Our Parish - Its History

Then and Now

Over 100 Years as a Faith Community

For more than 100 years, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Catherine of Sienna has served as the spiritual heart of Franklin Square.  Generations of families have been baptized, confirmed and married; and untold thousands have received their First Holy Communion at our parish altar.  A small town of immigrants with strong faith not only built a town, but together created a faith community that has grown stronger and larger for generations.

Yesteryear & Humble Beginnings
The story of our parish begins in the 1850’s when German immigrant farm families settled in Franklin Square and Elmont.  As the majority of families were devout Catholics, the organization of a church by this community was not surprising. 

By 1908, the local people tired of traveling to Elmont and Hempstead for Sunday Mass, arranged for the first Holy Mass to be celebrated in Franklin Square on Sunday, July 5, 1908; it was held in the Kinsey Homestead, which would later become the Krauss Funeral Home.  For the next five years every Sunday a priest came from the neighboring town of Hempstead to celebrate Sunday morning Mass at 10:00AM. 

On donated land that was originally a field of flowers became the parish complex.  It was there the first wood framed church - the Saint Catherine of Sienna Chapel - was built.  The parish complex grew as more families became part of the parish through the years.  By 1913, the faith community of Saint Catherine of Sienna had grown sufficiently to qualify for a full-time priest and was elevated to parish status by canon law within the Diocese of Brooklyn.  It began with four men and their wives, all named Catherine, which many believe the name of the parish was so inspired.  A parish community of eleven families started four ministry groups – Altar Servers for boys, Society for men, women and girls.  The first pastor to serve this new faith community was Rev. Tobias Farrenkopf; and soon there would be a new rectory.   The parish complex grew due to need of more worship and meeting space and more families became part of the parish through the years.

In 1917 the parish entered a new era!  Rev. Conrad Lutz was the new pastor and the parish grew in people and with new building and property.  In 1920 there was a Parish Hall to meet the need of expanded ministry.  In 1925 a new stone church was erected that would accommodate many more people with vision of future growth to come.  That church still stands today with it's steeple overlooking the town; and the carillon of bells calling attention to the heart of our faith for the townspeople everyday!

Through the Years & Growing Through Change
The sacramental and spiritual life of our parish impacted many lives in yesteryear and continued to be a strong and integral part of our faith community during the 1930's and 1940's. 

And then as Long Island flourished the need for Catholic Parochial Schools came to be.  By 1956 the building of the Saint Catherine of Sienna Elementary School that served children from first grade through eighth grade was completed.  And with the school a need for a convent to house the consecrated religious women of Saint Dominic, O.P.

With continued growth of Catholicism across Long Island the need to reach out more directly to the peoples of Nassau and Suffolk Countries became a more clear vision. In 1957 our parish became part of the newly established Diocese of Rockville Centre. 

In 2004 the school and church were physcially connected by a parish "center".  Today from the Saint Catherine of Sienna R.C. Church one is led into the Msgr. Thomas W. Groenewold Memorial Sienna Center, blessed in 2008 by Most Rev. William Murphy, on the 100th Anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in Franklin Square.  With the Saint Catherine of Sienna Chapel at its center, the handicap accessible building now connects to the Parish Activity Complex (formerly the parish school) which has had classrooms filled with children attending religious education, an auditorium/gymansium for shows, plays, sports and the Faith Formation Office, the Parish Office, Welcome Desk and more. 

The original rectory still stands as the residence of our parish priests since prior to 1918; and was home for 9 former pastors and over 30+ associate pastors.  And now home to our current pastor and priests. As the parish complex expanded so did need for parish priests grow.  At one time there was one pastor and a total of four associate priests with a resident priest and/or summer visiting priest for a few years.  The rectory was refurbished a few times to make room for a visiting priest that may visit during the summer months.  It has change to some degree over the years from having a front porch enclosed to house a small Parish Office and Pastor's own office.  One can also see the spirituality of the grounds surrounding the bulding which includes the special alcove of the Blessed Mother Mary in front; a replica of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Our Lady of Guadelupe and more which are all special places for prayer.  

