The Beacon — The Beacon July 14, 2016
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Septuagennial Anniversary
Michel Wojcik

Bishop helps parishioners of St. Simon in Green Pond mark 70 years of faith

GREEN POND On Sunday, Bishop Serratelli cel ebrated the 70th anniversary of St. Simon the Apostle Parish — a small faith community, tucked in the woods of rural Rockaway Borough, that has grown from humble beginnings to a dynamic congregation today demonstrated by its commitment to the faith and service to others.

Bishop Serratelli was the main celebrant and homilist for the 11:30 a.m. Mass July 10, which marked the septuagennial anniversary of St. Simon’s — a parish that has grown to 120 families in recent years and has attracted faithful from neighboring towns. Father Richard Bay, St. Simon’s pastor, concelebrated the Mass, which was followed by brunch, cooked by the parish’s Boy Scout Troop.

Father Bay welcomed the Bishop to the anniversary celebration writing in the parish bulletin: “We gather as a local community of faith at the altar with our Bishop to celebrate the Source and Summit of our worship. It is at the altar that we are fed by the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that nourishes us, so that we can move forward to evangelize others by our word an deed.”

“The 70th anniversary of St. Simon’s is a point for us to celebrate as a faith community, which works together and prays together,” said Father Bay, who became pastor of this faith-filled parish in the Green Pond section of Rockaway Borough in 2012.

This year, St. Simon’s tied in its anniversary with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which the universal Church will continue to celebrate until it concludes in November. The parish has completed a 15-week faith-formation series about God’s Mercy in the Scriptures and recently started a nine-week course, “Doors of Mercy: Exploring God’s Covenant with You,” which meets on Tuesday evenings. In addition, the parish’s religious education students have been performing “70 Acts of Kindness,” Father Bay said.

A look at a recent bulletin shows the array of spiritual and social outreach activities at St. Simon’s, including registration for the religious education program and Vacation Bible School and a Mass of Anointing, both to be held in August. The parish held a collection for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Totowa, and also holds collections for the Rockaway Food Closet and the food pantry at Hope House, Dover, an agency of diocesan Catholic Charities, Father Bay said.

The small white St. Simon Church sits on a long twisting stretch of Green Pond Road in Green Pond, which began as home to the Lenape Native American tribe, prior to Dutch settlement in the late 17th century. From the American Revolution and after, the area buzzed with mining activity that peaked in the 19th century and has since been discontinued. Many unheated holiday cottages built in the early 20th century were converted to year-round houses with central heating, according to the history of St. Simon’s, which serves residents, both summer and year-round dwellers.

In retirement, Bishop Emeritus Rodimer lives in Green Pond and has attended many liturgical and social events at St. Simon’s. He grew up in St. Cecilia Parish, Rockaway Borough, and remembers, when his family would rent bungalows for vacations in Green Pond, he recently told The Beacon.

“St. Simon’s is a small parish that is very cordial. Anytime I visit, I have a great feeling of affection,” Bishop Emeritus Rodimer said. “Father Bay has the support of the people.”

St. Simon’s legacy of faith and love starts in the winter of 1942-43. Green Pond residents would drive to Sacred Heart Parish, Rockaway Borough, for Mass, but because of gas rationing during World War II, Father Andrew Romanak, Sacred Heart’s pastor, was given permission to celebrate Mass in the Green Pond Hotel. In the summer, Masses were celebrated in the Community House in this resort area. On July 8, 1946, the parish was incorporated and received the name St. Simon, the parish history states.

That year, Father John McKenna was named administrator and built the church — the same structure that the parish uses today. Later, then-Father Carl Wolsin, who was appointed pastor in 1961, redecorated and remodeled the church after Vatican II. In 1966, St. Simon’s became a mission of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Oak Ridge, and then was designated as a parish in 1971. Thereafter, St. Simon’s built a new rectory and parish social hall, according to the parish history.

In recent decades, St. Simon Church has received many physical improvements. In the mid-1980s, Father Elso Introni, pastor, had the church interior repainted. In the 1990s, Father Joseph Anginoli, pastor, had the hall under the rectory converted into a gathering space, the front doors of the church replaced and a handicapped ramp installed, St. Simon’s history states.

In the 2000s, the church hall was converted into religious- education classrooms — a project started by Father Anginoli and completed by the next pastor, Father Marc Mancini. Also, Father Mancini oversaw development of a Marian shrine, renovation of the front of the church and the rebuilding of classrooms that Hurricane Sandy destroyed. Under Father Bay’s pastorate, St. Simon’s had the church steps and the ramp renovated and the Marian shrine enlarged, among other improvements, according to St. Simon’s history.

The 70th anniversary of St. Simon’s brings back lots of memories for Richard Kimble, a long-time trustee, who has been associated with the parish for 73 years — before its founding. Originally, a Sacred Heart parishioner, Kimble would trek to Green Pond with Father Romanak to assist at Mass. He also remembers, when Father McKenna lived in a bungalow on the hill behind the church.

“St. Simon’s is a close-knit parish. Everybody knows everybody else. Every one is very generous and helps out anyway that they can. Father Richard is doing a tremendous job in upgrading the parish,” said Kimble, who delivered a presentation on St. Simon’s history recently at the parish, sponsored by the Green Pond History Asso ciation. “Every thing that people have done over the years to get St. Simon’s to where it is now is appreciated.”