St. Stephen’s Day Celebrated in New York
Erika Papp Faber
Although founded as a parish community in 1902, the Church of St. Stephen of Hungary on 82nd Street in the Yorkville section of the Upper East side reckons its age from 1928, when the building was completed. The church and school above it are now celebating their 90th anniversary. For it was in May of 1928 that the golden cross was blessed and placed on top of the school and church building, and the church was consecrated in December of that year.
For the church’s patronal feast, celebrated on Sunday, August 19th this year, St. Stephen’s was filled with Hungarian faithful, many of whom wore typical Hungarian embroidery. The bilingual Mass, starting at 2 PM, was celebrated by Fr. Iván Csete, a former member of the Archdiocesan Presbyterial Council, who spoke about King St. Stephen (reigned from the year 1000 to 1038), founder of the Hungarian Christian state and his legacy as seen even here, a thousand years later.
St. Stephen’s Day, coming at the end of the wheat harvest, is also known as the Day of the New Bread. Consequently, a loaf of bread, adorned with a red-white-and green ribbon, was also presented with the usual bread and wine at the Offertory.
A tangible reminder of St. Stephen was a relic, a piece of bone, displayed in a golden reliquary on the altar and offered for veneration at the end of the Mass by Brother David OSF (Third Order), who assisted at the Mass. Brother David is of Hungarian ancestry, and even read one of the prayers in Hungarian.
Marty Milisits, a member of the Parish Council of St. Monica-St.Stephen-St. Elizabeth, read one of the Mass readings in English, and gave a concise biography of St. Stephen.
Flutist Judith Vincze Sheridan and a visiting pianist accompanied the congregation’s singing. At the end of Mass, opera singer Liana Guberman, soprano, sang Schubert’s Ave Maria, while opera singer Joseph Flaxman, baritone, gave a wonderful rendition of the Our Father. Both received well-deserved applause.
Among the 125 people who gathered for this annual observance was 103-year old Margit Hericz, only occasionally using a walker and spry as ever. Except for 5 years spent in California, she has been a member of the parish since 1940.
After Mass, all participants were treated to snacks of cheese, homebaked goods and fruit as well as cold drinks at the back of the church.