Eighty years ago, a group of dedicated Catholics living in Holbrook set out to establish a Catholic church in their hamlet. Without a nearby church, they formed a bus committee in 1935 to raise funds to transport children to religion classes at St. Joseph’s in Ronkonkoma, and to provide transportation for adults who had no other means of getting to Mass.
In 1948 the Catholic Society of Holbrook (CSH) was established. The CSH repeatedly petitioned the Bishop of Brooklyn for a church, and as a result, the Bishop formed a mission of St. Joseph’s parish in Holbrook. Father Francis Liller of St. Joseph’s celebrated Mass on Sundays during the summer at the Civic Hall on Grundy Avenue.
The CSH raised enough money to purchase six acres with the intention of deeding the land to the Diocese of Brooklyn for the purpose of building a church. After fifteen years of effort and many letters to the Diocese of Brooklyn, the CSH deeded the land to the newly-formed Diocese of Rockville Centre in 1964. From 1948 to 1964, the number of Catholic families in Holbrook doubled.
On June 24, 1970, the Diocese officially established the parish with Father Ronald Barry as pastor and Father Jack Moore as his associate. From the beginning, Father Barry expressed his belief that “the people are the church.” In an unprecedented manner, a vote by the people named the new parish the Church of the Good Shepherd.
It was SRO – Standing Room Only – at the Parish Center as the population of Holbrook kept growing.
In the first eleven years, the Diocese assigned and transferred five pastors and eight associate priests. The Parish experienced financial troubles and struggled with differing visions. Tragically, two fires in 1981 and 1982 destroyed both the Parish Center and the attached residence.
Father Thomas Spadaro arrived four days after the second fire. He calmed the fears and united the people for a common cause ... building a new house of worship for the people and a new residence for the priests. Four years of careful planning and vigorous fund-raising accomplished the goal.
Monsignor Thomas Spadaro served the people of Good Shepherd Parish as pastor for 31 years. When he retired, the parish community had grown to 4059 families. On June 26, 2013, Monsignor Gerard Ringenback and Father Aloysius Melly arrived at Good Shepherd. Father Jerry’s installation as the sixth pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd took place on Sunday, October 20, 2013.
Msgr. Gerard A. Ringenback installed as Pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd October 20, 2013 with Deacon John C. Newall, Father Aloysius Melly, Deacon Edward Tappin, Deacon Thomas O’Connor, Msgr. Gerard A. Ringenback, Father Jerry DiSpigno, Msgr. Thomas L. Spadaro, Father Gerald Cestare, Father John Rufus
Good Shepherd’s History Committee had their first meeting in May, 2012 for the purpose of documenting parish history from its earliest days to the present. Its first task was to create a comprehensive volume that covers the history of the Good Shepherd Parish dating back to the 1930s. The book, The History of Good Shepherd 1930s to 2013, was presented to Monsignor Thomas L. Spadaro in June, 2013, on the occasion of his retirement as Pastor. Copies are currently available on Amazon (click here to order).
The members of the History Committee were: Helen D’Agostino, Frank Funicelli, Georgiana Hadden, Ron and Karen Mincio, Dottie and John Priest, Eileen Schlee, Judy Schellberg, Terry Sexton (Chair) and Joanne Sprague.