Our ParishHistory › Part 5 ~ 1997 to Present


Bishop McGann announces his intention to resign as Diocesan Bishop on his 75th Birthday in 1999.  Pope John Paul II names Bishop James T. McHugh, Diocesan Bishop of Camden as coadjutor Bishop of Rockville Centre. 

The Parish Technology Committee launches the first Parish Website.
1999 Monsignor Kelly announces plans for a major building project which includes renovation of the Convent, building a new Parish Center and installation of a pipe organ in the Cathedral.  


2000 The Holy See accepts Bishop McGann's resignation and on January 4th  Bishop McHugh is installed as the third Bishop of Rockville Centre. 

The Parish Website is expanded to include a section for St. Agnes Cathedral School.

Bishop McHugh dies after a brief illness in December. 


2001 The Wicks Organ Company of Highland Illinois completes the installation of the Cathedral's new Pipe Organ.

The Vatican announces that Bishop William F. Murphy Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston is to become the fourth Bishop of Rockville Centre.  Bishop Murphy is installed on September 5th. 

Within a week, the Village of Rockville Centre and St. Agnes Parish are devastated by the events of September 11th.  The Cathedral becomes the site of numerous funerals and memorial services in the months that follow.   

Bishop John McGann, the second bishop of Rockville Centre (retired)  dies at the age of 77.   

The renovation plans for the convent are modified, after consultation with the Sisters of the parish, to convert the third floor into the Diocesan Bishop's residence.   In September, the offices for Parish Outreach, Social Ministry, Religious Education, Music, Youth, Hispanic, Adult Faith Formation, and Senior Ministries move into their new quarters on the first two floors of the renovated building now called the Parish Ministry Building.  The first floor chapel is renamed the Chapel of the Holy Cross in honor of the Amityville Sisters of St. Dominic, Congregation of the Holy Cross.  Demolition of the old high school building is completed to make way for the new Parish Center.
2003 Construction begins on the much needed Parish Activity Center on the site of the former High School.  

Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated for the first time at St. Agnes. Over 100 Parishioners attend the service held in the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

 2004 Following the 12:30 Mass on June 6, Bishop Murphy
along with Msgr. Kelly, the priests and staff of the parish and several hundred parishioners celebrate the blessing and grand opening of the new Parish Activity Center built on the site of the former St. Agnes High School.  This magnificent new building will be used by both the Parish and the Diocese.  Bishop Murphy states that it is the "Grandest family room in all of Rockville Centre!"  The new center will provide a large meeting space for St. Agnes.  The center is expected to host gatherings for diocesan related events, the parish school, religious education program, seniors, youth groups and all members of the St. Agnes parish family. 

Pope John Paul II names Msgr. James Kelly, rector of St. Agnes Cathedral since 1997, Protonotary Apostolic, a title given to only a small number of prelates.

Fr. German Villabon celebrates his 50th anniversary as a priest.  For 20 years Fr. Villabon has served at St. Agnes with a particular ministry to Spanish speaking Catholics 

2005 After years of joining the CYO Swim teams of neighboring parishes, St. Agnes parishioners organize their own team for both boys and girls.  During the team's first year of competition, two members go on to establish new records in the 14 & under girls 50 yard backstroke and the 12 & under girls 50 yard breaststroke.
  2006 On the 5th Anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy the parish installs a plaque containing the names of those St. Agnes parishioners who lost their lives that day.  The plaque was installed on the outside west side of the cathedral facing in the direction of New York City.  
The Diocese of Rockville Centre celebrates its 50th anniversary. This same year the 72 year old St. Agnes constructed in 1935 as a parish church, celebrates its 50th anniversary as a Cathedral and Seat of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  

After 10 years of serving as Cathedral Rector, Msgr. Kelly announces that he will be retiring at the end of June.  Bishop Murphy names Msgr. Robert Guglielmone, Director of Priest Personnel as the new rector.


