by Msgr. Michael J. Cantley, S.T.D.
Every history begins with a prehistory, and parishes are no different. The territory that is served by St. Anastasia Parish is now located entirely within the confines of northeastern Queens, but once extended deeply into Nassau County. Before settlers appropriated this area for themselves it had been inhabited by a tribe of Indians called the Matinecock (a word meaning “hilly place”). Beginning in the early 17th Century white settlers began to occupy part of the western end of Long Island, the area we call home. At first, this European incursion was accepted and both settlers and Indians lived in peace. But by the middle of the Century the settlers grabbed more land and in doing so angered the Indians. War ensued, and the superior firepower of the settlers, along with weakening diseases that they brought to the native population that did not have the immunity of the Europeans, finally defeated the Matinecock and the tribe faded away. The area attracted many more settlers and the building of the North Shore Railroad serving western Queens as far as Flushing opened the area to larger numbers of inhabitants. Over the next few decades Little Neck – Douglaston experienced a significant increase in population. In the early years of the twentieth Century the Douglas Manor Association was formed and attracted some famous Hollywood personalities to live in the area. The opening of the Triborough Bridge in 1936 and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in 1939, making the area a kind of crossroads also made it desirable for the ease with which inhabitants could travel from and to Long Island Manhattan, Bronx and New England. Since the increasing population included many Catholics, the need for parishes to serve them became evident.
Before the founding of St. Anastasia’s in 1915, Catholics had to travel a considerable distance to St. Michael’s Church in Flushing (established in 1833), and later (after 1853) many traveled to St. Mary’s in Manhasset while some at a later time preferred St. Aloysius in Great Neck (established in 1876). When Sacred Heart was established in Bayside in 1891 the trek there became the more usual Sunday excursion for Mass. Petitions to Bishop Charles McDonnell (second Bishop of the Diocese from 1892-1921) were eventually granted and the Reverend Francis J. Uleau was appointed in October of 1915 to establish the new parish of St. Anastasia. There were only one hundred parishioners at the time of the founding, but they increased by three births and baptisms in the short tenure of Father Uleau.