The parish community of St. Paul-St. Ann celebrated the reopening of the newly renovated St. Paul’s Church in Congers Aug. 8 with a Mass and blessing offered by Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese.
Father Vladimir Chripko, C.O., pastor of St. Paul-St. Ann and provost of the New York Oratory of St. Philip Neri, was among the principal concelebrants. “It was a very exciting moment. It was a beautiful celebration,” he told CNY.
The renovations, which cost close to $1 million, included more spacious and numerous aisles, a sleek floor, a large sanctuary, shorter refinished pews, a new ceiling optimized for acoustics, seating for 1,200 people, natural lighting and an elaborate stained glass window behind the altar.
The Renew and Rebuild committee planned the renovation of the church, which started Dec. 26, 2019. The reopening of the church, scheduled for June 13, was delayed as construction was interrupted when businesses were shut in New York state during the coronavirus pandemic. The project resumed when businesses began reopening.
About 150 people, practicing social distancing, attended the 5 p.m. vigil Mass inside the church; 80 were in the parish hall and 50 more were outside.
Other principal concelebrants included Father George Torok, C.O., provost emeritus of the oratory; Father Roman Dominik Palecko, C.O., assistant pastor, and Father Arogya Raj Narisetty and Father Joseph Kumar Narisetty, parochial vicars.
“What a beautiful church and what a difference, so congratulations,” Msgr. LaMorte said to the parishioners at Mass and those watching via livestream.
Msgr. LaMorte served eight years as pastor of St. Gregory Barbarigo in nearby Garnerville before being named vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese by Cardinal Dolan in 2018 and visited St Paul’s often. He recalled the friendships established with the New York Oratory of St. Philip Neri, based in Tappan.
“When I was up in Garnerville and I found myself without a parochial vicar, without an assistant, I really didn’t know where to turn,” he said. “It was four years a priest came from Tappan every day to Garnerville to help with the celebration of the Eucharist, so I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Andy Dolce, 84, has been a parishioner for 40 years and is the chairman of the parish’s Renew and Rebuild committee. “It feels more spiritual. The huge piece of stained glass is the first impression you get when you walk in,” Dolce said. “For years, the biggest complaint was it was more like a civic center or auditorium; it did not have the spirituality of other churches.”
Reopening the church “was a great moment,” he said. “With Father Chripko’s leadership, we got it open in a time to encourage people to come back to church. The beauty of the church will encourage people to come back.”
St. Paul-St. Ann became a merged parish as part of the archdiocesan pastoral planning initiative, Making All Things New in 2015, the same year the New York Oratory of St. Philip Neri began serving the parish and Father Chripko was appointed its first pastor. St. Paul’s parish dates to 1895 and St. Ann’s Church in Nyack became a parish in 1869.
With the renovations completed and St. Paul’s open, the parish’s Renew and Rebuild committee will begin meeting to plan future work at the two churches, including the entrance to St. Paul’s.
“Buckle up, we’ve only started,” Father Chripko said.