Major Church Repairs 2020

Fr. Francis Passenant is keeping us informed on the status of the church repairs, keeping an eye on the work and on his iPad to document progress. Follow along here for his updates and pictures.

Highlights of the Restoration Project 2020
Church interior now glows—The most notable highlights of the 2020 major repairs: (1) Interior walls cleaned and new track lights across each upper set of windows illuminate the nave of the church; extra recessed lights further brighten the bays of the side aisles. (2) Paint removed and stripped and the entire floor sealed and polished, and in the aisles, the slate stone restored to its unique shade and patina. (3) New lighter weight (and quieter) pew kneelers replace the originals that were worn and too expensive to repair.

(Report #13 – September 8, 2020)

There was a crooner  who sang, “And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain….” In our case, we have only to wait for the final installation of the confessional curtains to complete the Restoration Project of 2020, making this our last report.

The major repair projects—namely, the lighting, the floor restoration, the wall restoration, and the kneelers—are complete. We made improvements to the main reredos, the Stations of the Cross, and the reconciliation rooms. We installed the medallions with various insignias to finally grace the space made for them when the church was first built. The brass gates in front of the side altars are being cleaned and buffed and will be put back in the next few weeks.

Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to “demonstrate” the enhanced lighting at Mass. You can rewatch the recorded 5 p.m. Mass from the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time at our OLQM Stewardship YouTube channel.

We have enumerated a few gifts and/or memorials available for individual sponsorship, which will help to fund some of the smaller remaining restoration projects. We thank you for your consideration and generosity.

2020 Church Restoration Memorials Are Available

Your support has allowed us to complete these projects and restore our sacred space so that we and future generations can gather here to worship. For our parish feast day, observed at Mass today and on Tuesday, September 15 (Our Lady of Sorrows), we have embraced, like our ancestors who sacrificed and built these beautiful structures, the task of repairing and extending their usefulness for the “Honor and Glory of God under the title of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs.”

Restored nave with new lighting, clean floors, and new kneelers
We returned to the church for worship services on August 15, 2020 at noon in our restored nave.

(Report #12 – September 1, 2020)

Our Lady Queen of Martyrs flourished in 1912 when Catholics here in Forest Hills gathered for the first Sunday Mass at their new parish. They were tested when the first wood-framed chapel was destroyed by fire in 1929. Then, in the midst of the Great Depression, the parish’s founding pastor, Father Joseph McLaughlin, with the support of his congregation, launched a plan to construct a new church building and rectory. Those early congregants made gifts and memorials to Father McLaughlin’s building fund to create this house of worship we cherish today.

As our 108-year-old parish prepares to celebrate its Parish Feast Day this month of September (on September 15, Our Lady of Sorrows), we are calling on our faithful parishioners to honor the memory of those early congregants and imitate their sacrifice—in the face of similar economic challenges—and make a gift or memorial to help us finish our major renovation. The improvements being undertaken today will preserve this beautiful church for future generations.

The major projects of the 2020 restoration program at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs were covered by past financial contributions, as explained in the weekly bulletin reports these past weeks. As the project has progressed, other needs and details were added not included in the original case statements. We are offering these undertakings, as available, for individual Gifts and/or Memorials. (Click here for the list of 2020 Church Restoration Memorials.)

The week of August 31, work began on cleaning the walls in the choir loft.


(Report #11 – AUGUST 25, 2020)

Last week ended with a cliff-hanger. What are those elements that have been overlooked?

The decoration of the medallions, which appear over the rear side doors to the vestibule on Ascan Avenue as you exit, and the decoration of the three shields above the side door leading to Queens Boulevard—these details inside the church were never addressed by previous administrations.

Today’s pictures show the newly decorated medallions over the rear side doors. They are the “coat of arms,” the symbolic emblems or crests, of the Holy See, presently occupied by Pope Francis, and the other the emblem of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Since St. Joseph is honored as the patron of the Universal Church, the papal decoration was placed over the rear door facing the St. Joseph altar and the diocesan emblem was placed above the rear door facing the Marian altar,
as the Blessed Mary is honored as the patroness of the Diocese of Brooklyn under her title of “The Immaculate Conception.”

