Lyons parish home to good citizens - Catholic Courier

Lyons parish home to good citizens

When the Lyons Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Citizen of the Year Award to Joseph Ferndino on April 4, it marked the third year in a row that the award was given to a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish.

Robert Stopper received the award in 2015, and Phil Paliotti did the same in 2014. All three men worship at St. Michael Church, which is one of St. Joseph the Worker’s three worship sites.

"We know each other quite well. We’re good friends," Stopper told the Catholic Courier.

Ferndino, 86, served as St. Michael’s maintenance man for quite a few years, and Paliotti and Stopper also have been involved with the parish for decades. Paliotti, 87, said his involvement with St. Michael began when he was just a child.

"The church has always been part of our family since I can remember as children," he recalled, noting that his mother belonged to the parish’s Catholic Daughters of the Americas court, and his father was involved with various parish committees and initiatives. "It was part of our family chores to be involved in the church."

Paliotti took up the electrical trade at 16, at which point he began using his skills as an electrician to serve St. Michael, helping with any electrical work that needed to be done on the parish grounds.

"Over the years I’ve volunteered and donated thousands of hours to the parish. I know that church building well," he remarked.

Paliotti regularly serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion as well as an altar server, and he frequently assists Father Augustine Chumo, pastor, at funerals and at Masses held at a local nursing home. Paliotti’s wife, Mary, is a member of the choir and an active volunteer with the parish’s Martha ministry.

"It’s just part of our life to be involved in the church," Paliotti explained.

Paliotti said it was an honor to be named Lyons’ Citizen of the Year in 2014, yet he was quite sure there were others in the Lyons community who deserved the award more than he did. Stopper expressed a similar sentiment, and said he had been surprised when he learned about his own honor in 2015.

"I don’t do any of this for awards, but it’s nice to receive them," he said.

A retired high-school English and public-speaking teacher, Stopper has been volunteering at St. Michael since 1973. During that time he’s done everything from serving on the finance committee to helping take care of the St. Pauly Textile used-clothing drop box on the parish grounds. He and his wife, Vickie, currently take care of all the flower beds at St. Michael.

Like Paliotti, Stopper takes a very matter-of-fact approach to his work at the church.

"I just think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve had a good life and a lot of blessings, and this is one way to return it to the church and the people that serve there," he said.

Stopper also is involved in other facets of the Lyons community and is the chair of a group of volunteers that welcomes boaters and bikers traveling through Lyons along the Erie Canal. Last year more than 300 boats docked in Lyons overnight as they travelled along the canal, and Stopper and his fellow volunteers greeted the boaters, asked if there was anything they needed and directed them to local businesses that could meet those needs. They did the same for bikers traveling along the Erie Canal’s towpath.

"I’m very involved with the Erie Canal because I feel somebody needs to promote the history of it, but I’m most fascinated by the awesome craftsmanship and the patience that these folks 100 years ago must have had. I’m a former farm boy out of Pennsylvania, so I’m always fascinated with the machinery," Stopper said.

By preserving and promoting the legacy of the Erie Canal, Stopper believes he and his fellow volunteers are showing respect for those who came before them and making things better for those who will come after them.

"My dad always said when you die if your community isn’t better because you lived there, you wasted your life, and that’s kind of what’s behind it," Stopper said of his motivation to serve his community.


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