By Krystle S. Morey
Following the recent completion of a years-long renovation, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is finally ready to unveil itself.
New exterior and interior paint, new slate shingle roof and refurbished pews and floors are just a few of the upgrades the church will show off at a dedication and confirmation ceremony starting at 6 p.m. next Thursday, April 27.
Bishop Edward Bernard Scharfenberger, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, will bless the church and confirm the younger members of the congregation.
Father Joe Arockiasamy, the pastor, invites all members of the church and the community to attend the dedication.
Father Arockiasamy said St. Mary’s reached out to the Bishop a couple of months ago to invite him to see the work that has been done at the church. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany donated $35,000 to St. Mary’s renovation project.
More than 150 people had responded to the event as of Tuesday, Father Arockiasamy said, but he expects more will attend. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) and state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) were also invited to the dedication ceremony.
As part of the event, 18 students will be confirmed. From St. Mary’s in Granville will be Alex Birchmore, Christine Catalan, Elizabeth Hicks, Brent Hiliker, RJ Holcomb, Nicholas O’Brien, Sofia Olsen, Rachel Pietryka, Jake Vladyka and Guillermo Yescas. From St. Ann’s Church in Fort Ann, Catherine Fioretti, Breanna Justice Bressette, John Lewis, Anne Rory McKenna, Madeline Centerbar and Amanda Godfrey will be confirmed. And from Our Lady of Hope in Whitehall, Kyle Welch and George Lavin will complete their confirmation.
Following the Mass, at 7:30 p.m., a community celebration and buffet dinner will take place at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Park Avenue in Granville. All members of the Granville community and surrounding area are invited to join in the fellowship with the Bishop and celebrate the restoration of St. Mary’s Church.
Father Arockiasamy and the church’s parishioners are excited to reveal their “new” sacred worship space.
“Everything is new … painting, floors … it looks different,” he said.
“This is a large shrine. Without His help, I cannot do anything. It is the Lord’s church. Though I work, I am only a servant,” the pastor added.
Visitors will see improvements immediately upon walking into the church. The foyer has new carpeting, the pews have been completely restored, the lighting has been improved.
St. Mary’s’ services moved back into the church on April 1 after having been held in the church basement during the renovations.
Clark Hicks, chairman of the church’s Capital Campaign Committee and avid member of the church, said the restoration was essentially done by April 1, but there were “a few odds and ends that needed to be finished up.” He cited the delayed delivery of a pair of restored statues, of Jesus and Mary. The statues didn’t arrive back at the church from O’Connor Church Supply in Albany until Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday.
“When you have a clean and neat church, you have a good feeling to worship,” Hicks said.
Father Arockiasamy likened the feeling to having a clean bedroom.
“If your bedroom is clean and neat and the sheets smell nice, you will have a good sleep,” he said.
“It’s very gratifying,” Hicks agreed. “The church has been in need of renovation for a long, long time.”
He added: “I am very pleased with it.”
St. Mary’s, located at 23 Bulkley Ave. in Granville, is a faith community serving the people of Granville, Hebron, Hampton, Middle, North and West Granville, Wells, Pawlet, West Pawlet and Rupert. With its ornate stained glass windows and towering steeple, St. Mary’s has served the area’s Catholic community for 134 years, but the passing of time has taken its toll on the church and rectory.
“A lot of good, solid maintenance had not been done on the church for some time. A lot of things have been Band-Aided. So, we decided to raise the money to do a good job on it and really fix the church up,” said Hicks.
Part of the renovation project was motivated by a leaky roof that damaged the floor a couple of years ago.
“The floor was in bad shape, so we ripped it out,” said Father Arockiasamy, noting that he couldn’t remember the last time the church’s interior had been renovated.
In 2014, the church’s Capital Campaign Committee set out to raise $200,000 to renovate the parish’s aging infrastructure, receiving money from parishioners, private donations, the diocese, local businesses and more.
Hicks said the church surpassed its goal, raising more than $250,000. The church’s parishioners, Hicks said, really stepped up and contributed to make the project happen.
“It’s remarkable for our small community here,” Hicks said. “Everybody did their part to make things happen, but if the parishioners hadn’t kicked in the money to start, none of this would have happened.”
He added: “It just shows you – like you see with a variety of other things that happen in Granville – if things need to get done, people are having trouble, or whatever the situation might be, people in Granville step up. They take over and they make things happen.”
Hicks said he is pleased to see the project finally come to fruition. He spent nearly every day for the last four months at the church, helping. The interior work was the final step of the almost three-year-long renovation.
“Right now, all of the Easter flowers are up and it looks spectacular,” Hicks said. “It’s really a sight to see.”
Artech Church Interiors in Massachusetts completed most of the work, Hicks said.
“We had a lot of references before we hired them,” Hicks said. “They have done churches – a lot bigger than ours and a lot more elaborate than ours – all over the Northeast.”
A few local hands also helped out.
Hicks mentioned parishioner Fred Shehadi, who helped secure donations of underlayment for the floors and carpeting.
“He was instrumental in getting the carpeting for us on a donated basis,” Hicks said.
Mark Teller, a local cabinet maker, made Hicks’ vision to repurpose old pews come to life.
“We had several pews that were left over from years’ past, so we decided to take those pews and use all of the parts that we had with them and we rebuilt a new altar and a new lectern,” Hicks said.
“That was used so that everything goes with the one type of interior design. It is not from any other place. It is from our own pews,” Father Arockiasamy said. “The pews were used by the people, now we use them for the altar. People’s presence … we can see that in those materials.”
Father Arockiasamy, who has been pastor at St. Mary’s since 2011, said he is very happy with the work that’s been done, but he said there is still a long way to go.
“When you have a church, there will always be work,” he said, noting that the rectory is in need of replacing floors and ceilings and new paint.
“This is not the end,” he said. “The capital campaign will continue because we have not done anything inside the rectory.”