Parish: Roman Catholic Church of St. Mark
Address: 105 Randall Road, Shoreham, N.Y. 11786
Sunday Mass schedule: Saturday: 5 p.m., Sunday: 8, 9:30, 11:30 a.m.
Daily Mass schedule: Mon-Fri: 9 a.m.
Registered families: 3,000
Pastor: Father Theodore J. Howard
St. Mark’s on the north shore of eastern Long Island began as a mission of St. John the Baptist Church in Wading River, but, as the population of the once-rural area began to grow, a separate parish was established on September 26, 1973. Father Raymond Tortora was the first pastor of the congregation that worshipped in a small chapel on North Country Road. The building held barely 100 people and is a dentist’s office today.
In December, 1976, Bishop John McGann dedicated St. Mark’s church and parish center nestled in the woods on Randall Road. In the late ’70s and the ’80s, the Shoreham area saw a great increase in population. Leisure Village, a planned community for active seniors, opened with over 1,500 units. It was followed by two other communities, Leisure Knoll and Leisure Glen. At the same time, many young families with children were moving into new houses being built in the area.
Father Joseph Basel served as pastor from 1977 until his death in 1988. Father Ted Howard became pastor in June 1988.
“I love it here because of the mix of young and old,” said Father Howard. “The older people are great supporters of the young people and children.” The parish area is large geographically and includes parts of two school districts. There are over 1,400 children enrolled in religious education classes. One way the parish tries to bring the diverse groups together is through its small Christian communities in the form of RAP (Religion and People) groups for teens and ACTS (Adults Coming Together to Share) groups for all ages.
Each Monday night the parish staff and different ministry leaders meet in the rectory for Mass and a meeting. A social committee plans fundraisers, dances, concerts and other events for all ages. A parish monthly newsletter, “Our Voices,” fosters communication.
When he came to the parish, one of Father Howard’s priorities was to launch a campaign to build a larger church and parish center. The church built in 1976 held only 250 people and the parish center was L-shaped, making it less than ideal for events. The current facilities, dedicated in 2002, include a large open church with a lobby gathering space. The church is connected to the parish center, allowing people to move easily from Mass to the center for events. The parish center can be opened into one large gathering space, or separated with soundproof partitions so various groups can meet at the same time.
As the parish grows, Father Howard has tried to keep “the rustic look. The nature around church is important. It helps prepare the heart and soul for liturgy.” There are several statues around the property for outdoor devotions. In the church, a Blessed Sacrament chapel provides a place for quiet prayers. There are First Friday devotions with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and First Saturday devotions dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.
The parish center is used every day and night, according to Father Howard. Some active groups include a Catholic Daughters of the Americas court, Lay Carmelites, and the Legion of Mary. Music ministry includes a children’s choir, an adult choir and a teen music group, Cornerstones. Parish outreach helps to feed and care for needy people in the area and, when possible, to help other parishes meet their outreach needs. A peanut butter and jelly gang, whose membership spans all age groups, makes sandwiches for the poor each month.
One of the marks of the parish according to Father Howard is “the goodness of the people here. We always get volunteers to help with whatever we need.” He cited the recent formation of a consolation ministry as a welcome addition to the parish and a great help for the priests when they prepare to celebrate funeral Masses.
The parish recently published a cookbook and is currently preparing for the annual children’s Christmas pageant with more than 100 angels and shepherds.