Parish: St. Sylvester
Address: 68 Ohio Ave., Medford, N.Y., 11763
Web site: www.stsylvesterli.org
Sunday Mass schedule:
Saturday: 5 p.m.
Sunday: Sun. 7:30, 9 & 10:30 a.m., noon
Daily Mass schedule: 8:30 a.m. Mon, Tues, Thurs., Fri.
Registered families: 4,358
Pastor: Father Thomas W. Coby
St. Sylvester’s parish is “a community praying, growing, serving and welcoming in Jesus Christ,” according to its mission statement. What makes the parish unique, according to Frances McMahon, director of faith formation here, is how “the pastoral and support teams work together toward that mission, integrating all ministries. Stewardship, outreach, faith formation, music, they are all interconnected.”
For example, the level four religious education students visit the parish outreach office for a class on stewardship. “They learn that we all have to take ownership of the parish and the community,” said Mary Weiler, parish outreach director. Members of the Legion of Mary connect with children and homebound parishioners by making rosaries for them.
The bustling parish center, located just south of the LIE at Exit 64, is always filled with the activities of more than 60 ministries, which run the gamut from play groups to bereavement groups, said Lori Zito, stewardship director. Over 250 people attended the recent volunteer appreciation party.
As stewardship director, she conducts gifts assessments with parishioners to help them discover their strengths and find the best place to share them. The children in faith formation are also taught to recognize and share their gifts. Staff members feel this has helped parishioners develop a real sense of “ownership” for their parish.
When the village of Medford was created in the early 1900s, Catholics began worshipping together in a local home until a small mission church was built in 1912. Priests from surrounding parishes served the small group of Catholics. After WWII, the area’s population saw a rapid increase and, in 1945, the first administrator was appointed for the mission. In 1949, St. Sylvester’s became an independent parish and immediately began plans to build a larger church which was dedicated on Christmas Eve, 1953.
That building was expanded and remodeled over the years, but in the new millennium it became clear that a major renovation was needed. The restored church, which reopened in December, 2010, was designed to maintain the “small country church feeling” of the original. Missing panels from the stained-glass windows behind the main altar were replaced and new windows, with a history of their own, were added. Father Edward Kealey, pastor at the time, heard that the stained-glass windows from the former Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at Kennedy Airport had been in storage since that building was taken down for an airport expansion in 1988. He purchased them for St. Sylvester’s, and some of them shine their light into a new gathering area that was added during the renovation.
The Medford area continues to see a lot of new development with an influx of Hispanic families in recent years and the parish has 20 or more baptisms each month. In addition to the large number of children in faith formation, McMahon is reaching out to adults to continue to form their faith. In upcoming weeks they are hosting the diocesan basic course for adults and bringing in speakers they hope will attract parishioners and the community at large. The diocesan Pastoral Formation Institute will also be offering programs here.
“This is a parish full of life and energy,” said McMahon. “There is always something going on here.”