Going up: Kingston church raising funds for elevator

 

The Rev. Miroslaw Pawlaczyk, generally known as Father Mirek. (photo by Hugh Reynolds)

The Rev. Miroslaw Pawlaczyk, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church on Delaware Avenue in Kingston, has his sights set high these days. Plans were announced this month for the installation of an elevator in the church’s school building. It will be the first major construction project at the church since the school was rebuilt almost 60 years ago.

Since his arrival in 2016 from a church in Port Chester, the 53-year-old Father Mirek, as he is called by his parishioners, has led his flock of about 300 on a mission of expansion and outreach.

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With the aid of an eager band of energized parishioners, Father Mirek has literally changed the landscape of the 120-year-old church. The construction of a 10-foot-high retaining wall at the rear of church property created additional space for the well-attended revival of the church’s popular July bazaar. New windows were installed in the former school building, closed in 1979 but used for multiple purposes these days.

The estimated $225,000 budget for the elevator and bathrooms may seem a tall order for a church with an annual operating budget of about $150,000. The elevator will be a standalone project, the pastor and fund-raising committee chairman Jerry Gretzinger emphasized. There are no plans at this time for special collections at masses. The committee has already begun to solicit numerous community organizations and businesses for support.

The new priest has continued a tradition of reaching out to former parishioners and recruitment of new ones. When the Knights of Columbus sold their building on Broadway, former pastor Father John Borzuchowski was quick to invite them to meet at church facilities.

The three-story-school building (including its basement) is used for religious education, Bible study groups, penny socials and dinners. Its Perpetual Adoration Chapel, established some 20 years ago, is open 24 hours a day and accessible to anyone in Ulster County. “We are a broad, welcoming community,” Father Mirek said.

An elevator would make the former 3,000-square-foot basketball court on the top floor of the former school more accessible. “We are not going to abandon our elderly or handicapped parishioners. We want to embrace them,” Father Mirek said at an interview last week at the church rectory.

According to church history, Polish immigrants (Poland was then partitioned among Russia, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire) began arriving in numbers in Kingston in the late 1870s. The church was established in rental property on Union Street in 1893. Its White Eagle (men’s) Benevolent Society, formed in 1892, was instrumental in raising funds to build the present sanctuary of native brick in 1896. The original wooden school was demolished and rebuilt with brick in 1961.

Father Mirek’s journey from his native Poland took him from seminary training to the Hudson Valley. The celebration of his 25th anniversary as a priest attracted over 160 attendees last June. Father Mirek succeeded the retired Rev. Borzuchowski, a Polish native who had served the congregation for 25 years.

“In Poland,” Father Mirek said, “the bishop tells you where you will be assigned. And that’s where you go. Period. Here, they offer several choices. Immaculate Conception, with its Polish heritage, was always where I wanted to be. It was my only choice.”

The “Rise to the Top” elevator fundraising committee includes Gretzinger and his wife Fran, Lynn Dunham, Terry and Ron Miles and Rob Jankowski. Information is available from Dunham at (914) 388-2643. Donations and items for a silent auction are being collected at that number.

The committee will formally launch its fund drive with a dinner at The Chateau on the Boulevard in Kingston on Friday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m. (snow date January 27). The $50 admission includes a sit-down dinner and a live auction.

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