Frankincense smoke lingers in the air as hundreds gather for Catholic Mass at the 100th anniversary.
Frankincense smoke lingers in the air as hundreds gather for Catholic Mass at the 100th anniversary. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
Sunday April 28, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A lot can happen in 100 years, and a lot of people were thinking about that on Saturday afternoon during the centennial celebration of the founding of St. Mark Church on West Street.

During the celebratory Mass, Diocese of Springfield Bishop Timothy McDonnell commented on the duration of the church.

"Over 100 years, how many Masses have been celebrated here," he wondered. "How many prayers have been offered? How many baptisms? How many confirmations? How many weddings, and how many sad funerals?"

Following Mass, as several hundred parishioners gathered on the lawn as part of the centennial celebration, McDonnell reflected on 100 years of history at St. Mark.

"When you think about what can happen in 100 years, you start to understand the journey this congregation has undergone," he said. "Often, we don't realize what our ancestors went through to give us what we have today. This truly is a community -- a community of faith."

As if to cement a start of the next 100 years, 20 people received confirmation in the Catholic faith during the centennial Mass.

St. Mark Church was founded in 1913 as an outgrowth of Pittsfield's mother church, St. Joseph on North Street. It's first home was a wooden chapel on the corner of West and Onota streets, but the congregation outgrew that space in 1929. St. Mark's current church building at 400 West St. was completed in 1932.


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The chapel was turned into a parish hall in 1938, but the structure burned down in 1961. St. Mark's current parish center and school on Columbus Avenue Extension were built in 1965.

It's first priest, Rev. Michael Leonard, served the church until his death in 1955 at age 94.

The current priest, Rev. John Salatino, grew up around the corner from the church, a member since his birth in 1965. He noted that he wound up at St. Mark in 2003 because he speaks Spanish -- which helps because as part of his duties he holds Mass at nearby churches with largely Spanish-speaking congregations.

Salatino said that taken as a whole, his congregation is "very generous, very warm, and they do a good job of putting the gospel into practice. Many of them have been here their whole lives, and have parents or grandparents who started this parish."

Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi has been a member of St. Mark for nearly 30 years.

"It's such a joy to be a member of this parish," he said. "It is such a source of comfort and joy for many people."

Terry Holland is another longtime parishioner celebrating the church's longevity.

"It's always been a part of our family," he said. "This church is a perfect place for imperfect people, and that will keep me coming back for a long time."

Kathy Clatterbaugh is part of the Centennial Committee, and while she was cleaning off the refreshment table, she noted that she is not Catholic, but that her husband has a member of the church for about a year.

"This is a very welcoming church," she said. "I feel like I'm part of the family here."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford