By Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan vicar for development
In 2008, St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Pascal Baylon churches united to become Our Lady of Light parish in St. Albans, Queens. Father William Smith, founding pastor of the merged parish, has been a priest for 36 years. When asked what he loves most about Our Lady of Light, he said, “the way the people have… risen to the occasion to merge two parishes into one.”
The parish’s history has truly been a collaborative effort that has been evident for the duration of the Generations of Faith campaign.
“I think it showed us that we really did merge, that we were able to do something very significant together,” Father Smith explained the impact of the campaign on his parishioners.
He said it left a long-lasting impression on the community, “a sense of working together” that “allowed many people in the parish to meet others.”
Our Lady of Light participated in the pilot phase of the campaign. The parish goal was $440,000 which parishioners far surpassed with $856,000 raised to date – 196 percent of the goal!
Father Smith has already begun work on the parish’s case elements and recently blessed the new doors at St. Catherine of Sienna Church.
Funds from the Generations of Faith campaign will also allow the parish to adapt baptismal fonts for running water, build a food ramp for St. Catherine’s pantry and make St. Pascal Baylon wheelchair accessible.
The parish also seeks to upgrade the electrical systems in both churches and purchase new vessels and vestments and provide funding to the parish’s repair and renovation account.
Additionally, to honor the late Msgr. Robert McCourt’s dedication to the parish and community, a memorial meditation garden to be named the McCourt Memorial Garden will be built to offer the Our Lady of Light community a place for prayerful reflection.
For pastors and parishes beginning Generations of Faith soon, “look beyond the campaign itself,” Father Smith encouraged, and added that he used his experience as an opportunity to get to know many of the people within his parish. Father Smith could not stress enough that “relationships are the most important things.”
He closed with these proud words of his joint parish community: “Just because two parishes merged does not mean that Our Lady of Light is not unified. Parishes can work together if they want to be vibrant. It’s one thing to worship together but another to create a common identity.”