Parish History (Page 8 of 8)
1984 - 2015
Father Leo S. Stajkowski
Since his arrival as pastor, Father Stajkowski has seen to the installation of a new water system at the parish cemetery, replacing the original rusted pipes and adding new spigots on both the old and new sections of the cemetery. He replaced the sections of cemetery fencing and resolved the erosion problems resulting from the city's widening of Upland Avenue. He replaced the original wooden doors of the hall/school auditorium with bronzed aluminum doors, repaired the roofs of the hall/school and convent, repointed and waterproofed the church, hall/school, and convent, soundproofed rectory offices to increase privacy, and added a powder room on the first floor of the convent for the sisters.
More importantly, he had the privilege of preparing the parish for the parish Centennial. To prepare for the Centennial, the pews were refurbished, new kneelers and hymnal racks installed on the backs of the pews, and new ventilators were installed in the church's stained glass windows. Rooms were built at the back of the church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for proper liturgical entry on Sundays and Holy Days, and for parents with infants. The church was closed for services from January to March of 1988 and the liturgies were observed in the upper auditorium of the hall/school, while the church was completely repainted by the Ritterbeck Family, professional chuch painters from Gouldsboro, PA. Casablanca fans and new chandeliers (the latter the gift of four parishoners) were installed, the sanctuary was slightly enlarged and carpeted, new bronze candlesticks and vases purchased, the tabernacle restored to match the new bronzeware, a crucified Christ the Priest installed to the left of the altar of sacrifice and opposite the tabernacle, and the Sacred Heart rebuilt and re-installed in the old altarboy's sacristy while the smaller Agnus Dei window from the sacristy was installed in its place. The Mohler organ was rebuilt over a period of three years for $40,000. In the Centennial year, Father Stajkowski also directed repairs to the basement chapel, replacing the bulging Masonite walls with drywall, painting and recarpeting the chapel, installing pews matching those in the church, rebuilding the sacristy, adding new pew screens and kneelers and hymnal racks. A new ceiling was also installed in the chapel, new fire and burglar alarms added in the church and rectory, and the church was rewired.
In the Centennial year, Father Stajkowski arranged for an English-language mission and a Polish-language triduum to help celebrate this milestone in St. Mary's history. He conducted a visitation of the parish to ascertain the membership of the parish and the needs of the parishoners.
St. Mary's Centennial was observed with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 3:30 PM on Sunday, October 16, 1988, offered by Bishop Thomas J. Welsh. Concelebrating were Msgrs. John Baruch, James Treston, Joseph Smith, John Campbell, and Edward Musial, and Fathers Raymond Slezak, Robert Tobolski MSC, David Kohut OFM, Anthony Ziemba, Ladislaus Dudek, Lawrence Bukaty, Frederick Przydzial, Roman Tarka, Donald Cieniewicz, and Loe Stajokowski. Msgr. Francis Urbanowicz was present in the sanctuary, and Father William Baver acted as masters of ceremonies. A Dinner/Dance at Riveredge followed, with Msgr. Francis Urbanowicz giving the main address. Bishop Welsh also spoke.
Since the Centennial, Father Stajkowski has done much to restore the Polish heritage of the parish. Recently, there parish membership has been augmented by an influx of Polish immigrants. As a result, St. Mary's now offers a Polish-language Mass once a month to meets the needs of these recent immigrants.
As the number of school students declined over the intervening years, the Bernardine Sisters withdrew from St. Mary's School to be replaced by lay teachers. Eventually, the number of students became so low that it was no longer financially viable to operate the parish school and it was closed. Father Stajkowski arranged for a St. Mary's parish rate that enables school children from the parish to attend the Catholic school of their choice from the schools operated by other parishes in Reading and surrounding communities. With the departure of the Bernardines, the convent stood empty for a period and then became a home for unwed mothers called Mary's Shelter. Eventually, Mary's Shelter moved out and the old convent is now a rental property.
Father Stajkowski, in 2009, was given a dinner at Schmeck's Villa by church staff and parishoners in celebration of his 25 years as pastor of St. Mary Parish.
Father Stajowski retired on July 20, 2015 after refurbishing the bathrooms in the church, repainting the church, replacing the roof on the church hall/school, installing air conditioning in the church, and replacing oil heat with gas heat. These improvements were financed by the generous contributions of several wealthy parishioners and by contributions from many parishioners in addition to the Mass contributions. Father Stajkowski was a fervent supporter of the Church Magisterium and faithfully guided and instructed the parishioners in the Truths of the Church.
Due to a diocese wide shortage of priests, Father Stajkowski was replaced by an administrator, Msgr. Edward Domin, of St. Catharine of Sienna Parish. The post-Stajkowski history of St.Mary's will be added to this history when a significant portion of it occurs. You can view the Fr. Stajkowski history video shown at his retirement party at vimeo.com/130603536.
St. Mary Roman Catholic Church
250 South 12th St., Reading, PA 19602