Written by Joan Psotto Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
The Parish of Saint Ignatius Loyola celebrated the official installation of its 11th pastor, Reverend James Stachacz, on Sunday, Oct. 2. The 12:30 p.m. Mass was overflowing with St. Ignatius parishioners as well as members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Lindenhurst, and St. Brigid Parish, Westbury, where Fr. Stachacz had previously served as associate pastor.
“I am humbled and honored by the warm welcome I have received from the people of Saint Ignatius Parish,” Fr. Stachacz told those assembled. “I look forward to working with my brother priests and our dedicated lay ministers to serve this Parish family and wider community of Hicksville. This is my first pastorate … and maybe a little like Saint Ignatius himself, when the Bishop called I wasn’t really sure I was ready.
“I prayed about it, and over these few months since I arrived in June, you have made me feel totally at home. I’m really glad to be here,” he said.
Members of Fr. Stachacz’s family and friends from his former parishes joined Saint Ignatius parishioners at the celebration. Among them were Saint Brigid parishioners Billie and Walter Wilczek, who met Fr. Stachacz shortly after his ordination.
“We are elated to see this wonderful priest and good friend receive the honor of becoming a pastor,” reflected Walter.
Billie added, “We have known Jim since his very early days as a priest and have watched him grow over intervening the years. He is kind and sensitive and seems to treat everyone as if they were very dear friends. The people of Saint Ignatius Parish are blessed to have him here.”
Fr. Stachacz, a native of Dickson City, PA, completed his studies at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, in 1998 and was ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre in June of the same year. He was associate pastor at the Parish of Saint Brigid, Westbury from 1998 until 2003 and then at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Lindenhurst, from 2003 until his appointment as Pastor of Saint Ignatius earlier this year. His ministry focus has included moderating religious education and family life programs, Pre-Cana marriage preparation programs, and youth and young adult outreach. Both of his prior parishes had successful parochial schools.
“Through its history St. Ignatius Parish has recognized the importance of reaching out to our children and youth,” said Fr. Stachacz in an interview following his installation mass. “I think that is a critically important mission of the Church today … a mission that our Parish is well equipped for with our vibrant school, our great religious education programs, social ministries and many opportunities for prayer and service. We have many cultures represented in the Parish. Everyone is welcome here – especially our young people.”
Initially founded in the 1850s when the population of Hicksville was about 900 residents, the Parish of Saint Ignatius Loyola has grown along with the wider community. As the small rural farming village transformed into a vibrant Long Island commercial and transportation hub, the parish and its services expanded.
An original church building with a capacity of 150 persons was erected in 1859 on donated land that would soon become the heart of Hicksville’s downtown area. That early church edifice was replaced in 1891 with the present church structure, which seats up to 500 worshipers. Saint Ignatius School soon followed, opening to its first class of 104 students in 1907. The present-day school building was opened in 1923 to accommodate the growing Catholic population in the post-World War I years. At its height, Saint Ignatius School had over 1,600 pupils registered.
Today the parish has over 300 families as registered parishioners and 225 students registered at St. Ignatius School. “The faith community of Saint Ignatius Parish remains at the center of life in Hicksville. Hicksville is truly a crossroads at the heart of Long Island,” reflected Fr. Stachacz. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the people of the parish and the community. It is an honor to be part of St. Ignatius’s tradition of faith and service.”