2009 His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Msgr. Guglielmone, rector of St. Agnes Cathedral since 2007 was to become the 13th Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.  Msgr. Brennan, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Rockville Centre is named interim rector by Bishop Murphy.
Bishop William Murphy, names Msgr. William Koenig rector of St. Agnes Cathedral.  Fr. Bill returns to St. Agnes from St. William the Abbot parish in Seaford where he had been pastor since leaving St. Agnes in 2000.
2010 October 13, 2010 marks the beginning of the 75th Anniversary of the dedication of the current St. Agnes Cathedral building.
2011 During the seventh snowstorm of the 2010-2011 winter season, the bell tower of St. Agnes Cathedral is struck by lightning.  The cathedral suffers no structural damage although the heating system, organ and electrical systems do sustain some damage.  An underground water main on the Clinton Avenue side of the cathedral also ruptures as a result of the lightning strike.

Msgr. James Kelly, Rector Emeritus of St. Agnes Cathedral, celebrates the 50th Anniversary of his ordination.  In honor of this milestone the St. Agnes Parish Center is renamed the Msgr. James P. Kelly Parish Center.

A few short months later in October, Superstorm Sandy gives a devastating blow to Long Island.  Although Rockville Centre suffers some damage, including the loss of the cross from the cupola of the St. Agnes bell tower, surrounding areas experience extensive damage.  Bishop Murphy designates St. Agnes Cathedral as a central location for collecting supplies for those in need.  For several weeks following the storm the Kelly center serves as a drop off point for clothing, food and supplies received from as far away as Ithaca, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Numerous parishioners help with the sorting and distribution of supplies to those in the surrounding areas of East Rockaway, Long Beach, Oceanside, Island Park, Inwood, Freeport, and the Rockaways in Queens. In addition St. Agnes School receives displaced students from St. Francis de Sales School in Belle Harbor while their school is being repaired.

Msgr. Koenig announces that the cross from the bell tower of the cathedral which was blown away during Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012 was found on June 21st.  Workers from a roofing company hired to work on the Ministries building found the cross on the flat roof of the garage in back of the building. Apparently it had blown from the top of the Cathedral, over the Rectory and onto this resting place.

Msgr. Koenig, in a letter to all parishioners said, "The cross’ composition is a rather light material which obviously aided its flight but certainly did not help in the prevention of it being rather badly twisted and bent. Whether any part of it can be salvaged remains to be seen. In the end, however, the most extensive part of replacing the cross is still going to entail getting
up to the top of the bell tower where the cross will be affixed. In the meantime, however, we no longer need to ask for the intercession of St. Helena, the founder of the true cross, for help in finding our missing one".

On Friday, April 11, 2014, the beginning of Palm Sunday weekend, the cross on top of the bell tower of the Cathedral was set into place.  The force of Superstorm Sandy, in the fall of 2012, had blown the original cross off the Cathedral.  While it was recovered a number of months later on top of a flat roof which is part of the Ministry Building of the Parish, it was too badly damaged to be used again.  The decision was made to replace the old cross with a new one and the design chosen for the new cross was what is known as a “budded cross” design.  The ends of the horizontal piece and the top of the vertical piece have three round shapes, symbolizing the trinity.  In many places, especially in Europe, it is known as a “Cathedral cross” and it is used as a symbol on road signs to direct people to a Cathedral.

The cross is made of copper and finished in gold.  It is especially fitting that it was lifted over 160 feet and put into place at the start of Holy Week, a time in which we especially focus upon Jesus’ death on the cross and his triumphant resurrection over sin and death.  The cross, a symbol of death, was thereby transformed through Christ’s death and resurrection into a sign of God’s love. 

The parish along with Bishop Murphy embarks on a campaign to renovate St. Agnes Cathedral.  It has been 35 years since any major work has been done.  Plans call for restoration and renovation of the sanctuary, pews, kneelers, flooring, and exterior lighting in addition to interior painting. 

