Rose Paladino calls St. Joseph’s parish in Somers “a very loving place” that’s thriving 176 years after being established for Catholics in northern Westchester County.
Cardinal Dolan celebrated a Mass followed by a picnic Aug. 8 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the parish, held a year late due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
About 360 people attended the picnic.
“Everybody is very friendly and knows each other. It’s a nice place to be,” Mrs. Paladino, a 79-year-old parishioner of St. Joseph’s, told CNY.
“It’s a very loving place. It makes you want to go to church.”
Cardinal Dolan also blessed a statue by New York City artist Christopher Alles of St. Joseph, Foster Father of the Son of God.
“It’s a great place,” Father John Lagiovane, pastor of the parish with over 3,000 registered families. “I’m very blessed to be here. It is a very welcoming community.”
Father Lagiovane said Alles is working on a second statue for the parish, St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death.
Archbishop John Hughes established St. Joseph’s parish in 1845. The first church, constructed near railroad tracks in 1849, was destroyed by a fire started from sparks coming from a passing train in 1893.
The current church, a 30,000-square foot building with a seating capacity of 800, opened in 2013 and was dedicated by Cardinal Dolan the next year. Before the opening of the current church, parish Masses were celebrated in a 200-seat St. Joseph’s Church in Croton Falls, the auditorium of the former parish school, and two chapels, St. John’s in North Salem and St. Michael’s in Goldens Bridge.
“Bringing all those groups and people into one building was really a blessing,” Father Lagiovane said. “We’ve become a beautiful family even though the parish is large.
“We’re all under one roof now. It’s a whole different game. It’s more of a cohesiveness and unified mission.”
Father Lagiovane arrived to serve as administrator nine days after the dedication in 2014 and was named pastor in 2015. He is assisted by Father Matthew Breslin and Father Jude Aguwa, who are both parochial vicars; Deacon George Sica and Deacon Lawrence Battersby; and Subdeacon Michel Rabbah, MCR.
Weekend Masses are offered at 5 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. Sunday. Weekday Masses are celebrated at 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and a Saturday Mass is offered at 8 a.m.
Pamela Crozier is the coordinator of religious education, a program with 550 children.
Ministries include Knights of Columbus, pastoral care for three nursing homes, altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, musicians and choirs. The musicians and singers were part of a parish concert series in the spring.
The parish now offers Eucharistic adoration every Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the chapel and every first Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. in the church from September to June.
“One of the things I’ve enjoyed seeing is the appreciation and sense of faith in our people, it’s inspiring,” Father Lagiovane said. “It’s a tremendous blessing to me. It helps us as priests. Our faith is increased by the faith of the people.”
Father Lagiovane added that the parish’s sacramental life is thriving, with 23 baptisms in June and 60 weddings pending.
“I believe in many ways St. Joseph is blessing us,” Father Lagiovane said.
Marie Milbrandt, 97, said fellow parishioners are quick to assist her in taking her walker out of the car.
“Everyone is very friendly considering there are a lot of people and they are always willing to help,” she said. “I love the church, and Father Lagiovane is doing a great job.”
Another longtime parishioner, John Corrao, 82, would like St. Joseph to conduct outreach so it continues to flourish.
“What I’d like the parish to do is get more people involved in the parish, have a campaign where we welcome people to come to Mass and encourage them to be a part of our programs,” he said.