May 29, 2003
Celebrating the Years
By Kristen Fox
St. Michael’s Church in Central Square to celebrate 75th anniversary
Central Square –– When parishioners enter St. Michael’s Church they can feel a rich sense of history. One can almost picture the church, built in 1927 for about 20 families at a cost of $11,375, in its original form –– as an English Gothic village structure with red brick exterior. Over the years, the physical church has changed somewhat. Two wings have been added to the church and a basement was constructed. The parish center was completed in 1974 to house religious education, Sunday Masses and parish events. A decade later, the sanctuary was redesigned to create a more church-like atmosphere. The faithful parishioners who make St. Michael’s a vibrant and devoted parish, though, have remained constant. “St. Michael’s has always been one big, caring family,” said JoAnne Smith, parishioner of St. Michael’s.
The parish will mark its 75th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by Bishop James Moynihan on June 8. There have been many parishioners who have been active in preparing for the celebration, pointed out Father John Smegelsky, pastor of St. Michael’s Church. A booklet has been printed which details the rich history of the church. Magicians and entertainment have been set up, and plans have been made to accommodate the 300-plus families who are expected to attend the Mass and dinner.
Rosemarie Mahar, a parishioner of St. Michael’s, said that the day will be a remarkable celebration of a warm, caring and loving parish community which lives by example and service to others. “We want this to be a family affair. It is a way to celebrate the church and the beautiful people who keep it alive,” Mahar said. One aspect of St. Michael’s that has made it such a beautiful community is the mingling of the traditional and the contemporary, said Smith. The parish has added things such as In addition, Father Smegelsky has been instrumental in bringing back many spiritual and enriching devotions such as Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, First Friday devotions, First Saturday devotions, Benediction and devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus. Father Smegelsky believes that devotions are integral to parish life. Smith agreed, “It is the traditional things like this that Father John has done that make St. Mike’s so special.”
During a time of church reconfigurations and closings, St. Michael’s is a growing and dynamic worshipping community. “When I arrived in 1991, St. Michael’s Parish had about 650 families. Today, there are over 800 families who call St. Michael’s their parish church,” said Father Smegelsky. He expects that number to rise. With the area between Brewerton and Central Square growing, Father Smegelsky said that more and more people will come to St. Michael’s. “If the trend continues, it is possible that over 1,000 families will call St. Michael’s their parish,” Father Smegelsky stated. “The people who deserve the credit are the ones who have kept the faith alive and made St. Michael’s such a vibrant faith-filled community over the years,” said Patricia O’Neill, parishioner of St. Michael’s and president of the parish council.
St. Michael’s also extends itself into the greater community. Downstairs Scotty, a thrift shop and food pantry began in 1978 by Joyce Matzke and her late husband Deacon Leo Matzke, was started to provide aid to burnt out families. Hundreds have been helped over the years and its outreach has grown to include the unemployed, the hungry and the homeless. The caring, love and sharing of the “Scotty crew” is felt by the entire community, said Anne Penoyer, parishioner of St. Michael’s. “Downstairs Scotty is really a community effort run by St. Michael’s,” noted Penoyer. “It is there for people of other churches and denominations who need help.” The parish center is also open to the community for events and special occasions, Penoyer added.
All agree that it is this philosophy of welcoming and love for neighbors that has sustained St. Michael’s throughout the years. “In addition to a strong spiritual life, St. Michael’s parish is blessed with good people who love and care for this wonderful parish,” said Father Smegelsky. “They are some of the kindest and friendliest parishioners anywhere.”