GREECE — A week after Agnes Falbo moved to Greece in July 1969, she had joined St. Lawrence Parish, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Forty years later, Falbo is still involved. She helps with vacation Bible school, teaches religious education and is a member of the liturgy committee. On Aug. 9, she poured cup after cup of lemonade during the parish’s 50th-anniversary picnic that followed a Mass celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark.
Bishop Clark noted that St. Lawrence, a deacon and a martyr, is a model of sacrifice.
"We are called in our everyday life of faith … to forget ourselves so that the Lord might rise up in our midst," he said.
That happens routinely at St. Lawrence, Falbo said.
"Everyone is so caring about each other," she said. "For weekend Masses, if there’s ever a need, it is immediately filled. We have such a great network of people, from the staff at the rectory, to the youth ministry, the religious (education) program and the priests."
Current pastor Father Frank Falletta, speaking a few days after the anniversary Mass, agreed that parishioners are extremely willing to get involved. He cited the example of the anniversary Mass, which was planned and organized entirely by volunteers.
"People are ready and willing to give you the help you need," said Father Falletta, who is one of only three pastors to lead the parish. The other two were founding pastor Father Edward Shamon and Father John Murphy.
Father Falletta noted that the parish has more than doubled in size from 1,600 families to 3,500 families during his 25 years as pastor. The parish started out in 1959 with 400 families, he said.
Hundreds of parishioners stood shoulder to shoulder facing a marble altar borrowed from Greece’s St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greece during the parish’s first Mass, which was celebrated at the Greece Town Hall, then located on West Ridge Road. A week later, Masses moved to a larger facility in what parishioners called the "catacombs" — the basement of Ridgecrest Shopping Center.
Parishioner Florence Michaloski remembers that parishioners sat in regular chairs at Ridgecrest rather than on pews. She said her late husband, John, did a lot of electrical work as part of a crew of more than 200 volunteers who helped build the original church, parish hall and school in the 1960s.
"It was a very friendly parish, and we always had wonderful priests," Michaloski said. "People kind of looked out for one another."
"It was a small community," recalled another original parishioner, Nancy DeVole. "You knew everybody in the parish."
Yet St. Lawrence quickly outgrew its temporary home in Ridgecrest and moved into its first church building on North Greece Road in 1960. As the population in the western portion of Greece and the eastern portion of Parma grew exponentially, St. Lawrence again outgrew the original North Greece Road building, even after several expansions. In the last three decades, the parish has built a new church across the street from the old, and it also constructed two new parish centers and several additions.
The most recent addition, Deacon Hall, named in honor of St. Lawrence, opened in 2006 and is attached to the main church. The hall served as the site of the Aug. 9 anniversary picnic. Parishioners sat in rows at long tables that filled the room — several tables also had to be set up in the hallway.
Although the parish now has thousands of members and is one of the largest in the diocese, the sense of community remains, parishioners said. Rich Kohler of Hilton said he has kept returning to St. Lawrence because of its warm and loving atmosphere. Kohler said when his family moved to Hilton in 1984, a friend invited him to try St. Lawrence.
"We came and loved it, and we have stayed ever since," he said.
St. Lawrence School is another reason why parishioners feel connected, said Sharon Fronheiser, whose children attended the school.
"We have no family in the state of New York, but there is a sense of community here, of everybody working together," said Fronheiser, who is part of a group that prays the rosary at the church. "We made wonderful friends through the school and met all kinds of people."
St. Lawrence Parish timeline
Here is a timeline of significant events in the life of St. Lawrence Parish in Greece:
- June 25, 1959 — Father Edward A. Shamon is appointed the pastor of the new parish.
- Aug. 30, 1959 — Church is organized; holds its initial Mass in Greece Town Hall, but the space is too small to accommodate 750 worshippers.
- September 1959 — Masses are moved to larger quarters at Ridgecrest Shopping Center.
- Oct. 4, 1959 — Ground is broken for a new church on more than 50 acres at 1000 N. Greece Road. The old St. Anne Church in Rochester is dismantled and reused for the structure. Father Shamon designs much of the church, which has a blend of colonial and Gregorian architecture. Most of the labor is performed by volunteers from the parish.
- Oct. 30, 1960 — Father Shamon, assisted by Father Lawrence Murphy and Father Henry Atwell, celebrates the first Mass in the new church on the feast of Christ the King. The parish then begins building a church hall.
- May 28, 1961 — The church building is dedicated by Archbishop Lawrence Casey.
- 1962 — Father John Murphy is named pastor. He oversees the completion of the parish hall and the establishment of the school.
- 1984 — Father Frank Falletta is named pastor.
- 1985 — The parish begins a $1.5 million campaign to build a new parish center and church.
- 1988 — The parish center is finished.
- Dec. 16, 1989 — Bishop Matthew H.Clark dedicates the new church, which can seat 800 — or 300 more people than the old church. Subsequent additions increase the church’s capacity to 1,150.
- 2006 — Deacon Hall, the new parish center attached to the church, is completed. The hall is named in honor of St. Lawrence, who was a deacon.
Source: Catholic Courier archives, St. Lawrence Parish’s Web site