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Cultural Center: Parkville Parish Renovates Former Storage Space to Serve the Community

by Antonina Zielinska

After over a year of construction and preparation, St. Rose of Lima parish, Parkville, was ready to bless the newly constructed cultural center, St. Joseph’s House.

Above Msgr. Steven Ferrari, episcopal vicar for Brooklyn, blesses St. Joseph House, a cultural center at St. Rose of Lima, Parkville. Below left, stained-glass windows from the old convent now decorate the new center, and parishioners make final preparations to the art gallary just a couple of days before the opening.
Msgr. Steven Ferrari, episcopal vicar for Brooklyn, blesses St. Joseph House, a cultural center at St. Rose of Lima, Parkville.

“I am overwhelmed by the work and the beauty and the possibility of this center,” said Msgr. Steven Ferrari, episcopal vicar for Brooklyn, who presided at the ceremony. “I know the center is built on a strong foundation of faith and dedication to the will of God.”

The center consists of several rooms each dedicated to a certain aspect of culture. The John Paul II Theater has a stage and room for dancing. The Holy Family Dining Room has a mini-kitchen and space for family-style dining.  The art gallery displays photography and paintings of local artists, most of whom are parishioners.  They are located in the basement of the church.

Piotr Kwasnik made his gallery debut. “I’m very proud that I was asked to put up my photography in this gallery, especially since it hangs next to art that is so beautiful,” he said.

Father Lukasz Trocha, pastor, asked the artists to display work they are proud of even if it was not religious. He said God could be seen through many means.

“We can experience God through what we see and what we touch,” he said. “Art is a medium through which we can understand God’s love.”

Parishioners make final preparations to the art gallary just a couple of days before the opening.
Parishioners make final preparations to the art gallary just a couple of days before the opening.

Father Trocha said the purpose of the center is to better understand the love that comes from God and the love that comes from neighbor. One of the reasons people stray from coming to Mass on a regular basis, he said, is because there is anonymity in the church. He added that people may feel like they are not part of the community, especially the young, when they do not know who is around them. Therefore, he invites people to social, instructional and religious gatherings at the cultural center.

“I believe for us to appreciate Mass better, we have to meet each other in other places,” he said, “so that we can go to Mass as friends.”

St. Rose parishioners seem to agree.  Hundreds came for the dedication.  They shared food and marvelled at the beauty of the center and the artwork that is displayed.

Joan Wojcich a long-time parishioner said she was impressed with the way the center turned out. She said there was a great need for such a project because the loss of the parish school and convent has left the parishioners with no place to gather for social events.

“This is the perfect solution to get the parishioners to know each other,” she said.

Although recent events have created a need to create a new space, Father Trocha has not set aside the work of his predecessors. Stained-glass windows from the old convent were transported into the center as reminders of the rich history of the church.

Stained-glass windows from the old convent now decorate the new center.
Stained-glass windows from the old convent now decorate the new center.

“The center still looks like it’s part of the church even though it’s modern,” said longtime parishioner Maria Melnyk.

During the grand opening, parishioners were already discussing the different activities they plan to organize there. Longtime parishioner Laura Riggi said she is excited about starting health classes. She is one of the registered nurses who will volunteer their time to train parishioners on a variety of medical concerns from CPR classes to breast self-examination.

“I’m really exited because it really looked like a dungeon before and now it’s a great opportunity.”

Riggi said she remembers the space behind the lower church from her volunteer work.

“It was so scary,” she said. “And I could never have imagined that it would come out to be so magnificent.”

The transformation happened over the last year and three months. Volunteers, some of whom received a token amount for their services, spent hours taking down the inner structure of the area and then completely reconstructing it. The volunteers all came in their spare time, many times sacrificing sleep to complete the renovation.

Mieczyslaw Wasowicz, one of the volunteers who worked on the project since the beginning, said the area previously was used as storage, but even that function was not well utilized. He said the area had a lot of dust from coal and everything had to be cleaned. Once they finally cleared out the area, they had to renovate some walls and constructed some new ones.

Overall the work to renovate the   area included putting in a bathroom, installing a mini kitchen, hanging the stained-glass windows, reconstructing the ceiling and floors, and building the various rooms. The center was originally supposed to open in August but circumstances pushed it later and later.  At times Wasowicz said he doubted the center would ever be finished. Now he is very proud of what he and his fellow parishioners have done.

“Out of nothing, something was created,” he said.

Among the projects for the cultural center Father Trocha and the parishioners are working on are health and legal classes, religious classes, ESL classes, dances, overnight retreats, more art exhibitions and various other social gatherings.

For Lent, the parish is planning soup and bread suppers, days of retreat, and movie screenings.

Further information about events will be available at stroseoflimabrooklyn.com.

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