St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Astoria, began as the dream of Reverend Joseph C. Schaeffner, a priest at nearby St. Joseph’s parish, who realized the need for another parish to the north. In the midst of the Great Depression, he was miraculously able to obtain permission to begin building St. Francis of Assisi Church in October of 1930. Prior to the church’s completion, Father Schaeffner said Masses for approximately five hundred faithful in the Continental Hall on Steinway Street.
The Parish celebrated its first baptism on November 26, 1930, and by December, a Rosary Society, Holy Name Society, and a Sodality of the Blessed Virgin were established. By September 1931, Sunday school classes for students of public schools began. On Labor Day 1931, Bishop Molloy dedicated the upper church.
In August, 1949, two decades after the church’s dedication, construction on St. Francis of Assisi School began. ABishop Molloy dedicated the school and convent housing the Sisters of Saint Dominic on February 13,1951.
Father Schaeffner, elevated to monsignor, was appointed the first pastor and served until his retirement in 1966. He died in 1969, and the chapel in the rear of the church was dedicated to him in commemoration of his achievements.
Father Daniel A. Gilroy followed Monsignor Schaeffner as pastor until October 1971 when Father Thomas P. Campbell, later appointed Monsignor, became pastor. Msgr. Campbell served faithfully until his retirement in 1992 and remained an active part of parish life even in his retirement. Bishop Thomas Daily appointed Father Leonard Badia as pastor following Msgr. Campbell. Father Badia was replaced by Fr. Emilio Salerno in 1998. In 2005, Fr. Salerno retired.
Our current pastor, Monsignor Ralph J. Maresca, former secretary to Bishop Daily, was appointed on February 2, 2005 and continues his role today as good shepherd to the people of the Astoria area. Bishop DiMarzio has reappointed Msgr. Maresca in February 2013 for another six year term as our Pastor.
Since its founding, laypeople of St. Francis have actively participated to make parish life more rich and meaningful. Lay involvement, from assisting in ministries to forming and continuing societies, has significantly contributed to our parish’s warm and welcoming spirit. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless us!