In June of 1920, Saint Joan of Arc Parish was established. That September a five-day carnival was held to raise money for the new parish. Babe Ruth made an appearance at the carnival to auction off baseballs which he had autographed. The highest bid, a hundred dollars, was made by Babe Ruth himself. The first pastor was Captain Ward Meehan who was an Infantry Chaplain during World War I. The shrapnel-marked statue of Saint Joan of Arc, with a base of stone from the prison where she was held, was presented to Father Meehan for his work in France during the war and is enshrined in our Church.
Father Meehan’s personality attracted many people to Saint Joan of Arc Parish. Politicians like Al Smith, Governor of New York, visited often. Dolores De Fina, the future Mrs. Bob Hope, was an active parishioner. She helped to make many of the parish shows a success.
Father Meehan saw a need for an educational ministry of the parish, and so, in 1921, he bought a house on the corner of 84th Street and Northern Boulevard. Five Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart arrived to teach our children under the leadership of Mother Saint Augustine. In 1922, high school grades were added to the school. Our present school building opened in 1924. Then, it was one story high and could accommodate six hundred students in eight classrooms. Our present gym was also used for mass, shows, and parish social events. Our present Lower Church was the only church for the parish at this time.
Father Boylan became Administrator of the parish due to Father Meehan’s illness caused by gas poisoning during World War I. Eventually the high school grades were dropped. In the late 1930s, two floors were added to the school. After Father Meehan’s death in 1949, Father Boylan consented to his appointment as pastor.
In 1950 construction began on the Upper Church, built around and above our existing Lower Church. The Upper Church was completed in 1951. Today both Upper and Lower Churches are used on a daily basis.
In 1959 Msgr. Boylan began construction to replace the old wooden Ward Meehan Hall with our present one story building housing our Pre- K 3 year olds, Parish Religious Education Office, and Parish Pastoral Ministry Office. The lower level has a cafeteria and one classroom used for both parish and school functions. That original plan was to build a two or three story annex, connecting it to the main building. Perhaps due to the demographic changes of the early 1960s and too soon after the construction of our Upper Church, insufficient funds stopped construction after the completion of the first floor. Today the building still stands unfinished with only one floor of classrooms.
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart were aging and new vocations to the community ceased. The Grey Nuns decided that having one of their nuns as principal was no longer possible so the school’s first lay principal was Mrs. Angela Travia, serving the school from 1977 until her death in 1994. In the early 1980s, the parish convent was closed as the Grey Nuns decided to live either in the convent at Our Lady of Fatima or in the Mother House in Yardley Pennsylvania. The Grey Nuns, however, remained as teachers and support staff until the retirement of Sr. James Maureen in 2000. After the closing of Blessed Sacrament School in June 2009, Sr. Alma Regina Murtha, GNSH, joined the staff of St. Joan of Arc School. In August 2011 The Grey Nuns left Our Lady of Fatima convent and moved into the Mother House. With this move, Sr. Alma Regina Murtha left St. Joan of Arc School, returning to the Mother House. With Sister’s leaving, an era has ended with no prospects of any more Grey Nuns teaching at St. Joan’s. There are no sisters available. The Grey Nuns staffed and founded St. Leo’s in Corona, Our Lady of Fatima in East Elmhurst, Blessed Sacrament in Jackson Heights, and St. Joan of Arc. August 2011 marked the end of these missions. The school continues it relationship with the Grey Nuns, especially with Sr. Dawn Gear, GNSH who provides the faculty with Days of Prayer in order to sustain the spirituality that is so integral in a “Grey Nun” school.
In 1994, Mrs. Linda Kelly replaced Mrs. Travia. Under Mrs. Kelly’s leadership the school earned the Blue Ribbon Award of Excellence in 1997. With Mrs. Kelly’s retirement in 2009, our present pastor, Mgsr. Otto Garcia appointed Mr. John Fruner as principal and Mr. Michael Donovan as assistant principal. In December of 2009, Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School was reaccredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. In September 2015 Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School was accredited by AdvancED.
As we adapt to an ever changing world, the school community looks to the future with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and hope. We are aware of the role Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School has played in the past and know that it will continue to be a beacon of light and faith for many generations to come.