The three shields over the ramp exit door to Queens Boulevard show the coat of arms of our diocesan bishop, Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, D. D., and that of our pastor, Most Rev. Paul R. Sanchez, D. D. (Read more about Bishop Sanchez’s personal coat of arms.) The medallion above them has been left blank awaiting the appointment of our new bishop since Bishop DiMarzio has reached the mandatory retirement age.

Newly Painted Decorations above Church Interior Doors

(Report #10 – AUGUST 18, 2020)

The church reopened last Saturday, August 15, for the Feast of the Assumption. It was fitting that the first Mass celebrated after the mandated cancellation of public worship because of the pandemic—coupled with the planned renovation of our church interior over nine weeks—be celebrated on a holyday honoring our patroness, the Blessed Mother.

The final major restoration and repair projects are nearly complete, with attention now turned to the final details. Those details include the refinishing of the brass gates in front of the side altars as well as refurbishing the holy water fonts at the entrances. The new curtains on the Queens Blvd. confessionals as well as some other fine-tuning are in the works.

Our pictures this week show the crew preparing to install the new kneelers, which are lighter and more comfortable than the ones replaced. The team took four days to finish their work on this major piece of the 2020 restoration program. The wall restoration project is also in its final stages; the new lighting shows the beauty of that project.

The pictured outside work—namely, the resumption of the cement project on 72nd Road and work on the pointing of the exterior steps of the church—continues. The weather is always a factor when dealing with outdoor projects. When a major undertaking like this occurs it is always an opportunity to enhance some feature that was left unaddressed by previous repair programs. So the work continues.

Update 8/15/20: Daily Masses will remain in the Convent Chapel until further notice.


upper nave wall restoration
The upper nave wall restoration underway.
Photo Gallery and Acknowledgments to the Workers

(1) Edwardo, Omar (Supervisor), and Antonio; (2) Omar and Antonio look at diagram of the church for kneeler placement; (3) new kneelers; (4) the ramp step joints cleaned for water sealing and caulking; (5) the driveway into the schoolyard with new cement drying; (6) more cement work; (7) Pat Crowe and his team are watching cement dry; (8) Shakir and Hector taking a break from the church step sealing and caulking project.

(Report #9 – AUGUST 11, 2020)

The Major Repair Project of 2020 nears completion as the new kneelers were installed this past week. We are very grateful for God’s blessings for the success of our labors during this project. The contractors were appreciative to have work immediately after such a long time being idle because of the pandemic. Of course, the prayerful and financial support of our parishioners over the years to the many fundraising initiatives made this project possible.

Today’s pictures show the scaffolding in the sanctuary as the wall restoration project moved to that area of the church. The beautiful reredos has been cleaned and touched up and the lighting enhanced to match the new lighting in the nave.  The confession rooms on the St. Mary side were refreshed with new carpeting and those on the St. Joseph side received new drapery as the existing drapes are over 80 years old.  The braiding and cross above each confessional was highlighted. The final touches will include cleaning the bronze gates on each side of the altar rails as well as refurbishing the holy water fonts at each door.

Last week the outside projects—repairs to the entrance steps of the church, rectory, and convent as well as the last phase of the 72nd Road cement project, delayed by weather and permit challenges—both got under way.

The parishioners in the 1912 who founded this parish supported and built our beautiful parish buildings through their prayers and sacrifices. The same can be said of our present-day parishioners who want to pass down to the next generation the viable parish they have received.

May God, through the intercession of Mary under her title as “the Queen of Martyrs,” continue his blessing upon us.

(Report #8 – AUGUST 4, 2020)

There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

This week the projects are going as planned. The pews are being moved back in place and secured to the floor. The new kneelers are also being installed as most of the work on the nave of the church will be completed by August 14.

Return to Church Schedule
We plan to return to the church for the 12:05 p.m. Mass on Saturday, August 15—the Feast of the Assumption. The weekend Mass schedule effective August 15/16 will be conducted in the church.

