Parish History

History of St. Bartholomew Parish

Early Foundations: 1904-1906

Elmhurst Baptist Church as it stands today, which served as a worship site for St. Bartholomew’s from 1906 to 1910

St. Bartholomew Parish was founded in 1906, but the history of Catholicism in Elmhurst began in 1904 when a committee appealed to Bishop Charles McDonnell, the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, to consider the establishment of a parish in Elmhurst. The request was granted, and the first Mass was celebrated in April 1904 at the Alvin Republican Club at the corner of Whitney Ave. and 88 St. This site soon proved to be inadequate, and celebration of the Mass moved to the Elmhurst Baptist Church in 1906, across the street from the present parish property.

 

From the Chapel to the Main Church: 1906-1930

In March 1906, the diocese appointed Fr. Jeremiah Heafey as the first pastor of St. Bartholomew’s Church. By October of that year, the basement of the present chapel on Ithaca St. was completed (the present Heafey Hall), and Mass was held there until the upper church was completed in 1910. The Ithaca St. church was officially dedicated on April 30, 1911.

The Ithaca St. Chapel in its early years

Fr. Heafey passed away in March 1914 and was succeeded by Fr. William O’Hara, who purchased the remaining open land on the block where St. Bartholomew’s presently stands.

Fr. O’Hara passed away in February 1916, and Fr. Francis Uleau was appointed pastor. During his pastorate, the number of families in the parish grew to about 2000. Growth of the parish and surrounding neighborhood was aided by the beginning of subway service along Roosevelt Ave. in 1917. 

With the permission of the Diocese, a new school and convent were constructed in 1923, with the school opening in September 1924. The school was operated by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville. 

The main church on Whitney Ave. in its early years

With the massive growth taking place in Elmhurst, the Ithaca St. church and basement could not accommodate the number of parishioners. Under Fr. Uleau’s oversight, a new church was built on Whitney Ave. The church was dedicated on October 30, 1930 by Bishop Thomas Molloy, the 3rd Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn. 

 

Continued Growth and Dedication to Education: 1930-1966

As a recognition of his outstanding efforts, Fr. Uleau was given the honorary title of “Monsignor” in 1934. Msgr. Uleau passed away in 1943, but his mark was left on the parish, having constructed the main church on Whitney Ave. as well as the original school and convent. 

The original St. Bartholomew Catholic School building, which currently stands as St. Bartholomew Catholic Academy

Msgr. Uleau was succeeded by Fr. Daniel Dwyer. Fr. Dwyer shared Msgr. Uleau’s deep concern for the education of the youth of the parish. In 1956, under the supervision of Fr. Dwyer, a separate boy’s school was established at St. Bartholomew’s, operated by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn. 

Both the boys school operated by the Franciscan Brothers and the girls school operated by the Dominican nuns provided a quality education for the Elmhurst community as well as many opportunities for extracurricular activities for both elementary and high school students. In addition to the numerous extracurricular activities, a youth center was established for the teenagers of the parish.

 

Vatican II and the Development of a “Melting Pot of Cultures”: 1966-2011

The 1960s saw immense changes in the Catholic Church and in the Elmhurst community. The Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II (1962-1965) brought in many changes to the structure of the Church, including liturgical changes and increased opportunities for lay participation in the life of the Church. 

Like his predecessor, Fr. Dwyer was bestowed the title of “Monsignor” for his many dedicated years of service to the Church. He would go on to retire from being pastor of St. Bartholomew’s in 1966.

Msgr. Dwyer was succeeded by Msgr. Thomas Little. It was Msgr. Little’s responsibility to oversee many of the changes that Vatican II ushered in. In addition to the changes that Vatican II brought to the parish, Msgr. Little also started apostolates to the Hispanic and Haitian communities. 

