Monday, October 27, 2008

Joel Schevers, O.Carm.

Fr. Joel and Pat Duncan: Introduction of taking Communion in the hand.

Pictured : Fr. Joel in 2008, first on right, with suceeding pastors: Dan O'Neill, Hillary Milton and Tom Jordan. Archbishop John J. Myers: right.Centennial Anniversary Mass, Nov.1, 2008.

In 1969 Fr. Joel Schevers was assigned to St. Anastasia to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Fr. Henry. Fr. Schevers had experience as a parish priest, high school and seminary teacher, mission band preacher, shopping center chapel director, and even a contemplative, spending a year in the 1950s as a member of the original core group of the International Carmelite Contemplative Hermitage in Austria. Unlike the pastors before him, he was new to this area and quickly recognized that he could not simply “replace Father Henry.” He had to establish himself as the new spiritual leader of the parish and in the words of a current popular song of the time, he had to insist that “I gotta be me."

Fr. Joel reached beyond the parish and became involved in working for the good of all of Teaneck’s citizens. LARC (Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic Covenant) began during his tenure, in 1973. The Parish Council and the ratifying bodies of other churches brought the Covenant into being. On Jan. 22, 1978, three churches resolved:

"to pray regularly for each other and to share in worship experiences, in educational opportunities, in personal fellowship, in the use of physical facilities . . . and to seek to deepen and extend this fellowship among all of our members as the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth."
LARC congregations joined in this Covenant in 2008 include St. Mark's and Christ Episcopal, St. Paul's and Grace Lutheran, and St. Anastasia’s.

The most dynamic developments of this period include the development of the Parish Pastoral Council. In 1970 Fr. Joel encouraged the establishment of a steering committee to build a foundation for a parish council. In a parish-wide election in 1971, the first council was installed, one of the first in the diocese. Composed of clergy, members of the parish staff and lay people, it discussed issues of importance to the parish. The process allowed the parishioners’ voices to be heard and gave the staff and administration of the parish the opportunity to hear and make use of the talents, expertise and experience of lay people.Positions on the council were sought after, and there were election campaigns in which the priorities and interests of the various candidates were aired. St. Anastasia became a “model parish” for others to follow.

Teaneck’s population showed a slight decline from 42,355 in 1970 to an estimated 40,879 in 1976. St Anastasia’s started to use more space for more meeting areas. The Montessori School was introduced in 1970 and was located in the solarium and the community room of the rectory. The Montessori program lasted until May 1989. These rooms were converted into a large sunny and airy classroom ideally suited for young children.The parish had a Board of Education to oversee the school, Montessori, and religious education programs for children and adults as of June 31, 1974.
As the Teaneck Public Schools integrated, so did St. Anastasia's School. Cleo Bonnemere, a prominent African American parishioner who was interviewed by the Township, spoke of the early impressions she had of St. Anastasia's School:

My impression of Teaneck was like a melting pot meaning there was a variety of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I entered my oldest son in St. Cecilia's Catholic School in Englewood because there were no blacks enrolled at St. Anastasia's due to the fact that the classes were all filled....We were given the impression that places were being held for families who had more than one child in the family and the place was being held for them. But as the population of blacks increased, more pressure was applied to the school problem and more black students began to attend.Cleo BonnemereThe Black Catholics have been part of the movement toward a greater understanding of themselves as Catholics in the Newark Archdiocese. In Saint Anastasia’s, activities for this group appeared regularly in the Bulletin, such as Juneteenth Sunday. These groups became active within the parish and remain so in

Fr. Joel’s services on township boards and the “Mass for Teaneck” in Votee Park in 1974 were examples of his concern for all the people of Teaneck. Teaneck recognized his dedication and effectiveness by proclaiming him “Citizen of the Year” in 1974 and, in 1978, “Teaneck’s Distinguished Citizen." On June 21, 1992, Fr. Joel celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest at St. Anastasia’s.

Pictured: Bernie Brooks and other parishioners in a photo taken for a magazine cover---not used.

Bernie Brooks, a Teaneck Council member and mayor of the era, described his involvement:
“I was very involved in St. Anastasia's first parish council. I headed one of their committees. It was called I believe Community Action Committee and we were a committee that looked at some of the social needs of the parish and also some of the social needs of the greater community of Teaneck and we joined with groups of other religious institutions to do a number of programs….”

One of the first needs of the community at large that Fr. Joel and the Council recognized was the housing requirements of senior citizens. In July 1972 St. Anastasia joined with Temple Emeth in sponsoring senior citizen housing in Teaneck. The leadership of the two congregations encouraged others to join the project and today, off Cedar Lane, Fairway Terrace represents home to many older citizens who needed one.

Bernie Brooks described that experience:
“We were very involved with Temple Emeth, St. Mark's and the Rotary and several others and this was in the formation of a senior citizen housing development that's on East Cedar Lane. We were also very instrumental in creating a town wide senior citizens group. It is now a senior citizens center in Teaneck. Camille Getler who happens to be the director of that center was part of my original committee at St. Anastasia's and that was her introduction or initiation into senior citizens.”
As a result of the Parish Pastoral Council, hundreds of lay people were involved in parish decisions over the next three decades. The 2008 Parish Pastoral Council is active with 12 lay members and 4 staff members.

In 1970, Teaneck had 42,355 residents. By then, Teaneck’s Catholics came to St. Anastasia primarily by car and came from the parking lot to the church interior using a fire escape entrance. Pictures of the original rectory being demolished appeared in local papers in 1972. The narthex was added to provide a safer entrance from the parking lot in 1973. It also provided space for a relocated sacristy so that the celebrant, lectors, servers and song leaders could process down the main aisle to the altar and return to the narthex for a reception line after Mass, symbolic of increasing community.

The sanctuary space was also redesigned. The railings were removed, demonstrating that we are one community. The presider’s chair was moved from the back of the table altar to the side closer to the people. Blue draperies were placed behind the main altar. The side altar, once St. Joseph’s altar, now became the altar for the Reservation of the Eucharist and housed the tabernacle. The lower church wall was moved forward, creating space for the Redmond Room, used for Parish Council meetings.The lower church continued to serve the daily Mass goer. However, Sunday Masses were no longer celebrated there regularly.

The upper church windows were replaced in 1970 and 1971, continuing the style of the narthex windows.The west windows show wedding rings representing the wedding at Cana, the Holy Family, the Nativity, and the Holy Spirit. The east windows picture the Crucifixion and Passion, the Resurrection, broken chains representing the broken bonds of sin through penance, and the Eucharist. The confessionals were replaced by the Reconciliation Room;penitent and priest face each other.

The Seton Room, built after the narthex in 1973, connected the rectory to the church. A large faceted glass window illustrating Mother Seton illuminated the meeting place. The same year, our present day convent was built as the former convent, dating from 1951, became the rectory. The final structural revision was a permanent canopy connecting the Seton Room and lower church entrances, providing a safe entrance during inclement weather.

Archbishop Boland dedicated and blessed these buildings.

Pictured: Risen Christ Window (middle window on left wall in the church.)

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