The theme of the campaign proclaims, "Together we can do something beautiful for God!"
A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was erected at the North Village Avenue entrance to the Msgr. Kelly Parish Center. This is the statue that had, for many years, been at the entrance of St. Agnes Cathedral High School. The High School building stood on the
present site of the Parish Center. It was refurbished and is now returned to this site.

 As people drive into the entrance of the Parish Center or pass by on foot or in car, may it be a reminder to us of the example of Mary who gave herself totally to God and of her continued intercession on our behalf.
2015 While work continues on the restoration of the interior of the cathedral, work begins on rehabilitation of the Facade. The need for this work had only become known a year earlier when a four-foot stone cross fell from the facade and an ensuing engineering study identified the areas of the exterior, and in particular the south facade, that needed attention. The work included: the replacement of some of the limestone caps as well as areas of bricks, the replacement of the flashing beneath the caps, installation of new windows and doors in the east tower, the repair of the roof of the east tower, the strengthening of the interior of the west tower and the repointing of the facade.

In 2015, Pope Francis declares a worldwide Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin on December 8, 2015 and end on November 20, 2016. During Jubilee years, Holy Doors are opened in the four papal basilicas in Rome. However, Pope Francis requested that each Diocese have one or more Holy Doors established locally to allow the faithful to receive plenary indulgences without having to travel to Rome. In announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy Pope Francis declared, "The Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope."

In addition to the Holy Door opened by Bishop Murphy in St. Agnes Cathedral, Holy Doors were also established at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Southampton and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island, Eastport.
Bishop Murphy, along with the priests of St. Agnes Cathedral Parish rededicates the restored sanctuary and consecrates the new main altar on March 18.  The Tabernacle was moved from the side of the Sanctuary. The 'truly noble, prominent and conspicuous" (GIRM 314) place for the Tabernacle was further enhanced by the installation of the baldachin that framed it and the wood paneling that added to the warmth of the Sanctuary. A new Altar, Baptismal Font and Ambo were installed. The terrazzo flooring of the Sanctuary was replaced with Botticino marble and a mosaic installed as the floor around the Altar itself.  The pews were refinished, the walls and ceiling painted, new lighting and kneelers and flooring installed, the side shrines were refreshed and the refinished Cathedra first used by Bishop Kellenberg was installed. And finally, several high-definition remote-controlled television cameras which allow the Mass to be broadcast with minimal intrusion were installed.

With work completed on the south facade attention is turned to Phase 2 of the facade rehabilitation, which is focused on the north, east and west sides of the facade. Work is expected to continue into 2017
On December 9, Pope Francis accepts the resignation of Bishop Murphy who had passed the mandatory retirement age of 75. Bishop John O. Barres, of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, is named the 5th bishop of Rockville Centre.  Bishop Murphy has served as Bishop of Rockville Centre since 2001. Bishop Barres was installed on January 31, 2017 on the Feast of St. John Bosco. .
2017 September 6th marked the opening day of the 100th school year of St. Agnes Cathedral School.  A variety of events are planned throughout the 2017 - 2018 school years to commemorate "A century of educating God's greatest gift, our children".
As part of the centennial celebration of St. Agnes Cathedral School, a Prayer Walkway is installed on the school grounds. The walkway memorializes through inscribed bricks, the ongoing participation of the parish families and other benefactors whose generous contributions to the school have enabled so many parents to give their children the gift of a Catholic education.

Previous | Start
- "From a Blacksmith Shop To A Majestic Gothic Edifice", 1935
- Leonard, CSJ, Sr. Joan de Lourdes, "Richly Blessed, The Diocese of Rockville Centre 1957-1990", (Walsworth Publishing, 1991)
- O'Neill, James "To Believe In A Vision"  (Delmar, 1983)
- "Rededication Journal", 1982


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Our Parish Mission
We, the parish of Saint Agnes Cathedral, a community of believers, proclaim the presence of Christ in the

world through Word, Sacrament and deeds.  Affirming the sanctity of each person, we minister to all
by committing ourselves to renewal, formation, and living the Gospel. 

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Rockville Centre, NY 11570
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