Update 8/15/20: Daily Masses will remain in the Convent Chapel until further notice.

Today’s pictures show the pews moved back in place and the church shaping up. (1) Workers are moving the pews in place. They then secure the pews to the floor with brackets. (2) Work on refreshening the Confessional booth is nearly complete. (3) The wall at the George McDonald Memorial Window is one of many being restored. The park near the Forest Hills Post Office station is named after his son. (4) Richard and Mr. Anthony D’Ambrosio, of D’Ambrosio Ecclesiastical Art Studios, pause for a picture.

The wall washing job has moved to the sanctuary with the scaffolding moved behind the reredos to the ceiling. This work should be completed by next week.  The exterior pointing and the completion of the cement project from last year should be started and completed by then as well. Neither of these project, if incomplete, will delay our returning to the church on August 15.

We owe our sincere thanks to all who have contributed to the Generations of Faith Capital Campaign and the Annual Catholic Appeal. Your generous contributions have made this renovation work possible.

See you in church on August 15!

The pews are carefully being moved back in place and secured to the floor with brackets.

(Report #7 – JULY 28, 2020)

We are happy to report that  the vast section of the floor under the pews is completed!  However, the aisle across the front of the church still needs to be sealed and polished and the sanctuary has been left for a later date in the near future.

Our church was the first floor repair job undertaken by the company hired after the lifting of the construction ban during the pandemic. Since the company’s backlog was so great, we concentrated on the congregational areas to get back the use of the seating for Sunday Mass.

The rest of the floor will be completed in the weeks before the end of the year. There will be no need to close the church on weekends to complete the floor project and we can use the convent chapel for weekday Masses again when needed. This allows us to now bring in the different company we’ve engaged to anchor the pews back in place.

Return of the Pews: The return of the pews to their permanent place has begun; as you read this, the work should be halfway completed. The new kneelers will be installed as the final stage of the congregational seating plan. The restorative work on the walls around the church’s beautiful stained glass windows and the wall below the choir loft should also be completed by the time you read this article. The Stations of the Cross have been refreshed as well as some of the decorative features highlighted in today’s pictures. The confessionals will be cleaned, varnished, and the curtains replaced. In short, the entire congregational area has been renovated: floor and walls restored, new kneelers on the pews, and the Stations of the Cross and confessional areas refreshed.

Remaining Outdoor Projects: Lastly, the pointing of the exterior steps of the church, rectory, and convent buildings has been contracted and work should be done before Labor Day. The front steps of the church and the ramp door on Queens Boulevard will be done first, so they will be available for our return. Please pray for good weather so these outdoor projects can be completed as scheduled.

The 72nd Road sidewalk project started last year has resumed. It was suspended as we got close to the cold weather last autumn. The winter weather and the COVID-19 bans of the spring delayed the completion of this job. It should take about a week, depending on the weather. Please enter and exit the schoolyard from Ascan Avenue only until this work is completed.

“My hope is that, barring any unforeseen delays, we should be able to announce in the next Sunday bulletin a date to return to worship in the church.”—Father Passenant

(Report #6 – JULY 21, 2020)

Major repairs are moving along as scheduled. The middle phase of the restoration of the church floor was completed last week. As you read this article, the final phase of floor restoration will be nearly done. We are now concentrating on completing the nave so that the pews can be securely put back and we can move back into the church for services.

Wall restoration work has moved to the left side of the church, where there is damage to repair caused by years of water penetration to the wall above the Mary Altar. The water leak was remediated with the roof replacement of 2017. (Remember, there were two roof replacements: the nave in 2015 and the roof of the church tower in 2017.) Since scaffolding is being placed near the ceiling, we will be repainting the main archways that cross the nave, which showed very visible flaking from water leaks. Those leaks were fixed with the roof replacement of 2015.
During final phases of repairs, the four confessionals on both sides of the church will be cleaned and varnished and the interiors of the confessional rooms will be refreshed with new paint and flooring.

The new lighting and the restored walls and floor give us a glimpse of what the parishioners in 1938 saw when they entered their new church building for the first time!

