Walden Church With ‘Small Town Feel’ and New Pastor Marks Anniversary

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Rich Wendel found a new church community with a “small town feel” at Walden’s Most Precious Blood Church, which culminated its 125th anniversary celebration with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan Nov. 6.

“I lived in the Hudson Valley my whole life,” Wendel told CNY. “I came from St. Stephen in Warwick, which was a small parish and is now much bigger. It reminded me of St. Stephen. I found a new home with something I was used to.” 

Wendel has been a parishioner of Most Precious Blood for 30 years and his three children attended Most Precious Blood School, now a regional Catholic school. He was at the Mass offered by Cardinal Dolan and the reception afterward.

“He socialized with everyone and was quite engaging,” Wendel said of the cardinal’s presence.

The Mass, reception and installation of Father Thomas Colucci as pastor culminated the 125th anniversary celebration that also included other anniversary events: a picnic at Popp Pavilion in Wallkill, Aug. 8; a dinner dance at Colden Manor at Spruce Lodge in Montgomery, Sept. 17; and a T-shirt contest for parish kids.

“To be here and be a pastor, I’m very excited. It’s a wonderful place. I’m very happy. I’ve gotten attached to the people here,” said Father Colucci, who was named parish administrator in 2019 and was appointed pastor July 1. 

“We have a good parish and good community. Hopefully we’ll keep moving forward. The parish is growing. People love the parish and the church, they take a lot of pride in it.” 

Father Colucci is assisted by Father Paul Obiji, a weekend associate, and Deacon Barney Kahn. Weekend Masses are offered Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the church and 6:30 in St. Benedict’s Chapel in Wallkill, and Sunday at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. in the church. Mass is also celebrated at 9 a.m. on Monday-Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Confessions are offered twice on Saturday, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is on the first Friday of the month.

The parish, with 600 families, averaged 600 people at weekend Masses before the Covid-19 pandemic and is now averaging 400, a number steadily growing with the influx of new and young families in the community. Parish baptisms have steadily increased and may reach 60 in 2021, and school enrollment has increased 50 percent in recent years, with about 190 students now enrolled under principal Woodrow Hallaway.

Lori Mahoney, a parishioner since 1985, has served in the religious education program since 1994 and has been the program’s coordinator for 10 years. The religious education program, which has about 130 students, just moved into a renovated building next to the church with four classrooms and two offices.

“I think it’s the atmosphere,” said Mrs. Mahoney about what she likes about the church and parish. “We’re very family oriented, which is very important to me, and we’re a close spiritual community.”

The parish has Knights of Columbus, Most Precious Blood Rosary Altar Society, St. Benedict’s Rosary Altar Society, lectors and altar servers. 

The parish also has three outdoor basketball courts with lights at the school that drew about 500 children to its summer league this year.

Most Precious Blood’s first church was dedicated in 1896, but the parish dates back to 1893 when Father Charles Meredith arrived to serve as the first parish pastor on July 1, the feast of the Most Precious Blood. In 1915, St. Benedict’s Chapel was built in Wallkill and deeded to Most Precious Blood parish.

A new Most Precious Blood Church opened in 1954, and 12 years later, a parish school opened.

“There is a lot of life here and a lot of people help out to make it a good parish,” Father Colucci said.

Elayne Ryan first became a parishioner in 1956, moved out of the region with her family for six years, and returned to Most Precious Blood in 1978. Her four adult children attended Most Precious Blood School.

“We decided to come back to this area. It was home,” she said. “The people have always been very friendly.”

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