In the Port Richmond section of Staten Island, St. Adalbert-St. Roch parish has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of St. Roch Church.
Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen served as principal celebrant of the Sept. 24 centennial Mass. The outdoor noon liturgy at St. Roch was preceded by a special procession accompanied by an Italian marching band, and followed by a parish picnic. About 450 people attended, including the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, who have served the parish since St. Roch’s beginning.
The celebration theme was “We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe.”
“It was a great Mass; and a nice day, a beautiful day to celebrate the 100 years of St. Roch Church,” Father Albin Roby, pastor of St. Adalbert-St. Roch, told Catholic New York after the centennial Mass.
“Bishop Whalen spoke about this being a merged parish, about the two churches becoming one community; he said: the parish is not the church building, it is you, the people. You are the Church.’”
Father Roby noted, “We have a vibrant parish community; and we have the statues of St. Roch, St. Adalbert and Our Lady of Guadalupe…Both churches have come together as a unified parish.” He cited the dedicated volunteer work of many parishioners in the various groups and ministries.
The pastor was among the Mass concelebrants, along with Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne, episcopal vicar of Staten Island, and Msgr. William Belford, dean of Staten Island, and former priests of the parish.
The parishes of St. Adalbert and St. Roch merged into one parish in August 2015 under the archdiocesan pastoral planning initiative, “Making All Things New.”
The original church served a primarily Italian community with Mass celebrated in English and Italian, but St. Roch has long been a multicultural community.
The parish, with 770 registered families, offers religious education for children in grades one to eight; 140 children are enrolled. Sirena Huang, a longtime parishioner, serves as parish secretary and religious education coordinator.
“We are so happy to celebrate our 100th anniversary. I love my parish,” Ms. Huang told CNY. “Father Roby noticed how many ethnic groups are represented in the parish and (in September 2018) held an International Food Festival to promote unity among the parishioners.
“This was a high point in our parish merger. Everyone worked together.”
On Sept. 21, 1922, Cardinal Patrick Hayes appointed Father Catello Terrone to be the first pastor of St. Roch Church. On Dec. 2 of that year, a document was received from Cardinal Basilio Pompili, the vicar general of Rome, testifying to the authenticity of relics of St. Roch, St. Anthony, St. Lucy, St. Rita and St. Ann placed in the altar stone.
From 1922 to 1928 the church was a small wooden structure. It soon became apparent that a larger structure was needed to meet the growing number of parishioners. The current building was constructed with the donations of a local contractor and parishioners who went door to door to sell bricks for $1.
The cornerstone of the church was laid in August 1928. On Dec. 24, 1928, at midnight, the first Mass in the new St. Roch Church was celebrated.
Later there were expansions of the parish with construction of St. Roch School and St. Roch Convent. The school was staffed by the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, who oversaw the students’ spiritual and academic education until the school’s closing in 2011. The community’s sisters currently run the parish food pantry.
In the mid-1960s, a new rectory was constructed, which still stands today serving as the pastor’s residence and the parish office. “It also houses the parish food pantry and the religious education office, and it serves as a hub for parish groups and societies,” the parish history states.
In September 1983, Father Alfred Pucci became the fourth pastor of St. Roch. In 1987 he began a restoration project for the outside of the church. In 1989, a kindergarten suite was added to the school.
Father James Hauver, a priest administrator, is best known for bringing Spanish Mass to St. Roch in 2012. With the Hispanic population growing, he learned to speak Spanish to celebrate Mass. “The Spanish Mass began with a handful of attendees but has since grown to quite often the most attended Sunday Mass,” according to the parish history. Father Roby is the second pastor of the merged parish, serving in that capacity since 2018.