MODESTO — St. Stanislaus Catholic Church celebrated a century of worship and community history in its original J Street location Saturday.
The pastoral procession entered behind the white-plumed, red-caped color guard of the Father Giles Assembly of the Knights of Columbus. Bishop Stephen Blaire led the Mass for about 250 congregants, many of whom were baptized and married in the Spanish colonial structure. Included in the service were readings in Spanish and Portuguese.
Blaire began his homily with the story of St. Stephen, the first martyr, stoned to death for criticizing the building of a temple because he saw it as symbolically confining God within its walls. The church is not walls, Blaire stressed, it is people. Church buildings serve to bring people together.
“One hundred years ago, this was dedicated as a place where the people of God would gather to worship God,” he said.
The significance of a church building, he said, is as the place where we bless marriages, baptize our babies and bury our dead. “Within the walls of a church is the history of its people,” Blaire said.
“Think of all the gatherings of worship that have happened here over 100 years,” he said.
The parish gathers today for Masses at the 1,300 seat copper-domed structure, built in 2008 on Maze Boulevard at Carpenter Road. The 400-seat church in downtown Modesto is for more intimate use.
St. Stanislaus parish was established in 1878, the second-oldest parish in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the St. Stanislaus website. But there was no church building at that time and a priest was only available twice a month.
In 1913, Father Michael Giles directed the building of the J Street church, with its two towers. “Groundbreaking occasioned a celebration attended by thousands, with a parade, baseball game, chicken dinner, automobile rides, the drum corps of Stockton’s Young Men’s Institute and the Modesto City band,” the website says.