History of Transfiguration
The Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, the first Lithuanian national church in Maspeth, Queens County of New York, was dedicated on August 8, 1908 and has, for over a century, remained a thriving and vital force in the spiritual realm of the Maspeth Community. Transfiguration, originally located on Hull Avenue, was established out of a dire need for a Lithuanian church to serve the surging Lithuanian population in the County of Queens.
Reverend Nicodemus Petjus served as the first Pastor. Despite the economical hardships faced by the congregation, they were very supportive and made the necessary sacrifices to build a priests rectory in 1911. By the First World War, the parish began to enjoy relative prosperity and a steady growth of parishioners.
Reverend Anthony Milukas served as the second Pastor from 1914- 1933. During his tenure the Church of the Transfiguration suffered the trauma of two major fires. In 1919 a conflagration destroyed a substantial part of the original church and much of the church furnishings. With the generous financial support of the good parishioners, the church was completely restored, with the furnishings, in a relatively short period of time. But in 1925, a second fire razed the church building to the ground. Instead of re-building, the old St. Stanislaus Kosta church property was purchased, providing a church building, priests’ rectory and additional grounds, located on Perry Avenue. Transfiguration once again had an outward expression of faith and love and an inspiration for future generations.
Reverend John Balkunas was appointed as the third Pastor in 1933. During his tenure, the Lithuanian Franciscan Sisters arrived to conduct religious instructions for the children of the parish. Various Lithuanian Franciscan Fathers, Rev. Pius Lekesis, Rev. John Kartavicius, Rev. Frank Bulovas and Rev. John Pakalniskis. provided dedicated and loyal assistance in the parish. The needs of the growing parish necessitated the building of a new church complete with Parish Hall and on May 27th, 1962, the new Church of the Transfiguration was dedicated. (The beautiful award winning A-frame Church was designed by Lithuanian emigre architect Jonas Mulokas [1907-1983] known for incorporating Lithuanian themes with modern architecture. Lithuanian folk art elements adorn the co-operative achievement of all those who contributed time, energy and money over a long period of years. Rev. Balkunas, who had become Monsignor Balkunas, retired January 1, 1972.
Rev. Frank Bulovas was installed as the fourth Pastor. Fr. Frank dedicated his 11 years as Pastor to the spiritual, material and financial condition of the parish and amplified the work that Monsignor Balkunas initiated. The church hall, used for many social functions of the parish, was reconditioned and refurbished. A reconciliation room was installed. With the good cooperation of the Trans Catholic War Veterans Post No. 869, a memorial monument was erected outside the church hall. A beautiful Lithuanian Wayside Cross shrine was erected on the church grounds with the generous support of the Transfiguration Knights of Lithuania Council No. 110. And various parish organizations, such as Holy Name Society, St. Ann’s Sodality, Rosary Society, Golden Age Club, Altar Society, Parish Council, Third Order of St. Francis Confraternity, Transfiguration Bingo Workers, United Societies, Altar Boys, Apostleship of Prayer, the Transfiguration Knights of Lithuania Council No. 110, Legion of Mary, Catholic War Veterans Post No. 869 & Ladies Auxiliary of Post No. 869, Altar Society all thrived during this time. On July 3, 1982 Pope John Paul II granted the Monsignorate to Rev Frank Bulovas. Msgr. Bulovas remained as Pastor until 1991.
The fifth Pastor of Transfiguration was Rev. Kenneth Wicks. He improved the rectory, started a Sports program, and continued the good work of Msgr. Bulovas, until his death in 1993.
Rev. James (Ted) Rooney became the sixth Pastor in 1994. He focused on a renewed ministry to Lithuanian concerns in the Parish and provided a home for the Maironis Lithuanian School. With Fr. Ted’s guidance, the School of Religion, Sports Program, Parish Societies and the dedication of the Liturgical Ministries continued to flourish. And new needs were met – bringing Communion to the homebound as a part of Sunday Mass, visiting the homebound, St.Therese Ministry, and continued success and growth of an RCIA experience.
Father Paul A. Wood became the seventh Pastor of Transfiguration in 2003. Ordained in 1980, Fr. Paul has served a Parochial Vicar at several parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
From 1989 – 1993 Fr. Paul worked in the state of Washington in the Home Missions and was Pastor of two churches, St. Joseph’s in Dayton, and St. Mark’s in Waitsburg. After four years he returned home in 1993, to a new ministry, Catholic Chaplain at Queens College, CUNY, where he remains to this day, and serving 15 years.
In 2006, Fr. Paul was presented with a third assignment in addition to the Chaplaincy at the college and Pastor at Transfiguration. He was installed as Pastor at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, also in Maspeth, and was given the mandate by Bishop DiMarzio to begin the “reconfiguration” of the two Churches, combining ministry and resources where possible into one, but remaining two viable, vibrant Catholic parishes.
During Fr Paul’s time at Transfiguration a new handicapped bathroom was built at the entrance to the Church. Stained glass windows were repaired in the upper Church and stained glass restored in the lower Church for weekday Mass. The Pieta and the Blessed Mother were uncovered in the lower Church and restored to their former beauty. Also, through the generosity of parishioners Charlie and Maryann Vidiksis a new granite tile floor was placed in the upper sanctuary. The statues in the upper Church and the Sacred Heart were restored and repainted.
In January, 2017, Msgr. Joseph P. Calise was transferred to the Parishes of Saint Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration in as Pastor of the two parishes. Rev.Msgr. Joseph P. Calise was ordained at Saint James Cathedral on June 28th, 1980. He attended Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, Cathedral College and the Pontifical Gregorian University while residing at the North American College in Rome. He earned a BA in English and Comparative Literature and an STB.
Msgr. Calise was first assigned to Saint Mel’s, Whitestone (1980-1984) and then to Saint Leo’s, Corona (1984-1989), Saint Aloysius, Ridgewood (1989-1990) and Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, Woodside (1990-1995). In September 1995, Bishop Daily assigned him to the teaching faculty of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary and appointed him Rector-Principal in 1998. He was named Papal Chamberlain with the title Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI in January, 2007. Msgr. Calise was appointed Pastor of the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, and administrator of the parish of Annunciation, effective August 1, 2008. In January, 2017, he was transferred to the Parishes of Saint Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration in Maspeth as Pastor of the two parishes.
Msgr. Calise also served the diocese in a variety of ways in addition to these assignments. From 1989 through 1995, he was Chaplain of the Newman Center at Queensborough Community College. He teaches Pre-Cana classes as part of the Family Life Office, is a regular columnist for The Tablet, is on the teaching faculty, moderated the Catholic Charities Golf Classic from 1991 through 2005, directs retreats within the Matt Talbot movement and serves as Chaplain to the Joyce Kilmer Council, Knights of Columbus. Bishop DiMarzio has appointed him to the Bishop’s Committee on Addictions and to the Seminary Admissions Board. In 2013, Msgr. Calise was appointed Dean of Deanery B1 (a position he left in 2017) and Coordinator of the Spiritual Direction Component of the Diaconate Formation Program. He was appointed a member of the Pastors’ Advisory Committee to the Superintendent of Schools in 2017.