St. Stephen Church Celebrates its Feast Day

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

NEW YORK — The presentation of a painting of an icon of its parish’s patron saint was  featured at last week’s celebration by St. Stephen of Hungary Parish on the Upper East Side of New York of its patron saint.

The Aug. 19 annual commemoration of the feast of St. Stephen, who lived from 975 to 1038, was held on the grounds of the East 82nd Street church which has a large Hungarian population.

“Many of our parishioners are senior citizens with traditional ethnic customs, while others are young professional Hungarian immigrants who live in other boroughs and who come here for Mass and our programs,” pastor Angelus Gambatese said, adding ”We are the only Hungarian parish in the Archdiocese of New York.”

The icon painting was created by a Franciscan friar in Hungary, Br. Tarziciusz, said Angelus who commissioned the artist to do the work.  It was brought back to the church by parochial vicar Fr. Denes Nesz, OFM, when he returned from a trip to Hungary in July.  Fr. Denes, a member of Our Lady of Hungary Province, is on staff at St. Stephen where he celebrates Mass in Hungarian. The replica will soon be on display in the church.

The patronal feast day celebration included several activities with the focal point being the Hungarian luncheon on Sunday afternoon.  Approximately 225 attended.  The celebration that the church has established for its patron saint has piqued the interest of the community, said Eric Carpine, parochial vicar.

“The Hungarian liturgy and the presentation of the icon were highlights of our festivities,” said Betty Gyenis, the parish’s director of volunteer ministry.  Gyenis, a retired staff member of the archdiocese, has been a parishioner for 35 years.

In addition, a coffee hour at the Fatima Shrine on the church grounds following each of Sunday’s Masses and an evening café with music and refreshments were offered as part of the festivities. Proceeds from the feast day events ($2,084) were donated to the parish.

St. Stephen Offers Varied Programs

The parish, which will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the church next year, is busy with many other programs and events.  Volunteers and staff members are gathering items to sell at the annual street fair and flea market on Sept. 29, normally a well-attended event. Information about the event can be obtained through the rectory at 212-861-8500.

Each week, The Green Market, the first established in New York City’s Upper East Side, is held on parish grounds on Saturdays.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold along with cheeses, maple syrup and other items, Angelus said.

The Crown Community of Yorkville offers several ministries of compassion, Eric said.  They include (1) a shelter for homeless men open on Friday nights providing safety, lodging, and snacks and (2) a dinner for people affected by AIDS.  A gathering is being held at the parish rectory on Sept. 5 at 7:15 p.m. for volunteers who wish to learn about St. Stephen’s Ministry to the Homeless.  The parish also provides counseling services.

New Shrine Director
Recently, the parish hired a new director of the Shrine of St. Jude to replace Sr. Natalie Runfola. Pastoral associate Jayne Porcelli, who had worked at the Province’s St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J., for seven years, joined the staff in July and also serves as director of the parish’s formation program.

“I am hoping to create wonderful programs in the parish to nourish both family faith formation,” Porcelli said. “I am excited about the opportunities before me to extend  a warm  welcome to young people and their families as well as to those searching for ways to learn more about the Catholic faith through RCIA.”

 — Jocelyn Thomas is Director of Communications for Holy Name Province.