Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
Father Bernard J. Reilly (1889-1945) was the founding pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Queens Village. Born in Brooklyn, Reilly settled in Queens Village after repeated stays in Europe for religious study and war duty during World War I. This square honors the memory of his service both in the local community and as a war chaplain.
Reilly attended St. John’s College before leaving to be ordained at Canisianum Seminary at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. He was ordained on July 27, 1913 in Innsbruck and returned to Brooklyn to serve at the parishes of St. Augustine and, later, St. Brigid until 1918. From July 1918 to May 1919, Reilly served his army duty in France, for which he received the Silver Star, one of the highest military awards given.
On his return in 1919, Reilly served briefly at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Brooklyn before founding Our Lady of Lourdes in 1924. He built the first church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village as a wooden structure modeled after similar country churches he saw during his travels in France. A striking feature of this church is the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, the most visited modern icon of the Virgin Mary in Europe. Reilly also built the parish elementary school in 1932. During the Depression, Reilly organized a parish Save-a-Home fund that rescued some 30 homes from foreclosure. He remained the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes until his death on March 29, 1945.
This square is located at the intersection of 93rd Avenue, 220th Street, and Winchester Avenue in front of Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village. Known as “Little Plains” during colonial times and Brushville during the early 18th century, Queens Village eventually took its name from the local Long Island Rail Road station.
The City acquired this land, which is also used for traffic separation, on November 25, 1930. Local law sponsored by City Council Member Matthew J. Troy named it after Father Reilly in 1966. Troy urged Mayor John V. Lindsay to sign the law immediately so proper services could be held at the site on Holy Thursday, the 21st anniversary of Reilly’s death. In 1999, Mayor Giuliani funded a $47,700 complete renovation of the square and adjoining sidewalks.
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