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The parish of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Centerport is considered a small one, with only 1,400 families. Just a little over 800 of these families are active members. St. Patrick's Roman CatholicChurch of Huntington, which is only a few miles away, has over 3,000 families.
Since 1953 the Centerport parish has used a converted 60-year-old garage as its church. A vestibule and a steeple were added, and a new wooden floor was put down over the old concrete one.
Still, there were problems with the building. When the Brooklyn architectural firm of Beatty & Beatty assessed its condition last year, its report stated that essential renovations would cost $674,000.
The engineering committee of the 18 elected members of the parish council issued a report stating that they thought building a new church would be a better investment.
''The walls were bowing out and there was water rot,'' said the church's pastor, the Rev. Joseph F. Colligan. ''The building wasn't structurally sound. The fundamental structure is still a garage.''
In June 1981 the parish bought the Echo nursing home building on Prospect Road, about 600 feet from the current church. Last month, the decaying waterfront home was demolished to make way for a new $1.2 million church. The current church will also be razed and the site turned into a parking lot.
''We wouldn't be building a new church if this one were salvagable,'' said Father Colligan, who has been the church's pastor for 13 years. The new church is not being built on the site of the old one, ''because parish life would have to stop for a year,'' he added.
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A petition objecting to the new church has been signed by 58 people in the neighborhood. However, it won't have any effect. ''Only one family from the parish has signed it,'' Father Colligan said. ''Forty-two of those names are from people who live on Prospect Road. They're afraid that property values might change. The new building is still in design development but it will be a blend of traditional and contemporary.''
The new church, which will have a view of Centerport Harbor, is being designed so that it will not obstruct the view from the homes on Prospect Road.