Bishop Kulick blesses St. Mary of Czestochowa after completion of renovation work
By Maria Guzzo
NEW KENSINGTON – More than 200 parishioners filled St. Mary of Czestochowa Aug. 26 to experience Bishop Larry J. Kulick blessing their church building, now fully renovated after a tornado ripped off half its roof and dislodged a steeple during Holy Week 2020.
Three years and $4.3 million later, Bishop Kulick reminded everyone that although it was a Mass of celebration, it was also a signal of responsibility. He cautioned parishioners to not view the restored church as an architectural marvel, an historic artifact, or a museum, but as a mission, directing them to grow their congregation.
“This building is a shell in which people of God gather to give worship and honor to God,” he said, noting that the physical reconstruction is done. “Let’s move on to the much more challenging work of evangelizing. Let’s fill the pews. The walls are nothing compared to the souls. Make this a place where people of God gather, and new generations come to be consecrated to the Lord.”
The Diocese of Greensburg’s 2022 statistics indicate St. Mary consists of 350 households with 611 individuals.
In addition to encouraging them to draw others to God, Bishop Kulick reminded parishioners that with God all things are possible.
“We’re here today because God has blessed us,” he said. “And we are called to remember: as we receive, so we must give.”
He asked St. Mary’s pastor Fr. Kenneth G. Zaccagnini how much St. Mary’s had to pay out of pocket for all the renovations. “$258,” Fr. Zaccagnini replied.
Bishop Kulick appealed to parishioners to be generous to the diocese and to any future endowment program at St. Mary’s to shore up finances for the future.
“This is the time to be the stewards of what we inherited,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Fr. Zaccagnini said the timing of the tornado just before Easter and all the work that was done with such perfection and expense was emblematic of Christ’s cross and entrance into heaven.
“It feels like a resurrection experience to me,” he said.
Both men thanked the many businesses and people who had a hand in the three-year reconstruction. St. Mary’s has been open for Sunday Mass since Advent 2022, but renovations were ongoing until now.
The Mass of Completion occurred on the feast day of St. Mary of Czestochowa, patron of Poland from where its first parishioners came. Founded in 1892, St. Mary’s current building was completed in 1912.
Bishop Kulick began Mass outside the church building, where the roof had crumpled into the street. With holy water, he blessed the outside of the building, and also parishioners and the adult and youth choirs, who sang a Polish hymn, Serdeczna Matko or Stainless the Maiden, as everyone processed into church. During Mass, Bishop Kulick donned a gremial, or apron, and protective sleeves before using sacred chrism to anoint the walls in 12 places with a sign of the cross.
In addition to Fr. Zaccagnini, retired former pastors Fr. John S. Szczesny and Father Thaddeus J. Kaczmarek, and retired local priest Msgr. Lawrence Dominik, who was baptized there, concelebrated. An ice cream social followed, as is the annual custom at St. Mary on the feast day.