Our Lady of Peace Church celebrates 60th anniversary

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

LAKELAND — Our Lady of Peace Parish has been celebrating its 60th anniversary at many social events throughout the year, but the celebration will culminate with a special Mass and a brunch afterwards on June 14.

Father John Fetcho, pastor at Our Lady of Peace Church for the last 15 years, said the closeness of the people in the parish community make it unique. “The people have pride in their safe, clean community,” said Father Fetcho. “It’s a nice community to live in.”

Father Fetcho is impressed by the goodness he sees within his parishioners as they help others. “They care for the sick and they have also hosted benefits for children,” said Father Fetcho. “They have reached out beyond their community, which I think is important to do.”

The church has sponsored many events to commemorate its milestone anniversary.

The celebration began Jan. 11 with a Kickoff Mass during which Father Fetcho gave a presentation on the history of the church. A spaghetti supper sponsored by the Holy Name Society was held on Jan. 31.

The month of February was filled with numerous celebratory functions. They included a free-of-charge dinner and raffle, a Mardi Gras Extravaganza Dinner sponsored by the Altar and Rosary Society, rosary and Scripture studies which continued throughout Lent and a Soup and Sandwich Supper before the Stations of the Cross which was held every Friday night throughout Lent.

On March 14 a bingo and card party was held and on March 16 a Mass and Penance Service. A Mass and Healing Service was held on March 17.

On April 11 the church sponsored an Easter Egg Hunt and held a special Mass for the Lakeland Fire Department (also celebrating 60 years of service) on April 19. On April 26 a special Homecoming Mass for former parishioners was held.

The month of May brought the May Crowning and First Eucharist. It also included Father Fetcho’s celebration of his 45th year as a priest and a Living Rosary on the church grounds.

Our Lady of Peace’s Spiritual Memory Book will be displayed at the special Mass on June 14. The book is filled with pictures, memories and favorite hymns and Bible passages of the parish’s  families. The sixth-grade children will also sing at the Mass.

Throughout the year, the religious education classes have been collecting items to be donated to local nursing homes, charities and refugees.

The seed for the establishment of Our Lady of Peace Church began during the years between 1909 and 1935, when there was a steady population growth in the Lakeland area of Syracuse and the need for a Catholic church became more and more apparent. In order to attend Mass, Lakeland residents were required to travel either to St. Cecilia’s Church in Solvay or to other parishes which were further away.

A proposal was made in 1935 to build a chapel to serve the Lakeland Catholic community. The chapel, built on Stasko Drive, was a mission of St. Cecilia’s Church. The mission began on Sept. 5, 1935, and continued until June 10, 1949, when Our Lady of Peace was incorporated. Father Thomas Driscoll was the first pastor and Father Richard Shields followed him in March of 1938. On March 24, 1949, Father Robert Reddy was appointed pastor of the new parish. Father Reddy moved into the newly-built rectory in April 1950.

On Feb. 23, 1951, a fire damaged the church. Janet Petrocci, long-time parishioner at Our Lady of Peace, remembers the fire. “The church was my second home,” said Petrocci. “My father had built candle holders for the church and my mother tried to save them from the fire, but couldn’t. Growing up in the church is part of my heritage. I remember going with my mother to collect pennies door-to-door to raise money for the church and then later to raise money for a bell. And I remember my mother ironing the vestments.”

Petrocci said she used to sing in the choir. Today, she serves on the Lazarus Committee and is treasurer of the Altar Rosary Society.

Father Fetcho said that the parish has always been small and close and that the church was the center of everything. “We’re a family,” said Petrocci. “I feel God has truly blessed me. We’re a very loving community.”
Masses were temporarily held at Lakeland School and auditorium and in the church hall after the fire. Volunteers, men of the parish and the Holy Name Society worked to restore the church for 10 weeks following the fire.

Father Reddy continued as pastor until his sudden death in 1958. Father Vincent Donovan served in his place until 1970, when he was transferred to St. Paul’s in Whitesboro. Father Donovan actively worked with the deaf community and was known for being an authority on the Shroud of Turin.

During Father Donovan’s tenure, the church was completely destroyed by a second fire on Feb. 14, 1964. A new brick church and rectory were built on Halcomb Street, approximately one block away from the original church and rectory. The new church was dedicated Nov. 14, 1965.

Father Leo Kalinowski was appointed pastor in 1970. He died suddenly on June 20, 1973.

Our Lady of Peace’s fourth pastor was Father Edward Hearn. He retired in 1981.

Father John Hill then took over as pastor until he retired in 1993. He encouraged and fostered the development of several lay ministers within the community. He also promoted religious education for children and provided opportunities for increased participation in the ministries of the church as well as in the parish pastoral council.

Father John Fetcho, current pastor at Our Lady of Peace, succeeded Father Hill. During Father Fetcho’s tenure, major projects within the church have been completed. One example was the need for classroom space for religious education students. The completion of this project was accomplished through the efforts of Father Fetcho and many of the parishioners.

Alex Jackemuk, as part of the Holy Name Society, helped to build the classrooms. Known as the “handyman of Lakeland,” Jackemuk continues to devote his time to maintaining and repairing items within the church and rectory. He has been a member of the church since its inception. “I remember walking two miles to the chapel after it was built,” said Jackemuk.

The interior of the church built in 1964-65 was never actually completed. The major project of completing the interior was undertaken by the parish in 1997 and it was finished in time for Christmas that year.
In 1999, the parish celebrated its 50th anniversary and the 35th anniversary of Father Fetcho’s ordination.

In 2005, four marble altars from St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph’s Churches in Binghamton were transported to Our Lady of Peace. The two churches had merged into one parish — Holy Trinity. Three altars were installed in the main church and one was placed in the Chapel.

Our Lady of Peace continues to be a hub of activity for the Lakeland area, providing for religious societies and and community activities such as picnics, dinners and special events.

Today, many of the pioneering families or their family members remain in Our Lady of Peace’s church community. Many of the long-time parishioners tirelessly devote their time and talents to the church’s ministries.
Helen Kielecki, who is Jackemuk’s sister, has been a member of Our Lady of Peace since 1947, when the parishioners met in the chapel to worship. Kielecki currently serves as a greeter at the Sunday morning Mass and is also an active member of the Altar Rosary Society. “I’ve loved it,” Kielecki said of her involvement with the Altar Rosary Society. She has also helped out with the maintenance of the grounds at the front of the church and has helped to carry the gifts during Mass.

Helen Koslowski is an extremely active member of the parish. She initiated the plans for the construction of the church’s Memorial Prayer Garden, is in charge of the Lazarus Committee, is a member of the Altar Rosary Society, is in charge of the Soup and Sandwich Supper and serves on the church’s gift committee. In addition, she meets once every month along with 12 other parishioners to make rosaries. The rosaries are sent out to a religious sister in Florida who in turn sends them to missionaries, the military, prisons and hospitals. “It’s a very satisfying experience,” said Koslowski.

Genevieve Kolceski is another long-time member who is active in the parish. “I do as much as I can,” Kolceski said. She is a member of the Lazarus Committee and the Altar Rosary Society.

Marie Iadanza has been a parishioner of Our Lady of Peace for almost 50 years. She is the church historian, serves on the human development committee and as lector and Eucharistic Minister. In addition, Iadanza is in charge if the food pantry and is a member of the Altar Rosary Society. Iadanza described her time as a parishioner at Our Lady of Peace as a “welcoming experience.”

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