St. Joseph Church in New Paltz will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the church with a special liturgy on Saturday, June 4 at 5 p.m. Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, Archbishop of New York, will preside over the Mass.
Cardinal Dolan was invited to the celebration at the church without any real expectation that he’d be able to attend, says Father Salvatore Cordaro, pastor at St. Joseph Church. “He’s invited to these kind of things all the time, but his schedule is jam-packed. So when we found out a few months ago that he was going to come, of course everyone was very excited.”
Cardinal Dolan is known for his charismatic personality and conservative values. Born February 6, 1950, he was named Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI in February of 2009. His predecessor was Edward Egan. Ordained to the priesthood in St. Louis in 1976, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis in 2001 by Pope Saint John Paul II and served as Archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002-2009. Dolan was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, participating a year later in the Conclave that elected Pope Francis. Time Magazine named Dolan one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” for 2012.
The celebration on June 4 honoring the 50th anniversary of the church dedication is being held a day earlier than the actual dedication date — June 5, 1966 — because the fifth of June falls on a Sunday this year. “We want as many of the priests who have served here previously to come,” says Father Sal, “and Sunday is not a good day to ask a priest to go anywhere, obviously.”
Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, Episcopal Vicar of the Northern Vicariates (Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties) will also attend the special service, as will the Capuchin Franciscan’s Provincial, the brothers’ lead friar. Other local clergy have also been invited along with politicians and local community leaders. Representatives of the Bruderhof community will attend, and the original designers and architects of the church building or their surviving family members were also invited.
“We want to make it not just a St. Joseph’s event, but a community event,” says Father Sal. “We’re not just celebrating a date, but celebrating the community that we are; who we are as a parish. And because we are an important part of the New Paltz community, we wanted to invite everyone to be a part of the celebration.”
St. Joseph Church normally celebrates Mass on Saturdays at 5 p.m. anyway, with Father Sal or his assistant, Father Michael, officiating. Although Cardinal Dolan will be the main celebrant on June 4, the service will be basically the same, although the music will be more elaborate, with both choirs present along with the contemporary ensemble, a folk group.
Father Sal will bring up the bread and wine at the Offertory and a family from the church will bring up a spiritual bouquet. Created by the children of the parish to present to the Cardinal, it will serve as a symbolic gesture of what children can contribute. “We asked our kids in religious education to offer up their good works and prayers, if they have drawings, or poems, reflections, things like that,” Father Sal says. “The children are also doing a time capsule for our archives. We want to make sure the kids are involved as much as they can be.”
All members of the public are invited to attend, but even with a 450-person capacity in the church, it is likely to be standing room only. Seating is first-come, first-served and seats may not be held for someone arriving at a later time. (There will be reserved seating for invited guests.) Father Sal says he’s concerned about the regular parishioners getting in, but knows they understand that it won’t be the standard situation that day and hopes they’ll plan ahead to get there early.
Elting Avenue will be closed in its entirety from 3-8 p.m., as will Mohonk Avenue on the side of the church. The main parking lot will be closed. Handicapped parking will be available on the entire side of Elting Avenue from Hasbrouck Avenue to Southside Avenue. (To enter, take either Route 208 or Tricor Avenue to Southside Avenue.) Those attending the Mass may use the parking lot at SUNY New Paltz behind the academic buildings, in spaces available behind the Faculty Tower and continuing south.
There will be a reception after the Mass downstairs in the church hall with light refreshments served. It’s not certain at this point whether the reception will allow an opportunity to meet Cardinal Dolan; it depends upon what his schedule allows. A slideshow and photo exhibit with images contributed by parishioners, taken over the past 50 years, will be shown at the reception. A commemorative journal is also being assembled.
St. Joseph Church will publish a book about the history of the church this fall. The parish is actually much older than the current building, having been established in the 1850s. The original church was located at the edge of the current parking lot. The steps that lead down to Route 208 were the steps that led to the church. When the population in the area grew, a larger church — the current building — was built.
According to research compiled by parishioner Virginia Trippi, who put together a detailed brochure about the history of the building, including the art and architectural details within, the structure was built in just under a year. The groundbreaking was in February of 1965 with the first Mass held on Christmas Eve that year.
The parishioners at St. Joseph Church have been ministered to by Capuchin Franciscan friars since 1976. Inspired by the life and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, they’re dedicated to serving those in need, living a simple lifestyle together as a community of brothers.
Capuchin Franciscan friars are known for being very approachable and “down-to-earth,” as is Cardinal Dolan. “We’re very happy that he’s going to be here,” says Father Sal. “Like the current Pope, he’s a man of the people. He likes to keep his feet on the ground and his ears open to what’s going on in the trenches, so to speak. I think that’s why people respond so well to him. At heart, he’s basically a priest. His office, his title, doesn’t remove him from the people. He’s still one of us.”