St. Joan of Arc Church
In the early 20th century, with the completion of the Queensboro Bridge, Queens' farms were being transformed from farms to housing. As the population increased, Catholics were among those who moved to the newly formed Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights. Devout and desiring their own church, these Catholics petitioned the Diocese of Brooklyn to form a new parish and began a search for a suitable site on which to build a church. Bishop Charles E. McDonnell approved the petition effective as of June 1, 1920, and a founding pastor was chosen, Father Ward G. Meehan.
Father Meehan had just returned from service in World War I where he had been Chaplain to the 60th Infantry. This soldier-priest had seen action in many battles in France, including the Battle of Verdun. He had also served as Commander of the Chaplains' School in Le Mans where he received a service citation from Colonel Bertram P. Johnson, Commanding Officer of the 60th Infantry.
After the signing of the Armistice with Germany, Captain Meehan returned to the U.S. and served as Assistant Port Chaplain at Hoboken. He resigned his commission in 1919 and was appointed Administrator of Saint Bartholomew Parish in Elmhurst. It was while serving there, that he was named founding pastor of the newly formed parish of St. Joan of Arc Church.
Needing a church Father Meehan began organizing his "troops." Committees were formed, and it was decided that a prefabricated portable church would best suit the short term parish needs. Executives of the Queensboro Corporation donated several lots, and plans for the new church were put into action.
The Missing Church
According to a New York Times article of Monday, August 23, 1920, "PRIEST REJOICES;FINDS LOST CHURCH," Father Meehan had addressed the congregation the day prior and announced that the temporary church, that had been purchased for $20,000 from a Chicago builder, had been found.
According to the Times story, the church parts had been missing for more than a month. In as frantic search for the missing church, Father Meehan's search had found evidence that church parts had had passed through Cleveland and Buffalo. And on Sunday the 23rd he reported to the congregation that most of the parts had been located in an Elmhurst rail yard. Hallelujah!
The church was used for the first time on August 15, 1920, to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. According to the Times, the parish was officially organized "coincidentally with the beatification of the Maid of Orleans" (as Saint Joan is known). This timing conflicts with the Wikipedia account which has the canonization as the coincident event.
Saint Joan of Arc was officially established on Sunday, June 5, 1920 when a first Mass was celebrated at the Casino, the use of which was made possible by Edward A. MacDougall, President of the Queensboro Corporation.
The new building was intended to be temporary, and it was expected that a permanent church—modeled after the Gothic cathedral at Nancy - where St. Joan is the patron saint — would be erected on the same site within five years "at a cost to exceed $250,000."
But it was not until 1949 that construction began to complete the Upper Church of the present building, a brick structure with limestone trimming that is in an Italianate style. The first service in the completed church was celebrated with a solemn high midnight mass on Christmas Eve, 1950.
Today, Saint Joan of Arc Church is the largest Roman Catholic church in Jackson Heights.
The Church offers a variety of services to neighborhood residents.
- St. Joan of Arc Parish School provides a sound Catholic education for grades Kindergarten through Eighth Grade as well as Pre-K programs for three and four year olds. * TACHS preparation classes for the 2012 TACHS exam taken for admission into Catholic High Schools is also offered for those wishing to apply.
- St. Joan of Arc Youth Council is open to all children in the community and offers extracurricular activities that include basketball and soccer clinics, competitive basketball leagues, a track and field team, chess, art, and needlecraft among others.
- Day Care is provided for the younger children in the neighborhood.
- Bereavement is a program designed to promote healing through information, education, and prayerful support and encouragement. Services include a Monthly Support Group.
- Book Club takes place on a monthly basis where members share insights and perspectives on a selected book.
- NeedleCraft is a group open to beginners and experienced parishioners to learn how to create articles and share creativity with the community.
- Catholic Migration Office is a service provided by the Church for immigrants who feel as if they are not being treated fairly because of their immigrant status. It looks to protect basic workers’ rights including overtime pay, minimum wage earnings, and safe working conditions among others.
- Classical Music Concert St. Joan of Arc Parish Virtuosi cosponsor Classical Music Concerts at St. Joan of Arc Church every May along with the Jackson Heights Beautification Group (JHBG). Each year a range of quality musical performances are heard with a wine and cheese reception that follows in the Monsignor Boylan Auditorium.
- Filipino American Society of St. Joan of Arc & Irish American Association are groups within the Parish that provide residents an opportunity to interact with people of their own ethnicity.