Dave Mastroieni welcomes Father John Amsberry, former pastor, to the altar after the dedication Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Sunday, Jan. 28. Archbishop Alexander Sample celebrated the Mass and an estimated 800 parishioners attended the service.
Dave Mastroieni welcomes Father John Amsberry, former pastor, to the altar after the dedication Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Sunday, Jan. 28. Archbishop Alexander Sample celebrated the Mass and an estimated 800 parishioners attended the service.
Gary Buczkowski, who grew up in St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland, jumped with both feet five years ago into raising funds for the renovated worship space. Over the coming years he would meet with parishioners in their homes, urging them to donate to the project.

“He’s say he hoped for a place he could walk his three girls down the aisle,” said his wife, Rosemary Buczkowski.

He’s got that now. “100 percent,” Rosemary laughs.

Archbishop Alexander Sample celebrated a dedicated Mass at the rebuilt sanctuary Sunday, Jan. 28, with an estimated 800 parishioners bursting through the seams of the new space — which now seats 520, versus 390 before the work.

“We wanted to improve the space but also to keep its intimate feeling,” said Dave Mastroieni, project manager, after the Mass. “I believe we did that. There’s a sense of warmth and also reverence and holiness at the altar.”

He said parishioners seemed to immediately feel back at home in the church after their challenging two years worshipping in its basement.

Mastroieni works with parishes on upgrading and renovating and rebuilding professionally, but this is the first time he’s ever worked with his own parish.

He’s pleased with the personal interest Archbishop Sample took in the church, the archbishop’s suggestions, for instance, that the tabernacle be placed behind the altar, that there be a significant crucifix in the church and that the baptismal font be located near the entry.

Mastroieni worked with the contractor, Grant Company of Mount Angel, and Di Loreto Architecture.

“It’s beautiful,” Archbishop Sample told the crowd before the Liturgy of the Word began. “This is like being in a whole new church.”

The congregation seemed pleased with his praise, especially since the church isn’t brand new but rather remodeled, which they learned would be less expensive than rebuilding.

Archbishop Sample congratulated the lay leadership of the parish for their hard work and its leaders: Father John Amsberry, pastor when the work began, and Father Ted Prentice, who completed the job.

“It’s never easy to come in to a new parish, but especially so in the midst of a project,” said the archbishop.

He compared the blessing of the church to baptism and confirmation, sharing the elements of water, oil, light, bread and wine. Water, he explained, represents new life and oil consecrates us to God. He pointed out how there were no candles on the altar, which, like baptismal candles, were yet to come, lighted by Christ. “You will be the light to this community,” he said.

Then the bread and wine, which would be transformed into Christ’s body and blood.

“Let it remind you of your own baptism,” Archbishop Sample said. “Bless you for what you’ve done, which will serve many generations of Catholics.”

Many parishioners said they were grateful Father Amsberry was able to share the day with them. Now a priest in the Archdiocese of San Diego, Father Amsberry learned the parish hall will be named for him.

He received and standing ovation and delivered an emotional “thank-you” to his former flock. “Wow,” he told them. “That’s what heaven will be — a never-ending wow.”

Parishioners quickly answered his trademark calls with the appropriate responses.

“It’s 12:07, and—” he began.

“You are loved!” the people shouted back.