Our First 100 Years (continued)
During the two years under Father Browne, St. Gregory's also started a folk mass and Good Friday Procession that winds through the neighborhood streets and invites anyone wishing to join in. There were classes for high school equivalency certificates, as well as services and discussion with neighboring Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Greek Orthodox congregations.
A new pastor, Father Edward O'Donnell, kept many of these social and educational programs going in the 1970s. In addition, a religious educational program was started in 1971 for 1st through 6th grades. By 1976 the program included 7th and 8th graders and those who were preparing for Confirmation. In 1978 the parish school, that by that time featured 19 different ethnic student backgrounds, marked its 65th anniversary.
After more than 10 years of service, Father O'Donnell was succeeded in 1981 by Father John Lennon, who served until 1989. In 1982 our activist pastor was commemorated when 90th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues was named "Henry Browne Boulevard."
St. Gregory's parishioners continued their tradition of social involvement in the 1980s. They took part in marches and rallies for disarmament and affordable housing. The parish inaugurated a Saturday Food Cart on Broadway and 93rd Street. In 1983 St. Gregory's and Holy Name opened a homeless shelter at Holy Name on Amsterdam and 96th Street.
Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor visited our church to bless it on our 75th anniversary. In 1989 Father Raymond Rafferty was appointed pastor of St. Gregory's.
In the early 1990s a major effort was mounted to finance and repair the church itself. An even larger effort was saving the parish school. After St. Gregory's had been listed as one of 41 parochial schools that might close, the Parish Council voted to keep the school open and took steps to strengthen its finances.
Church officials from other nations were honored at St. Gregory's services in the early 1990s. A commemorative Mass for Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, the slain Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, was conducted on June 7, 1993. Recently The New York Times reported that a notorious figure in the Mexican drug underworld world had been apprehended and sentenced for silencing the valiant Cardinal, who was thought to be planning to speak out against the barbarous drug situation.
On Palm Sunday 1994, a concert in the church dedicated to peace in Bosnia and the Middle East featured Metropolitan Opera soprano Theresa Cincione. And on October 7, 1995, St. Gregory's priests, students and the folk mass chorus took part in a special Papal Mass in Central Park. Father Rafferty celebrated his last mass on June 24th before leaving to become pastor of the Church of Our Savior in The Hague.
Father Joseph Darbouze, who hails from Haiti, succeeded him as pastor. Among many other accomplishments, he organized The Parish Profile and History 1907 - 1996. Given his fluency in English, French and Spanish he was especially effective in uniting the parish community. He now continues his service as Pastor Emeritus and comes down from St. Raymond's in the Bronx to celebrate the French mass at 1 o'clock on the first Sunday of the month."
With Father Darbouze's retirement in 2006 Msgr. Michael Crimmins took the pulpit.
With intimate focus on the life of Jesus Christ, and homilies that seem put you right in the room with the Master, or in the tree with the tax collector Zacchaeus, Father Crimmins makes the phenomenon of God becoming flesh a miracle of comfort and fail safe chance to better ourselves. A former trustee of CUNY (Baruch, Hunter, Queen College, etc.), he has been leading he parish in a gentle, steady way to undeniable "viability," just as the Church School triumphs as one of the best schools on the Upper West Side, especially, as noted on yelp.com, for teacher-student relations. Resolved to serve existing parishioners, as well as attract newcomers, St. Gregory the Great parish eagerly embraces its next 100 years.