September 11, 2017

St. Peter and St. Casimir Parish celebrates centennials of founding parishes

Story and photos by David Martin


WESTFIELD — Celebrating their Lithuanian and Slovak heritages, more than 200 people gathered to commemorate “100 years of Faith, Hope and Love” of both the St. Peter and the St. Casimir parishes in Westfield. 

St. Peter and St. Casimir Parish was formerly two separate parishes, but merged together to become one parish in June of 2003. St. Casimir Parish, being of Lithuanian heritage, was constructed at 38 Parkside Ave. in 1918 and closed in 2003. St. Peter Parish, being of Slovak heritage, was built in 1916 and the building on 24 State St. was retained for the merged parish.

The Mass celebrating the roots of both founding parishes took place on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 10:30 a.m. and was celebrated by Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski. Bishop Rozanski said in his homily it took a great deal of courage, foresight and also hopes and dreams of a better future for ancestors coming from Slovakia and Lithuania to Westfield 100 years ago.

He said the current parish of St. Peter and St. Casimir is a testimony to those who had come over so many years ago with that dream and that foresight, and what united them when they got to these shores was the Catholic faith, so they sought out one another. Bishop Rozanski said in developing community they had a desire to build churches where they could gather praising God and hearing sermons spoken in their own language because it was the faith that rooted them in their native countries and reminded them of home.

“When we gather here today to give thanks for these 100 years, we have to look back with gratitude to God for the courage and fortitude that our ancestors had in coming to this country. If there was one constant they had in their travels, it has been faith – a faith that has allowed them to be solidly grounded in what God had called them to be, in living the faith out and truly being Catholic,” said Bishop Rozanski.

Bishop Rozanski said a century later, as spiritual sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of the parishes’ founders, those gathered in the church for the Mass are still familiar with the customs of their ancestors and rejoice in the faith that they have passed on to future generations.

Several participants in the Mass were attired in traditional clothing of their heritage including Nancy Lliptak Butler who is Slovak. She said she has many fond memories of attending the church as a child when it was known as St. Peter Church. Butler, who is now a parishioner at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Westfield, said that Bishop Rozanski’s words during the Mass were very inspirational. She said people need to continue uniting together and coming back to the faith, especially right now because of the trauma in the world, such as all the people suffering from the hurricanes striking this country.

Butler said St. Peter and Casimir Parish has flourished spiritually over the years.

“I think this church has grown very much, there is a lot of young people as you can see today, and I just think they have a lot going for them here,” said Butler.

 Following the Mass, Bishop Rozanski greeted parishioners personally. An anniversary dinner-dance took place later at the Shaker Farms Country Club.

“I’m very proud of this community of St. Peter and St. Casimir and to see the enthusiasm and the joy here today, one can really know that the faith has truly taken root. We give thanks to God for what has been in the past here, but also ask for God’s blessings on the future,” said Bishop Rozanski.

For a video version of this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings  at 7 on WWLP-22 NEWS