Dear St. Mary's,
I'd like to take a moment to consider the past year, here, in the parish. I think it's good to regularly stop and take note of where you've been. In our case, looking back over these last twelve or so months is going to be fun. It was a great year!
I was thinking about our 100th Anniversary Party back in September and how, at one point, midway through the evening, it looked like the entire party was on the floor. Everybody seemed to be dancing... young, old, long time parishioners, recent members, multiple ethnic groups. It would have made for a great photo. A snapshot of who we are. It really was a special night. There's even some buzz out there about celebrating 101 next year. Special thanks to Wendy Ponte and Gerri Maquet for chairing the gala and to Rina Lee for putting together the evening's journal.
I recently received a letter from a Long Beach resident who happened to be riding the boardwalk one Sunday evening while the Beach Mass was in progress. She was stunned by the crowd and the reverence. She told me that it had been years since she had been to Mass and the sight of hundreds in prayer on the sand challenged and inspired her to get back to Church. She's now a regular at the 6:30. How great is that! Special thanks to the Beach Mass Committee for making those Sunday evenings happen. In a particular way, I'd like to thanks Eva Paprocki for organizing that great crew.
Our summer fair was also one of the year's highlights. Thanks to the tireless effort of Kevin Donnelly and a massive corps of volunteers, we were able to increase our take by 20% to $50,000. With the addition of live music, a spruced up look in the casino and good weather, we were able to see growth. Look for more exciting things to come in 2016!
Last fall, we began our series of Men's and Women's Holy Hours. They've been great evenings. Some nights, we've had as many as 150 people in attendance before the Blessed Sacrament. Parties and fairs are important, but if they don't lead a parish to prayer, then they're just…parties and fairs. I'm grateful to all who've committed to these evenings. I'm also excited about changes we've made to our Religious Ed. program. Back in the fall we merged our middle school classes with St. Ignatius. I asked Andrew Santos, our Director of Outreach, if he'd be interested in coordinating the 6th - 8th grade classes, along with Mike Griffin, our Youth Minister. They both agreed and we've had a great couple of months since our kickoff. As the declining number of priests in our diocese continues to be a challenge, the prospect of working together with neighboring parishes makes more sense than ever. On the elementary level, I'm happy to have Gerri Maquet now coordinating the K-5th grade classes. Your kids are being well served at St. Mary's!
I'm also so grateful for all of the physical changes that have taken place over this past year. The renovation of the church exterior is now complete. I'd like to thank those who were so generous in donating the stained glass windows and to Pat Gordon, from Pat Gordon Contracting, for putting it all together and donating all of his time and energy to the project. I think the Church really does look beautiful!
Over in the hall, we turned the former religious education office into a classroom to accommodate our growing need for space. A word of thanks to Gerry Conway, of the Clancy Group, for his generosity and contracting services.
Additionally, thanks to a significant donation from Susan O'Connor we were able to complete a badly needed updating of the kitchen. The new and improved kitchen will allow our soup kitchen volunteers to, even more effectively, serve the City's needy. As I write this letter, the parish hall is filled with the makings of over 400 turkey dinners for Thanksgiving. In a few weeks, toys will fill the hall for those in our community who, without the goodness of our parish, would experience a simpler Christmas morning. The work of Human Services never ends at St. Mary's.
With help from the City of Long Beach and donations from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and CYO, we are bringing basketball back to the hall! In order to make all that happen, we'll need to update the hall lighting and resurface the floor to make it more kid friendly. Our hope is to be playing ball in the hall by the spring.
It was recently brought to my attention that the east side wall of the parish hall is leaking every time we get a good rain. In the next few weeks I'll need to get estimates for repointing the brick. This summer we cleaned up the front doors of the hall with a nice paint job, but I'll think we'll also need to look at a more involved facelift to the vestibule. More to follow on that.
I get compliments all the time about the landscaping and plantings around the Church. I agree. The grounds look great, but thanks should go to Pasquale Tuosto, of Pat's Farms. For years, Pasquale has been providing the weekly landscaping services, the seasonal planting of bushes and trees as well as the flowers in the Church at Christmas, Easter and throughout the year. Thanks to Pasquale for making the place look so good.
Just two weeks ago, we enjoyed our first annual Casino Night. People loved it! Like the landscaping observations, I get all the compliments, but very quickly I direct the kind words to those who deserve them. All those, behind the scenes, people who organize parties for New Year's, Valentine's, St. Pat's, Columbus Day, Halloween, Philipino and Latino celebrations. So many great events and so many generous people.
Financially speaking, things continue to move in the right direction. Thank you for that. I've attached our Financial Report from last year and this year's Budget for your review. I apologize for the long letter, but fortunately, there's lots of good news to report.
Recently, I made a sizable payment to a furniture factory in Rochester. They specialize in church furniture. The check was for five new pews. New pews. Not replacement pews or refurbished pews. I needed to order new ones because the church was becoming too crowded. In a letter with a lot of news, I think that's the best of all. We need more pews! Thanks for your presence, support, generosity and kindness.
Thanks for forcing me to make that order.