Pastoral Associate Gayle Castellani and the Rev. Andrew Kurovsky stand in the church lobby.

Pastoral Associate Gayle Castellani and the Rev. Andrew Kurovsky stand in the church lobby.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Peckville has two milestone anniversaries coming up and they’ve planned months of events — from a neighborhood cookbook to a night of history — to celebrate.

After a year-long delay because of COVID-19, festivities will begin off in August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Willow Street church being and the 75 years since it became a parish.

“We were going to have the anniversary in April” 2021, said the Rev. Andrew Kurovsky, known as Father Andy. “The events were supposed to happen eight or nine months leading up, so we transferred everything over because of the pandemic.”

In August, the parish will hold a neighborhood cookout for the parish community and its neighbors. A 5K run/walk is planned for September, and in October, the parish is going on a Roba’s outing. In November, the parish is planning a Works of Mercy weekend with a food and clothing drive. Early in December, the parish will hold a “Christmas camp” where they will babysit parishioner’s children, so parents can go Christmas shopping.

January will see ministers of other faiths come together for a special service. A blood drive is planned for February. In March, the church will host a photo fair where parishioners will be able to bring in photos of different events they celebrated at Sacred Heart. Finally, on April 23, 2022, the bishop will come for the closing Mass, followed by an evening reception.

“It’s a lot of celebration,” said Kurovsky, a priest for 36 years. “Every month, we’re doing something.”

The long list of festivities isn’t something the parish has done before, but according to Pastoral Associate Gayle Castellani, they wanted to plan a special celebration to mark the anniversaries.

“It’s 50 years for the building and 75 for the parish,” Castellani said.

The first Sacred Heart Church was built in 1941 and belonged to the old St. Mary’s church in Jessup, which was the parish at the time. Sacred Heart remained connected to St. Mary’s for five years before they appointed their own pastor in 1946 and became the first Catholic Church in Blakely.

Then in 1969-1970, the present-day Sacred Heart building was built, making it the first “round” church in Eastern Pennsylvania.

“The church was connected to St. Mary’s for five years and became its own parish in 1946,” Kurovsky said.

Since then, the parish has gone through renovations and additions, with two of the three previous pastors adding to it. Since the first pastor oversaw the construction of the church in 1970, the second and third pastors served as leaders as the parish offices, parish center and parish hall were built, respectively.

With such a rich history of building in the church, Kurovsky, the fourth pastor, is often asked what he’s going to build.

“I always say that I’m just going to build community,” he said. “That’s what I feel I’m called to do. Build a community of faith, not only in numbers but in commitment.”

Total church membership includes 1,250 people. The median age in the parish is 42, and there are many people in their 20s and 30s as well. In addition, there are also 250 children in the church’s religious education program.

“We have 50% of our parish over age 42 and 50% under age 42,” Kurovsky said. “After COVID, we weren’t sure if people would want to come to church, but they are coming back. It’s amazing.”

Additionally, the parish prides itself on being extremely welcoming and invites people to come no matter what. According to Kurovsky, their motto is “the round church where there’s room for everyone.” They want people to find a home at Sacred Heart and feel like they belong.

“We hope the welcoming environment leads people into a greater connection with Jesus Christ,” Castellani said. “That’s the whole goal of everything we do here.”

Both Kurovsky and Castellani fully embrace their roles in making the church an amazing environment.

“It’s like my second family,” Castellani said. “It’s truly a calling, and it’s such a pleasure to be here.”

Kurovsky agreed, adding that he’s given the opportunity to be with people during the special moments of their lives, like the birth of a baby, baptism and saying goodbye to loved ones.

“It’s a great gift to be with people,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be part of people’s lives through special moments.”