Parish History (Page 6 of 8)
1962 - 1971
Father Joseph A Zmijewski, D.D., late in 1961, was appointed administrator of St. Mary's Parish to replace the retired pastor Father John Mickun. When Father Zmijewski arrived, he was immediately faced with the task of raising $100,000 for Bishop McShea's campaign to build the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, as well as Holy Name, Marian, and Bethlehem Catholic High Schools. St. Mary's pledged $180,000 toward the campaign, leading all the parishes of Berks County and all the Polish parishes of the diocese. Father Zmijewski could not rest on his laurels as the Diamond Jubilee of St. Mary's was fast approaching (1963). In preparation for the jubilee, he began planning extensive renovations to the church.
The cost of these renovations was $150,000. The two steeples were rebuilt and a statue of the Blessed Mother was hoisted over the main entrance of the church. Father Zmijewski was determined to replace the wooden main and side altars with marble ones. Because the wooden floor could not hold the marble altars and the terrazo floor he wanted to install, it was necessary to reinforce and rebuild the church's floor. A mosiac of the Blessed Virgin Mary, executed in the Italian style and probably copied from the Lateran Madonna della Fiducia, was installed within a marble border as the raredos of the new main altar, which faced the wall as the old altar had done. The church was painted by Theodore Hooven of Philadelpha. New chandeliers in a modern style replaced the Gothic lantern chandeliers installed in 1938. New pews and confessionals, in a light finish, were installed. The new pews provided for two rows of pews replacing the old four rows across. In addition, the new pews were much more comfortable than the old pews. The electrical and sound systems were also upgraded.
The Diamond Jubliee was celebrated on October 20, 1963. Bishop McShea was not present because he was in Rome attending the Second Vatican Council. Father Anthony Ziemba, priest-son of the parish, celebrated the Jubilee Mass. He was assisted by Fathers Julian Zagorski, Francis Urbanowicz, Joseph Daniel, and John Basinski - all former assistant pastors. The sermon was preached by Father Jerome Staniszewski, OFM, who prior to the Jubilee preached a mission in the parish. A dinner was served that evening in the Rajah Ballroom at which Msgr. Peter J. Kiekotka of Chester gave the address.
St. Mary Church After the 1963 Renovation
Father Zmijewski also introduced the annual and perpetual care payments for the parish cemetery. Like most parish cemeteries, no thought was given to endowment when it was set up nor was there any financial planning. The needs of the parish cemetery were met from parish funds. Times were cheap and graves were dug for a pittance. Survivors mowed the grass and planted flowers on the graves of their loved ones or made private arrangements with men who made it known that they would see to things. As responsibility for cemetery care fell more and more upon the parish, something needed to be done to fund the cemetery care. While Father Mickun had asked for a once-and-done payment for cemetery care, Father Zmijewski inaugurated a regular annual charge with the possibility of a perpetual care payment. In the future, perpetual care payments was deemed the best way of securing an endowment for the future care of the cemetery.
In 1966, Father Zmijewski's health began to fail. Although hospitalized several times, he continued to function despite great pain. On September 28, 1968, he died and was buried from St.Mary's with funeral Mass offered by Bishop McShea.
As Father Mickun was still alive, Bishop McShea, on October 23, 1968, assigned Father John A. Duminiak administrator of St. Mary's. Father Duminiak became pastor on March 27, 1969 after Father Mickun died.
Father Duminiak had to detach the marble altar installed by Father Zmijewski and reposition it as a free-standing altar so that Mass could be said with the priest facing the congregation in accord with the Second Vatican Council recommendations. The tabernacle was repositioned to the side of the alter and the center altar rails were removed. This is the positioning that you see at the present time when attending Mass at St. Mary's.
When Father Duminiak's health failed, Father Marion Paskowicz was assigned as administrator of St. Mary's.
Father John Duminiak
St. Mary Roman Catholic Church
250 South 12th St., Reading, PA 19602