Building on a legacy of caring and compassion
Who was Joseph DeRogatis?
The Olivet Presbyterian Church celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, but its ministry dates back more than a century. In May of 1913, a young divinity student, Joseph DeRogatis, was engaged by the session of Calvary Presbyterian Church to begin a ministry to Italian-speaking immigrants in the West New Brighton area. Under his leadership and with the partnership of his wife, Emma, the ministry grew rapidly, and in 1917 a new church called Calvary Chapel was built on West Street.
The new building soon became a hub of active outreach to the community and the DeRogatis' name became synonymous with caring and compassion for those in need. Also, the church's summer Daily Vacation Bible School became the first of its kind on Staten Island, drawing large numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic children. Dr. DeRogatis opened a second chapel in Rosebank named Our Savior, ministering there, as well, to Italian-speaking immigrants. By the early 1930's it became obvious that the original building was no longer adequate to meet the needs of a growing congregation, and with the help of a special WPA project, a Christian Education Wing was added to the church.
How we got our name
By the late 1930's the congregation also began to investigate how it could become a fully independent congregation. After some initial resistance from both Calvary Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of New York City, Calvary Chapel became Olivet Presbyterian Church at a service on June 23, 1946, beginning with a membership of 235. In 1958 Dr. DeRogatis retired after serving this church for 45 years. His legacy of faithful witness, however, continues to this day, most especially in the lives of families who are still a part of this congregation and in the lives of young people nurtured in this church who have gone on to become pastors of churches throughout the country. His work set the tone for the multicultural congregation that Olivet has become today.
In the late 1960's a long-held Olivet dream came to fruition as the congregation, under the leadership of Pastor Winfield Hall, began to build our present church building on property the church had purchased for $19,000 at a tax auction in 1956. The church building was completed in 1970. In 1972, the Rev. C. Lee MacCallum was called as pastor and under his leadership the church saw much growth and change, including wonderful growth in the racial and ethnic diversity of the congregation and in the scope of its mission. The church worked very hard to welcome people from all backgrounds and situations. A strong worship life was enhanced with a vibrant music ministry including chancel choir, gospel choir, children’s choir (“Sunbeams”) and superb soloists. The educational ministry included a lively Church School with 40-50 active children up to 8th grade, three youth groups, regular adult education and retreats, a Seniors group, and Staten Island’s oldest continuing Vacation Bible School, operating every summer since 1923.