Arun. “Catholic Worshippers Welcome Changes to Mass.” WNYC News, 27 Nov. 2011. Web. 13 May 2012.