Beloved former pastor Father Gregory Stankus visited SS. Simon and Jude parish, Gravesend, for an afternoon in his honor.
The lower church area restored as a parish center, which he oversaw to completion, and elevator, whose construction he planned, were named in his honor May 18.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on an early Friday afternoon, the time the Golden Age Club meets for prayer, community and Bingo.
“He was a great pastor,” said Father Fred Marano, current pastor. “People loved him and remember him… It’s humbling.”
Father Stankus was pastor from 2005 to 2014 and in that time the school building was leased out and the parishioners needed a social place to meet. The original plans of the 50-year-old church building called for a lower church. But changing demographics and an aging population changed the needs of the parish.
“We needed this space,” Father Stankus said.
He said parishioners understood the importance of a community center and generously responded. The rent from the school would also help with the expenses of the new center.
Father Stankus said he was honored for the naming.
“I appreciate it, but at the same time it could have been named for a lot of parishioners,” he said.
The former pastor, who now is pastor at St. Andrew the Apostle, Bay Ridge, said parishioners put an extraordinary amount of effort into the center. He said he was also thankful to Father Marano for completing the elevator because it couldn’t have been an easy thing to accomplish.
“I wanted to fulfill what he would do,” Father Marano said. “He made all the plans, all I did was sign the check.”
A sense of gratitude to their former pastor is common among parishioners.
“Father Stankus was part of the community,” said Nick Compagnone, lifelong parishioner and president of the pastoral council. “He brought people together.”
“He was very family oriented,” said Marie Filosa, who worked as the parish secretary for 15 years, including under Father Stankus.
“We had a wonderful time,” said her friend Bianca Reca, who worked as the parish cook and housekeeper for 11 years. “He was very trustworthy; you could tell him anything.”
“When he said Mass it was very special,” said lifelong parishioner Margaret Leiser. “He didn’t look at the book, it was from the heart and he had good sermons.”