The new kneelers are ordered and will be delivered by the end of July, just in time to be installed when the floor is complete and the pews are returned.

(Report #5 – JULY 13, 2020)

We are pleased to announce that as of last Sunday (July 12th), the church lobby has been reopened and visits during the day to the Blessed Sacrament are available again. Please walk on the mats, as the final seal still needs to be applied to the floor.

The tempo of the project has been established with the cooperation of the companies providing their services. Each group coordinates with the other where they need to be at certain times to accomplish their work without getting in each other’s way. This cooperation has led to the timely completion of each portion of the project, thus far maintaining the schedule originally discussed last year.

The floor project is well into the final phase, with the front pews moved to the middle of the church to access the remaining section of the floor. As you read this fifth report, this project should have been completed.

Today’s pictures show the washing of the wall above the St. Joseph Altar and the final result. The scaffolding is now being moved to the Rose Window wall for restoration. The new lighting has only confirmed the necessity of this project, as 80 years of candle soot, incense smoke, and street pollution needed to be cleaned. This process will restore the walls to their original appearance in 1938. The Blessed Mother’s Altar presents more of a challenge since there was water damage. The church roof project (2015–2017) fixed the leaks and now we can restore the damaged wall.

(Report #4 – JULY 7, 2020)

Since the last report written about ten day ago, two of the projects have been completed. The lighting enhancement and the exterior work were both completed before the start of the Fourth of July weekend.

  • The lighting enhancement will brighten the section of the church where the congregation gathers; the better lighting will make it easier for people to read the missal and hymn sheets and participate in services. The new improvement will also allow for more versatile lighting, depending on the need and occasion. (This project has been completed.)
  • The stone restoration work included the Queens Boulevard side of the church, the front of the church, and the side of the church facing the school building. The workers also cleaned the limestone to eye-level on the remainder of the 1938 church/rectory structure. (This project has been completed.)

I have several new pictures to share of the floor work—including “before and after” photos—and the workers power washing with special detergents the front of the church building.

The work on the church floor, which is the major project of this renovation, continues. The lobby and the back half of the
church are completed. Next, the pews, which were previously relocated to the front of the church, had to be moved to the back. It is a time-consuming process to lift and place the pews while protecting the work already done. This work began on Monday, July 6th. In the meantime, as we enter phase 3, the Convent Chapel and McLaughlin Hall are receiving parishioners until the church major repair is completed.

(Report #3 – JUNE 26, 2020)

At this writing we are preparing for Masses to begin again with congregations, though limited in numbers. We are setting up the Daily Mass space in the Convent Chapel and the Sunday Mass space in McLaughlin Hall as we continue with the church renovation project.  We have just completed the first week of work. The church pews were moved toward the sanctuary area to clear the floor for restoration. The first phase of the restoration began with the application of paint remover and stripper to return the church floor under the pews to its original color and the slate stone in the aisles to their unique shade and patina. As you read this, a portion of this work should have been completed.

The lighting enhancement project was “roughed in” before the floor work began. The electrician was able to install ten (of twelve) new eight-foot track lights across each upper set of windows in the main body (the nave) of the church. The lighting in each of the bays of the side aisles will receive an additional set of four recessed lights.

Our Father’s Day was spent with the lighting technician determining the placement of the recessed lighting in each of the bays of the side aisles. During this time-consuming process, various scenarios were suggested using laser guides to measure. The placement of the recessed lighting was determined after much deliberation and the necessity for the technician to go up and down using the “High-Low.” It’s interesting to note that the builders of this church in 1938, who did not have the precision of today’ s laser technology, were only off by one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch. Amazing!

The exterior power-washing project has moved to the front of the church on Ascan Avenue. The Queens Boulevard portion of the building, from the Bell Tower toward Ascan Avenue including the Baptistery, has been completed. The granite and limestone surfaces cleaned of 80 years of pollution exposed the beauty of the original granite and limestone. As the Fourth of July weekend nears, the front face of the church should be completed, with work continuing on the other heavily soiled areas.

