Multicultural Ridgewood Church Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio conducted the Jubilee Mass on June 11 (Photo by Wojtek Maslanka via Nowy Dziennik)

With an ethnic festival and a festive Mass, St. Aloysius Church in Ridgewood celebrated its 125th anniversary.

“Each anniversary is an occasion to take a closer look at the parish as a whole, refresh ourselves on its history, and remind ourselves that what we have inherited from previous generations we need to preserve for those who will come after us,” said Rev. Jerzy Poltorak, pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Ridgewood.

The parishioners celebrated 125 years of their church on the weekend of June 10 and 11, when they gathered at the St. John Paul II Center for a multicultural festival and then prayed at a Mass conducted by the head of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “We have managed to bring together parishioners from different cultures, who speak various languages and have different traditions. Yet, despite the differences they come here to pray in the same church, which has served the communities in Ridgewood since 1892,” said Rev. Poltorak.

A stand with Polish food was among the most popular during the festival (Photo by Basia Sala-Maslanka via Nowy Dziennik)

The Saturday festival was organized by the Jubilee Committee in cooperation with committees representing different ethnic groups belonging to St. Aloysius: Polish, Mexican, Filipino and Dominican. Each of the ethnic groups had an opportunity to present something from their culture and cuisine. There were performances, folk dances, games for children and food galore.

The Polish presentation, which raised a lot of interest, was delivered by students from St. Vincent Saturday Polish School housed at the parish and dancers from Joseph’s Dance Studio. Dance masters Weronika Ludwiszewska and Michal Kaczmarski spontaneously danced during a concert by Mariachi Instrumental de Mexico and got huge applause.

A Mexican folk dance presentation (Photo by Wojtek Maslanka via Nowy Dziennik)

At 11 a.m. on Sunday, parishioners gathered at a Mass conducted in Polish and Spanish by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Pallottine Fathers: Jerzy Poltorak and Zbigniew Zieba, the pastor and vicar, respectively, at St. Aloysius. Also present were Rev. Pawel Bielecki, a Capuchin, and Tom Pettei, Episcopal vicar for Queens. “Just like many other places in Queens the parish was established by German immigrants. That was 125 years ago. Times have changed, however. People move, so at some point the German community shrank and the parish started filling up with Spanish-speaking churchgoers, as well as Polish and Filipino immigrants. Nevertheless this church remains a home for everyone, regardless of what language they speak and what country they come from,” said Bishop DiMarzio.

St. Aloysius Church was built in 1892 by immigrants from Germany. Now it offers Masses in English, Polish and Spanish. The parish is administered by Polish Pallottine Fathers, with Rev. Jerzy Poltorak being the parish’s pastor since 2004. “The demographic changes that our parish has been going through resemble the changes affecting other New York parishes and the whole city,” says Rev. Poltorak. “At the beginning it was a German church, then, in the ’60s it was dominated by the Italian community, now it serves immigrants from Poland, the Philippines and Latin America,” says Rev. Poltorak, adding that Polish- and Spanish-speaking parishioners constitute roughly equal groups among the 1,000 families that belong to the parish.

The June events are only part of the anniversary celebrations at St. Aloysius. The Jubilee Year celebrations began in March with Masses, an Open Door Day for the entire community, the Stations of the Cross prepared in three languages by a group of young parishioners, and a Lenten meal – a fundraiser for the needy. “This was a great idea with great results. The events will most likely become our annual tradition, along with a Saturday family picnic on St. Aloysius day,” said Rev. Poltorak.

Planned are also other jubilee events like the September reunion of alumni from St. Aloysius, and an October concert celebrating 100 years of the church consecration. “The jubilee events will conclude on Immaculate Conception Day in December. In unity of faith lies our strength. This is the motto of the Jubilee Year and this is the direction for our future,” said Rev. Poltorak.

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