Originally a convent for the Sisters of Saint Dominic that taught in our elementary school, the former convent now has a multi-purpose with a separate handicap accessible entrance at the east end of the building to our Parish Social Ministry-Outreach Office.  Outreach is equipped with small confidential meeting space, office space and our Outreach Food Pantry.  A place that serves hundreds of people, families and individuals, with needs.  Another handicap accessible entrance is located at the west end of the building leading one to our Adoration Chapel for perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Based on the seasons, weather and CoVid19 there are changes in schedules but hundreds continue to visit and pray in silence in the Real Presence of Christ.  The center of the building houses an organization that assists women and children in need of temporary housing.

Today & Moving Forward
Today we are guided by one pastor and two associate pastors.  While there are fewer priests within the diocese we do have visiting priests during the summer.  Our parish has had Deacons that also serve today and in the past.  Currently two are serving our faith community, Deacon Joseph Bennicasa and Deacon Frank Gonzalez.  In addition, the need for more assistance includes lay leadership provided by the Pastoral Staff Team in Business Administration, Faith Formation, Social Outreach and Music MInistry along with volunteer leadership of our Parish Trustees, Finance Committee and Pastoral Council.   

Today we have over 4,895 households/families in our parish-wide family composed of residents in Franklin Square and surrounding towns.  We are a Faith Community serving God by serving others through the many good works of mercy and ministry offered within our parish.  In addition to the celebration of the Eucharist - the Mass - our work in parish ministry encompasses liturgy and prayer, outreach to those in need, preparation for sacraments, family activities for various ages and a variety of spiritual and social activities and events – all part of the spirituality of parish life. 

The core of any Catholic Church and parish is centered on the celebration of the Eucharist – the Mass.  Today nearly 150 volunteer lay liturgical ministers serve the Lord through their serving and participation before, during and after weekday and weekend Masses; and bringing Holy Communion to those in senior and assisted living residences, local hospitals and to parishioners that are homebound.  The parish hosts a Parish Mission/Retreat annually with special activities during the Seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter -- all are welcome!

Saint Catherine of Sienna Faith Community has deep commitment to prayer through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  We have a Perpetual Adoration Chapel with opportunity for prayer in the Real Presence of Christ for 24 hours a day; however, schedule has changed due to CoVid19.. There are also special liturgical events with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction in our Church and Saint Catherine of Sienna Chapel throughout the year. In addition, Prayer-Devotion-Scripture Study and faith sharing groups meet regularly under the leadership of lay ministry leaders.  And, a team of faithful ministry  volunteers assist in our ‘In-Home’ Parish Prayer Program.  This initiative includes a ‘Cup of Prayer’ focused on daily prayer in the home praying for vocations to the priesthood and the ‘Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima’ focused on daily recitation of the Rosary and family prayer; both travel separately on a weekly basis to different homes with the parish.  

Our Faith Formation continues to grow as we serve nearly 1,000 children annually traditionally in classrooms Mondays thru Thursdays; and designed a new blended program with virtual classrooms to meet the challenges during the Coronavirus.  We support adults in their formation through a variety of programs such as Mary Matters, Faith Conversations for Parents, and Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  We also have adults serving those preparing for their sacraments including baptism preparation classes for parents of children they wish to be baptized andPre-Cana for those to be married.

Our parish ministry touches thousands including senior citizens, parents, married without children, singles, young adults, teens and children through a wide variety of parish social family style events.  We had hosted an annual festival for over three decades and many may remember the famous 'Dancing Giglio' of the Sons of San Paolino.  Music, dinner and dancing was heard and seen at Carnevale for the beginning of Lent.  Volunteers in  our parish social ministry reach out to those with special needs, those in need of assistance and help many in our local community through our parish food pantry.  We have an active youth ministry for children, teens and young adults served through a variety of programs  such as our Youth Ministry and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sports programs including basketball and volleyball under the guise of volunteer adult sport leaders.

Our parish social life has spiritual roots and brings families, friends and neighbors together throughout the year with the Community-Wide Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Service and other parish-wide family and community oriented activities.

Much may have changed through the years -- the buildings may be a bit different,  the leadership may consist of new faces, the people are more diversified in culture and ethnicity; but one thing remains the same -- the parish of Saint Catherine of Sienna is still an active, vibrant and essential part of the community with THE EUCHARIST at its center, the source and summit of life.