(Report #2 – JUNE 16, 2020)

Moved pews make way for the floor cleaning and the start of the lighting plan.

The Generations of Faith Program (GOF) launched in 2015 was a Diocesan Capital Campaign designed to fund parishes, youth, and senior priests. The funds raised were distributed to each of these areas. Each parish was asked to generate a case statement to specifically identify infrastructure projects that needed attention. OLQM Parish case statement identified a new organ, refurbishing our beautiful side altars and main altar reredos, repairing our weathered stained glass windows, laying new cement on 72nd Road and the interior sidewalks on the church property, and refinishing the church floor. The final project has begun.

Church Floor: The planning for this final GOF item, the church floor, was begun over a year ago. The work scope was planned and the companies engaged to complete this massive project. It is being accomplished by first removing the pews to access the floor for stripping, cleaning, and polishing. It is necessary to strip the floor to reveal the original poured cement, to clean away the remnants of paint, and to polish the finish—for the first time since the original building of the church in 1938.

Deacon Daniel Garcia, who heads maintenance at our church
“  This is a historic and exciting event for our Church!” — Deacon Daniel Garcia, OLQM Head Engineer

Lighting Project: This opportunity to clear the floor of the pews also allows us to complete other projects much more difficult to accomplish with the pews in place. We plan to add additional lighting around the perimeter of the church nave, to complete the project funded by the Parish Capital Campaign of 2010, and to replace the kneelers that are wearing out and becoming too expensive to repair.  We are able to fund these projects with resources received from “over goal” achievements in the GOF campaign and the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA). We have been over goal in the ACA each year since 2013, thanks to your participation and generosity in that effort.

Exterior Power Washing: There was also a need to address the exterior of the church building, which has been adversely affected by more than 80 years of pollution, weathering, and auto emissions from Queens Boulevard and Ascan Avenue. The surfaces of the exterior walls facing these streets are the most affected and the first to be addressed. This project is being supported by our various fundraisers over the years such as the “Fall Fling” and “Taste of the World.”

Power washing the church exterior
Highly visible transformation from dirty to clean, restoring the sandstone color

The timing of these projects was scheduled for mid-June 2020 to be completed by mid-August 2020. Plans were drawn up to use McLaughlin Hall for Mass while the work was being completed and the parish school was not in session. The project started as scheduled in spite of the upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The first kneelers were removed from the church last Wednesday. The photo on the bulletin cover this week shows the moved pews to make way for the floor cleaning and the start of the lighting plan.

We have been praying for the intercession of Msgr. Joseph McLaughlin, our first pastor and architect of the beautiful parish plant we enjoy today. We ask, like Elisha asked of Elijah, “for a double portion” of his spirit to guide us with wisdom, courage, and perseverance as we oversee these projects for the upkeep of our beautiful church to better serve those who enter here now and in the future. I will have another update next week.

God bless and keep us in your prayers during this exciting time in our parish history.

(Report #1 – JUNE 16, 2020)

James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” Through this pandemic crisis, you might say we are turning lemons into lemonade.

Our church has decided to go ahead with plans, made a year ago, to do major repairs inside the church this summer.

Project Scope: Now that the city has entered phase one of reopening from the pandemic lockdown, the contractors are available and they begin their work this week. This major repair project should take 6 to 8 weeks to complete. The work involves stripping, cleaning, and polishing the floor in the church and replacing the kneelers in the pews.

Accommodating the Reopening: As we move into phase 2 of reopening, we are looking forward to resuming public worship and ultimately Sunday Mass attendance. Our church plan for reopening will require limiting occupancy at services, following the advice of health officials and the guidelines of our elected officials and the diocese, in order to minimize the spread of the virus. To accommodate overflow, our plan includes using the school auditorium (McLaughlin Hall) for Sunday worship while the church repairs are underway.

We thank our donors for financially supporting Generations of Faith and the Annual Catholic Appeal and for gifts made using the Major Repairs envelope. We ask for your continued support and prayers to bring this project to a successful conclusion.

Sincerely yours,
Father Francis J. Passenant

Thank you for your continued support and prayers.