For over 150 years, the Academy of Saint Joseph was a prestigious private all-girls Roman Catholic school conducted by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Brentwood, attracting boarding students from as far away as South America.
But in 2008, due to declining enrollment and failed recruitment and fund-raising efforts, the academy was forced to close.
In 2011, MDQ Academy, the first full-time Islamic school to be established in Suffolk County, reached an agreement with the Sisters of St. Joseph and moved into the former St. Joseph Brentwood Academy, occupying two floors of the structure.
With an enrollment of 265 students in preschool through ninth grade, the MDQ Academy has added a grade each year that it has been at St. Joseph. The school recently signed a five-year lease with the order and hopes to expand through 12 grade.
Khurshid Khan, principal of MDQ Academy, said the move to the Brentwood campus has been a blessing for the school, "This is a gift to us from heaven," he said of the building in a recent Newsday article. "For that we thank God almighty."
Khan said he decided to leave statues of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in some of the school's hallways as a way to honor its past and expose the students to Catholicism.
"I tell the parents we want them [students] to be raised with broad-mindedness," he said.
As the number of students in the Islamic school grows, the Brentwood complex also continues to house Long Island’s largest order of nuns.
"It's been very positive for both of us," said Sister Helen Kearney, head of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. "It's a very positive message for our world that, in a sense, tends to kind of divide groups."
Noting that the two groups share some of the same values—faith, education, family—and have regular times of prayer each day, Kearney said "This is not about difference. This is about what we share in common," she said. "It shows a real simple sharing of what is really important in life."
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