Parish History (Page 7 of 8)
Father Marion Paskowicz was assigned to St. Mary's as an assistant to Father Duminiak on September 2, 1969. On September 1, 1971, he was named adminstrator of the parish in the absence of the convalescing Father Duminiak. On June 11, 1973, Father Duminiak resigned as pastor of St. Mary's. Father Paskowicz remained as administrator until he was named pastor on June 17, 1975.
Concerned about the lack of parking in the vicinity of the church, Father Paskowicz razed the original Rectory at 236 South 12th Street to provide additional parking (parking lot to the left of the church). Prior to this, the only available parking was on the street and the parking lot adjacent to the convent. To provide additional off-street parking, Father Paskowicz also razed the first St. Mary School behind the church (now the rear parking lot). The number of families in the parish decreased with the result that fewer children attended St. Mary's School. The classrooms over St. Mary's Hall was sufficient to handle the reduced number of students. The classrooms over the hall were greatly needed when the building was built in 1928. In those days, St. Mary's School enrollment was close to 1,000 pupils and the "new" housed the upper grades. Once the parish no longer provided the 9th and 10th grades in its elementary complex, the classrooms above St. Mary's Hall served for a number of years as the Freshman Annex of Central Catholic High School. The Felician Sisters, who served the parish since 1904, withdrew in 1978. Father Paskowicz was able to secure the services of the Bernardine Sisters to take their place (the same community that had conducted the parish school from 1894 to 1898).
Father Paskowicz then razed the 1908 Gothic Rectory and rebuilt it in Colonial style in the same location. The new rectory, the demolition of the old rectory and the old school, the rebuilding of the back wall of the church, and the building of a new sacristy to join the rectory to the church cost $383,000. Father Paskowicz undertook several projects to beautify the church with marble and stained glass, installed new Stations of the Cross, and made provision in the church basement for a weekday Mass Chapel to save on fuel costs in the heating season and to bring the weekday congregation closer to the altar. This weekday chapel, honoring St. Joseph, was dedicated by Msgr. Bronislaus Sienkiewicz, a former assistant at St. Mary's.
Father Paskowicz was anxious to preserve the Polish traditions of the parish as a means of preserving the parish. To this end, "Gorzkie Zale" was revived and Polish was used more in the liturgy. But the parish was no longer the parish it had been. The language of the vast majority of parishoners was English and for an ever-increasing number, English was their only language. And much worse, the unstoppable move to the suburbs had begun and during Father Paskowicz's tenue, the membership of the parish fell to 2,001 souls from 4,085.
In May of 1984, Father Paskowicz requested sick leave from Bishop Thomas Welsh, the successor of Bishop McShea, founding Bishop of Allentown. Father Paskowicz is still officially on sick leave. On May 24, 1984, Father Leonard S. Merook was appointed pastor of St. Mary's. Sadly on September 1, 1984, Father Merook died very suddenly in his suite in the rectory. Father Merook was buried from St. Mary's and lies in the parish cemetery next to Father Malusecki.
Father Merook was succeeded as pastor by Father Leo S. Stajkowski on October 2, 1984. Father Stajkowski was no stranger to St. Mary's as he was born to parents who were parishoners of St. Mary.s
Father Marion Paskowicz
View of the Present St. Mary's Showing the New,
Rebuilt Colonial Style Rectory
St. Mary Roman Catholic Church
250 South 12th St., Reading, PA 19602