Marking a milestone is always something special, and for the parishioners of Ridgewood’s Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, they have a hundred reasons to celebrate later this year.
The church — known among local residents by its acronym, OLMM — located at the corner of 60th Place and Bleecker Street will be celebrating its centennial on Sunday, Dec. 10, with a special 10:30 a.m. Mass offered by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. The parish’s priests and hundreds of congregations will fill the church and offer thanks for 100 years of spirituality and service in Ridgewood.
We thought this would be an appropriate time to present a very interesting letter from Peggy Virgadamo of Ridgewood, who reflected on her experiences at Miraculous Medal parish. According to Ms. Virgadamo, she and her husband received all of their sacraments there, with the exception of Baptism.
My aunt, Mary Lang Worzberger, attended the first Mass in a bar in 1917, and all of our children and I are proud OLMM graduates, educated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
Msgr. Opell was our first pastor, followed by Msgr. Ronaghan, Father McMonagle, Fr. Davis, Msgr. Schuster and our present pastor, Fr. Anthony Sansone. My husband and I received Confirmation in the “new” church in 1943, as the auditorium of the school (built in 1930) served as our church for many years.
We both played CYO sports, and my cousin was the coach of the girls’ basketball team. We attended the boys’ basketball games and dances on Sunday nights; when in high school, we attended Confraternity night each Wednesday, with religious instructions followed by a dance.
While my friends and I did not have to attend because we went to St. Barbara’s and Bishop McDonnell High School, we went every Wednesday for the dances. We were devoted members of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality, and some of us even took piano lessons in the convent.
My husband and I joined the Holy Name and Rosary Altar Societies when our oldest son started school, and I am still a member of the Rosary Altar Society almost 60 years later.
My brother in law, Nick Virgadamo, later died on the stage in the auditorium as he emceed a Holy Name presentation. His four children also graduated from OLMM, and his wife, Helen, was a girl scout leader for many years. My first cousins, Rosemary Kusk Tiefenwerth and Joseph Kusk, also graduated from OLMM, and both enjoyed the same perks we did. Joe was also a very proud altar boy.
Our children received all of their sacraments here, and were active participants as altar boys, CYO sports, the Orbits’ band and Cub Scouts. My husband taught the scouts to swim at Grover Cleveland High School’s pool, and when a tribute was planned for Mr. Fiedler for his 40 years of scouting, I did the letter-writing and my husband was the MC. I wrote John Glenn, the astronaut, inviting him to participate, as he was a former Boy Scout. We received a beautiful letter in reply which we had laminated and presented it to Mr. Fiedler at the celebration.
Father McDade, Msgr. Maurer and Msgr. Fahy were my confessors and spiritual advisers, all of whom later became close friends. Since I had gone to high school with Msgr. Maurer’s sister, he asked me to join his newly-formed Board of Directors for the first Home and School Association within the diocese. Our motto was “to educate the parents to help educate the child” and under his direction, with loyal, educated parishioners like Maureen Walthers, former Ridgewood Times publisher, and Ed Scharfenberger, father of now Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, the organization was a huge success. Maureen and I were invited to assist Msgr. Vetro in the formation of the first Diocesan Home School association, writing the by-laws and constitution while also helping local parishes develop their chapters.
Our parish priests were there for us in good times and in bad ones, and we were/are fortunate to have the “cream of the crop” who helped/help us through the many challenges of life. I still find myself quoting some of the words of wisdom each one shared with me.
I am loaded with gratitude and so very proud to be a lifetime member of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. May Our Lady continue to have her Son bless each of us as we journey along the path of life to our final destination. Multos Annos!
We thank Ms. Virgadamo for her recollections. Let’s expound on some of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal’s history.
The church was officially established on May 8, 1917 by Bishop Charles McDonnell, who appointed Father John J. Oppell to create a parish serving the Ridgewood and Maspeth area. He secured temporary quarters on the bottom floor of 61-09 Ralph St. (now Menahan Street) and worked to find a temporary site to celebrate Mass.
After considering multiple sites including a firehouse and even a movie theater, he settled upon the Montauk Hall dance venue located at Metropolitan Avenue and John Street. The parish was officially incorporated in June of 1917.
The Miraculous Medal itself was designed by St. Catherine Labouré after an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rue du Bac, Paris, France in 1830. The front of the elliptical medal shows the Virgin Mary with the prayer, “O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”
The first OLMM Church was completed the following summer, a red-brick house of worship with a capacity of 500 persons. The parish used part of the church as a foundation to erect the parish school in 1928. Church services were then relocated to the school’s auditorium.
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur arrived in Ridgewood on Sept. 3, 1929. They were originally housed on the fourth-floor of the school building. OLMM School opened in September 1929 with 581 pupils. Four years later, the sisters relocated to their new convent on 60th Place.
The present incarnation of OLMM Church took 24 years of work and planning before the cornerstone was laid in November 1941. One year later, the new church — constructed in the Transitional Romanesque style of architecture — was dedicated on Nov. 28, 1942.
Soon after Msgr. Oppel died, Msgr. Sylvester Ronaghan took the reins of OLMM Parish in 1953. He helped lead the construction of a new wing on the school building in 1962.
Sadly, changing times led to a drop in enrollment at OLMM School. As part of a diocesan consolidation program, in 2009, OLMM School partnered with St. Aloysius School to form Notre Dame Catholic Academy of Ridgewood, which continues to this day to educate young minds at the Bleecker Street schoolhouse.
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