Over 50 years ago, Andrew Reilly was married in in Inwood. Since then, he has been coming to the church on a regular basis, and his children had their baptisms, christenings and their weddings there as well.
As the church reached its 100th year of existence this year, many can make the same claim.
"I know a lot of people in the community. I grew up with them," Reilly, of North Lawrence, said. "They're all good to each other. It's a close community, it always has been."
The Roman Catholic church was established in 1910 when it spun off of St. Mary Star of the Sea, according to the Rev. Larry Duncklee, who compiled the first written history of the church. As other Five Towns churches struggle with waning populations, Our Lady of Good Counsel says it has a healthy congregation of about 958 households, thanks to an influx of the thriving Hispanic community of Inwood. But the church is still home to many older Catholics, some who still live in the Five Towns, and others who have moved elsewhere.
"All the feast day masses fill up with people who come back," said Duncklee, who has been the pastor of the church for five years. When asked why people return, he said, "I would say the history of the place. People feel — even if they moved away — that it's their parish, it's their home."
The Rev. Richard Nilsson, Duncklee's predecessor from 1999 to 2005, echoed his remarks. "The community is special because all the old-timers were there their whole lives and they're completely devoted to that church," he said. "When I first went to the church, I really fell in love with the place, and when I met with the people I fell in love with them."
To celebrate its milestone, Our Lady of Good Counsel held a year of special events, culminating in a that took place on an early November Sunday.
Mark Szczepaneski, who was born in Inwood but now lives in Startford, Conn, came with his daughter Kaitlyn, 6, to see his mother Isabelle perform.
"It's a nice, tight little community," said Szczepaneski, who was baptized, had his first communion and went to school at the church. "It's a beautiful church and we spent a lot of time here." He added, "Since the neighborhood changed, a lot of churches around here have gone to the wayside."
Now that the church has finished celebrating its history, Duncklee is concerned about the future. "At this point Hispanics are the biggest group in the church," he said. "The next five to 10 years will show if the communities can merge together."
Former Inwood resident Sarah Van Zuilen, another old-timer who had her baptism, communion and wedding in the church, has hope for the future. "Our grandparents were the founding members," said the Lynbrook resident. "We were the children and now we're the elders. Hopefully our children will carry on."