No Shortage of Willing Volunteers at 150-Year-Old Blauvelt Parish

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Msgr. Francis McAree considers it a blessing to serve as pastor of St. Catharine of Alexandria parish in Blauvelt for the past five years.

“They are eager to help. If I had to ask, I didn’t have to ask twice. We have a large number of people who are very generous with their time,” Msgr. McAree told CNY of parishioners of St. Catharine’s, which just completed its 150-year celebration of service to God’s people with a Mass offered by Cardinal Dolan Oct. 27.

“It’s special. It shows the support of the people in the parish over the years and today. They’re loyal and dedicated in their presence and generosity.”

The parish volunteers at St. Catharine’s have opportunities to participate in numerous activities that deepen their faith. Volunteers assisted with the 150th anniversary gala dinner dance at the Pearl River Hilton Oct. 19 and an anniversary concert five days earlier with three Rockland County Catholic Church choirs, St. Catharine’s choir director Dr. Rene Dalandan and Dr. Jennifer Pascual, the music director and organist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“We had a wonderful choir concert,” said 84-year-old Anna Stellwag, a parishioner for 57 years who is on the parish council and represents Rockland County on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.

“Dr. Jennifer Pascual played solo on the organ and then in a duet with Rene, who was on the piano. It was magnificent. I hope we start this as a tradition.”

A half page of the weekly parish bulletin is frequently used to list the contacts for parish ministries and services. The 2,000-family parish has about 500 children registered in the religious education programs, 250 basketball players in CYO play and 90 pre-K children in the St. Catharine Early Childhood Center. A teen association, prayer group, Bible study and a prayer shawl ministry are among the other parish groups.

“We have a lot of wonderful parishes in Rockland County, but I believe ours is a little extra special. It’s a testament to the people in the parish. They are giving, caring people and work to make everything as special as it can be,” said Kerry Beckmann, a parishioner for 57 years who has served St. Catharine’s as parish council secretary, parish trustee and assigner of Eucharistic ministers.

St. Catharine’s was established as a parish in 1868, with George Lediger donating four acres of land plus $300. The church was dedicated in 1869, and a parish rectory was completed three years later.

In 1964, a fire destroyed St. Catharine’s Church, and Masses were moved to the school gymnasium. Construction of the current church began in 1966 and it opened in 1968, the 100th anniversary of the parish.

“The whole parish stuck together and wanted something new,” said Leonard Feroldi, a 90-year-old parishioner who has served as parish facilities manager for 55 years.

“In those days, the church was the center of the whole town. The parish was one of the busiest in the county. You couldn’t find a day where something was not going on.”

St. Catharine’s, which educated children in its parish school from 1957 until it closed in 2008, refurbished its church for the 125th anniversary celebration in 1993. A new parish rectory was completed in 2008.

Msgr. McAree is assisted by parochial vicar Father Abraham Vallayil, C.M.I., Deacon John Jurasek and Deacon John Kelleher. The parish offers weekend Masses on Saturday at 5 p.m., and Sunday at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. A 6:45 a.m. and on 8:30 a.m. Mass are celebrated Monday through Friday, and an 8:30 a.m. Mass on Saturday.

“It’s a nice town and nice parish community,” Ms. Beckmann said. “All of us try and go the extra mile to be the best we can to offer the most to our parishioners. We’re always looking to make it better.”

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