The interior of the main church in 1981

In 1974, Msgr. Little was followed by Fr. James Gotimer as pastor of St. Bartholomew’s. Under Fr. (later Msgr.) Gotimer, outreach to the many ethnic communities of Elmhurst continued to grow. At the start of the 1980s, parishioners of St. Bartholomew’s represented 28 different ethnic and national origins with one New York City newspaper calling the parish a “melting pot of cultures.” Msgr. Gotimer was assisted in his outreach to the different ethnic communities by many dedicated parochial vicars and other assisting priests over the years. These efforts would only continue under the watch of Msgr. Gotimer’s successor, Fr. Joseph Hoffman, who became pastor in 1998.

Likewise, extensive outreach to the youth of Elmhurst continued. Though St. Bartholomew School would consolidate from a boys school and a girls school eventually into the one original school building at 44-15 Judge St., a mix of Dominican nuns and dedicated lay faculty continued to provide quality Catholic education to the Elmhurst community. Meanwhile, the religious education program continued to provide catechesis to numerous Catholic public school students in the parish.

What was once considered to be “country,” even into the 1940s, had now transformed into the center of Queens, both geographically and in activity. Queens Place Mall was opened along Queens Blvd. in 1965 and Queens Center Mall was opened in 1973. Both Broadway and Roosevelt Ave. had become major commercial thoroughfares in Queens. Lying in between these major commercial thoroughfares stands St. Bartholomew Parish.

 

“A Communion of Cultures – A Communion of Saints”: 2011-Present

The interior of the main church in 2014

In 2011, Fr. Joseph Hoffman was succeeded by Fr. Rick Beuther as pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish. The efforts of reaching out to the different ethnic communities of the parish that had occurred going back to the 1960s only continued to expand during Fr. Beuther’s tenure. During Fr. Beuther’s tenure as pastor, Mass was held at various points in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog, Indonesian, Burmese, Bengali, and French. Like Fr. Hoffman and Msgr. Gotimer, Fr. Beuther was also assisted in his outreach by many dedicated parochial vicars and visiting priests who assisted on the weekends.

Many faithful parishioners filled the pews on the Feast of St. Bartholomew in 2018 to see the new renovations.

As outreach to the Elmhurst community only continued to expand, the realities of maintaining the worship spaces for the parishioners became a forefront concern. Over the years, both the chapel and the main church have undergone several renovations. Under Fr. Beuther’s watch, the main church was renovated to include air-conditioning, a new roof, and a newly re-painted interior. This newly renovated church was completed in time for the 2018 celebration of the Feast of St. Bartholomew, which has become a central activity on the parish calendar each year and an opportunity to bring together the many different cultures of the parish under one roof. 

During Fr. Beuther’s time, St. Bartholomew’s adopted the slogan “A Communion of Cultures – A Communion of Saints.” This slogan would be particularly evident at major parish celebrations such as the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Holy Week, Confirmations, and First Communions. It was also this sense of communion and community that helped the parish persevere during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic as the parish lost 80+ members and found itself and the surrounding Elmhurst neighborhood at the center of the pandemic.

In 2023, after 12 dedicated years as pastor of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, Fr. Beuther was transferred to become pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Fr. Luis Laverde was appointed to be the new pastor of St. Bartholomew’s. 

First Chinese Mass held at St. Bartholomew’s in 2018

At the present moment, St. Bartholomew’s, affectionately known to many as “St. Barts,” maintains its long-held reputation of extensive outreach to people of many different ethnic backgrounds and ages. Mass is held each weekend in three languages: English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. In addition, Mass is held once a month each in Tagalog, Indonesian, and Burmese. Even beyond the communities that Mass is held for, people from many other different ethnic backgrounds and language groups find a home in St. Bartholomew. Furthermore, St. Bartholomew’s continues its extensive youth outreach through its Catholic school (now called “St. Bartholomew Catholic Academy”), youth group (called “Faith and Sports”), altar servers, and different art and cultural programs offered to the youth, especially through The Belfry Center for Arts and Spirituality run by the Preachers of Christ and Mary religious order.

We give thanks for all the many blessings that God has poured upon St. Bartholomew’s Parish, and we look forward to the blessings that are to come as we continue to move forward as a communion of cultures and a communion of saints!

Easter Vigil 2023 at St. Barts