Holy Spirit celebrates 50 years - Catholic Courier
Gabriel Pellegrino (center) directs the choir and orchestra at Penfield’s Church of the Holy Spirit Oct. 23 during a special 50th anniversary
concert. Gabriel Pellegrino (center) directs the choir and orchestra at Penfield’s Church of the Holy Spirit Oct. 23 during a special 50th anniversary concert.

Holy Spirit celebrates 50 years

Ann Matuck and her husband moved to the Rochester region in April 1964 and had only belonged to St. Rita Parish in Webster for a few months when they learned their home was within the boundaries of a new parish that would be formed in the Webster/Penfield area. The Matucks went to work immediately, joining committees and volunteering their time and talents to help bring the plans for this new parish to fruition.

"We were a new parish and we were new to the area, so it was like a family," Matuck recently told the Catholic Courier. "It was fun and rewarding to become a parishioner helping to build this new parish."

That new parish was Church of the Holy Spirit, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It held a large celebration last May on Pentecost Sunday and continued the celebration last month with an Oct. 23 concert and an Oct. 25 picnic.

Holy Spirit’s first parishioners worked for months to raise enough funds to build the church, recalled Matuck, whose husband was a member of that early fundraising committee. Bishop James E. Kearney founded the parish in June 1965, and the next month the parish’s first Mass was held in the auditorium of Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton. Masses were held in that auditorium for most of the next two years, with summertime Masses taking place at Bauman’s Farm in Webster. Ground was broken for the new church in October 1966, and the first Mass was held in the newly constructed Church of the Holy Spirit on April 7, 1968.

The new church attracted quite a bit of attention — and not always positive attention — because of the way it looked, Matuck noted. The building was constructed almost entirely of bricks and concrete blocks, and its interior featured exposed structural steel and a concrete floor.

"People said it looked like an airplane hanger or a factory," Matuck said.

Those people, she said, didn’t appreciate the strict budget constraints faced by the parish’s founding pastor, Father Joseph Lynch, or the symbolism behind the church’s stark appearance, which highlights the fact that the people are coming to face God without pretense. When you enter the church, Matuck added, your eyes are drawn upward toward the east-facing windows, which represent parishioners coming together to Christ, who is the light of the world.

Church of the Holy Spirit parishioner Dave Youngman tunes his drums before an Oct. 23 concert to celebrate the parish’s 50th anniversary.

"I love the story behind why it was built the way it was built," she said, noting that Father Lynch often corrected people who said the building was the church. "The people are the church. We are the church, whether you’re in a barn, an auditorium at Our Lady of Mercy High School, or wherever it was, we are the church.

And 50 years later, Church of the Holy Spirit is still going strong, she added.

Many of the founding parishioners still belong to Holy Spirit, noted Shari Magagnoli, parish secretary. Staff and volunteers strive to make Church of the Holy Spirit as welcoming and accessible to senior citizens as they can, according to Father James Schwartz, the parish’s fifth and current pastor.

"We have a lot of elderly parishioners who with great effort come to the Eucharist. We really want to make sure that we as a parish make it as convenient as possible for our elderly parishioners to be able to participate in the life of the parish," he said.

At the same time, parish leaders also are striving to serve the young families who belong to Holy Spirit. The parish recently began celebrating baptisms during weekend liturgies, and each Saturday afternoon children and their families are invited to spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament during Children’s Holy Half Hour of adoration.

"We’re doing what we can and making sure to, in the words of Jesus, ‘Let the little children come to me,’" Father Schwartz explained.

The parish also is striving to fulfill Pope Francis’ call to celebrate family life, and that family life includes people at both ends of the age spectrum, he remarked. Father Schwartz said the parish wants to welcome families and individuals of all ages while still maintaining the beautiful sense of reverence for which Holy Spirit’s weekend liturgies are known. Attendance at those weekend liturgies gradually is increasing, he added.

As the parish’s music director, Gabriel Pellegrino is one of those responsible for planning those reverent yet vibrant and welcoming liturgies. Pellegrino became involved with parish music ministry in 1986 at the invitation of Father Frederick Bush, who served as pastor from 1971-2001.

Father Bush currently resides at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford but was able to attend the Oct. 25 parish picnic. He speaks fondly of his years at Holy Spirit and believes he was "blessed with a very caring, supportive group of people," said his sister, Mary Bush. Holy Spirit is definitely a special parish, Pellegrino agreed.

"I love the people and I love the liturgy," he said.


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