St. Maria Goretti Church, Laflin, Pennsylvania
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St Maria Goretti
She was one of seven children of a poor family which lived in Corinaldo, Italy. She was only eleven years old when she was stabbed fourteen times while trying to protect her chastity from Alessandro. After countless hours of pain and suffering, she died in her home on July 6, 1902. After Maria’s death, Alessandro was imprisoned for many years and was unrepentant about the murder. Alessandro then became repentant when Maria came to him in a dream giving him flowers as a sign of peace and friendship. He asked for forgiveness from Maria’s mother shortly after and he was forgiven. For many years after that, he was a monastery gardener. On April 27, 1947, Pope Pius XII beatified Maria Goretti, and on June 24, 1950, she was canonized; her feast day is celebrated on July 6.
Formation of the church
In the heart of a little town called Laflin Borough, a new church was established by Bishop J. Carroll McCormick, D.D., and was named St. Maria Goretti Church on September 16, 1967. This central church was derived from four chapels to which the residents in the area belonged: the Keystone Chapel, Saint Theresa Mission Chapel, Yatesville Chapel, and the Old Boston Chapel. The Keystone Chapel was established originally by Father James Mulholland who was the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Plains, Pennsylvania, and it was located in the Plains Schoolhouse. Father Joseph O'Brien was the first priest of the Keystone Chapel. The Saint Theresa Mission Chapel was located in the Gardner Creek School in Laflin and was established by Monsignor Francis Kane of St. Mark’s Church in Inkerman, Pennsylvania, in September 1950. The Yatesville Chapel was located in the Yatesville School, but it was then relocated to the Yatesville Borough Building, and then again relocated to Pompino's Grocery Store. The Old Boston Chapel was on the first floor of the Old Boston Schoolhouse. But in 1963, Father Andrew Porro built the Oblates of Saint Joseph on Route 315 near Laflin. The Yatesville and Old Boston parishes combined and then worshiped at the Oblates.
During the 1950s, Mary Kubik and Stella Oley asked for a chapel to be established in Laflin. In 1967, a 10-acre (40,000 m2) property was purchased by Bishop McCormick for thirty thousand dollars in White Birch Hollow, an area founded in the late 1800s. The borough of Laflin was named after J. Laflin, the first burgess and landowner. The area was surrounded by Oakwood Park and Hilltop Manor. Because of the growth of Laflin from 325 people to 1,400 people, the borough was in need of a local Catholic church. This is when St. Maria Goretti was built, but masses were still held at the Oblates.
The first pastor of St. Maria Goretti was Rev. Harry J. Lewis, who served until September 1970. Reverend Francis T. Brennan took over in 1970 and was hoping to build a financial base sufficient for the construction of the church the establishment of a Catholic school. However, he died on July 28, 1974, before anything could be done. The Rev. Gerald M. Gannon was the next pastor, serving from August 1974 until March 1975. He purchased the present rectory of the church, but the most honorable was the Rev. Philip A. Gray who founded a building and fund committee which built the church. The exterior of the church is of a white textured stucco, wood, and stone to symbolize modern presence of the community.
Building of the church
The very first mass of St. Maria Goretti Church was celebrated on September 17, 1967, at 7:30 in the morning. Only thirteen people attended the Mass. The parish then grew to 60 families then and now to at least 500. The Blessing of the Main Altar was on November 10, 1977, and the Blessings of the Stations of the Cross were held on November 18, 1977.
It took many months of hard work for the church to be built. Many fundraisers were held by Monsignor Gray. Also, much more emphasis and talent was added to the whole operation by the pastoral assistant, Sister Daria Bisulca, R.S.M. Monsignor Gray launched a New Church Appeal Fund and met goals with great success. After Monsignor Gray and Sister Daria were appointed elsewhere, Very Rev. James Paisley and Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan became the pastors of St. Maria Goretti in 1994. They refurbished the Grotto of St. Maria Goretti, which is located in a private area outside the church. On July 6, 2006, Very Rev. James Paisley was appointed to another church, St. Therese's Parish in Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan died on July 19, 2006, in Baltimore, Maryland, at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Yet another priest was appointed to follow in both their footsteps, Rev. Michael Kirwin, the current Pastor of St. Maria Goretti Church.