By LINDA M. LINONIS
Parishioners recite the stewardship prayer at every Mass. It’s the church family prayer of those who gather around the table of the Lord just as they gather in their homes.
The modern, open sanctuary at the Catholic church features pews in two sections that face each other with the altar and ambo on a raised wooden platform. The design is described in its history as the essence of St. Luke – a circle of friends.
Mary Ellen Brannigan said, “The altar is the table, and we sit around the table as a family.”
When The Rev. Joseph A. Fata, pastor, and Madeline Cuzic, Ed Sunseri and Brannigan, members of the 50th anniversary committee, recently got together, all concurred family was the focus of the church. The emphasis on stewardship means concern ranges from individual families, to the church family, the community, the nation and the world. Through its year of service, the church has reached out as a family would to help members in need.
Six committees, outreach, publicity, history, liturgy, fundraising and social, have coordinated a range of activities and fundraisers. Cuzic noted that the anniversary committee first met Oct. 21, 2009, to formulate plans for the anniversary. Ironically, Oct. 21, 2012, is the date of the anniversary banquet.
The Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley and Food for the Poor were chosen as beneficiaries of fundraisers.
Cuzic, who has been a St. Luke member for nine years, has belonged to other churches when she lived elsewhere in the Valley. She said she appreciates and respects how much members take the stewardship motto to heart. “This welcoming faith community truly has come to believe that stewardship is a process. A life well-lived is a life in service to others,” she said.
St. Luke members have put the stewardship prayer words into actions of all sorts.
Last October, the church conducted a Forty Days of Thanks fundraiser in which members were asked to drop 50 cents a day in a box. The collection was $2,000 and provided for 1,000 meals at the Rescue Mission. The church also collected linens of all sorts and paper and hygiene products for the Rescue Mission.
The church with the Bishop Malone Knights of Columbus Council collected nonperishable food products for the Rescue Mission and St. Vincent De Paul Society. “We’re thankful for the blessings here,” Cuzic said. The former teacher in the church member totaled 18,250 daily blessings in 50 years.
Other fundraisers such as basket raffle, Christmas ornament sale and Outback Restaurant dinner benefited Food for the Poor, an international relief organization.
“We wanted to choose an organization that helped locally and worldwide,” Father Fata said.
Proceeds from fundraisers and donations resulted in $3,700.13, which built a house in Haiti. With the house, the family received farm animals, a sewing machine for a small business project, school supplies, clothing and shoes.
The interest in social concerns stems in part from Father Fata’s participation in the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods. He currently is clergy co-chairman. “Social concern motivates us to outreach opportunities,” Father Fata said, adding that the evangelization team keeps the parish on track.
Community outreach by the Knights of Columbus, Holy Name Society and St. Vincent De Paul Society are rooted in stewardship, the pastor said.
Father Fata commented that the value of stewardship meant so much to one parish member he requested the prayer be recited at his funeral service.
“For young people, it’s a lesson,” Father Fata said of outreach, which has benefitted Beatitude House, Dorothy Day House and Rescue Mission. The youth group volunteers monthly at the mission.
Sunseri noted the church isn’t just a place where members worship. “We enjoy being social with one another. It’s about getting involved,” he said. “It’s a great community here.”
He said Bob Reardon coordinated a project with DVDs that will be sold. The 67-minute program relates the church history, features liturgies, photos and charter members. An anniversary pictorial will be available in January on the celebratory Mass and dinner.
The church also has a remembrance ornament, created by Wendell August Forge in Grove City, Pa., and designed by members, Mary Ann Kessler and Mary Ann Sullivan.
Landscaping recently was completed in the Pray, Play and Learn Garden at the Early Childhood Learning Center, where a Taiz prayer service took place. Angel statues peek out from plants in the Angel Garden in front of the church and there also is a Meditation Garden.