St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Parish, 807 Havens Corners Road, will begin celebrating its 60th anniversary as a parish with a 5 p.m. Mass on Sept. 21, including a visit from Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus Bishop Robert J. Brennan and a picnic.
The celebration will continue from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 12 with a community open house and tours of the church, according to Michelle Dougherty, parish communications coordinator.
She said St. Matthew has grown significantly since 1959, when its first Masses were held at Lincoln Elementary School, 515 Havens Corners Road, and then in a small, temporary structure at 296 Rocky Fork Drive S. in Gahanna.
Although the parish began with 256 families, compared to over 2,200 today, Dougherty said, it was as active then as now and established its role in the Gahanna community.
The church's mission statement is: "As a community of believers who know, love and serve Jesus Christ, we celebrate the sacramental life of the church, proclaim the saving message of Christ and share the love of the Lord, especially with the least, the poor and the suffering."
Shirley Maietta, 84, has been a member since 1960, when she and her late husband, Dr. Carmin Maietta, moved to Gahanna from New Jersey.
"The first thing we did was register at that church," she said. "It was two houses put together until they got started on the compound at Havens Corners. It looked like a church. We made a lot of good friends. The parish had just started. Everyone knew everyone."
Maietta said the St. Matthew Parish Festival, now a three-day event, started as a one-day celebration with a few booths, and women of the parish cooked their specialties.
"It took off from there," she said. "Now it's a big affair."
She said her husband, a general practitioner, served as team physician for Gahanna Lincoln High School for many years.
"St. Matthew had a men's softball team, and he played. He was active at festival time. It was a big money-maker for the church," she said.
Maietta said she recently retired from church activities after being heavily involved for 28 years.
"I counted the Sunday collection, and we had a group that got together on Monday mornings. My three children and two grandchildren all went to St. Matthew (Catholic) School. Two years ago, the last one graduated," she said.
The Rev. Theodore K. Sill, parish priest, said replacing the old church building the parishioners had outgrown with a new one that would have an expanded worship area, offices and meeting rooms in 2004 marks one milestone that was completed under the leadership of his predecessor, the Rev. Paul A. Noble.
"Now we are able to offer numerous Bible studies, women's and men's faith-sharing groups, and other programs throughout the week," Sill said. "We also have a Perpetual Adoration Chapel for people to pray anytime 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
When Stonybrook Methodist Church housed homeless families through the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Sill said, St. Matthew provided dinner and fellowship one night during the week the families stayed at Stonybrook.
"Once the YWCA Family Center was built and replaced IHN, St. Matthew (began and) has continued to provide dinner and fellowship at the shelter six times a year," he said.
He said the church also has provided volunteers and food for Gahanna Residents In Need's Summer Lunch Club since its inception.
"Our parish school has been an important part of our mission to evangelize for 56 years," Sill said.
Dougherty said the parish's Charitable Works Ministry is the food bank for the 43230 ZIP code and is connected to HandsOn Central Ohio.
In 2018, she said, the St. Matthew Charitable Works Ministry provided about 57,015 meals to people in the Gahanna community, regardless of their religious affiliation or church membership.
Additionally, Dougherty said, the ministry distributes clothing donations to various agencies and, when need is established, assists with emergency-housing costs and utility and medical bills.
The Charitable Works Ministry also provides Thanksgiving meals and a free Christmas Shoppe to residents in need.
She said St. Matthew is proud of its other community-based projects.
Dougherty said the Knitting and Crocheting Ministry has made more than 55,000 items, including hats, scarves, baby blankets and lap robes, for those in need and distributes them through such organizations as GRIN, the Joint Organization for Inner-city Needs and Faith Mission.
She said parish members regularly volunteer at the YWCA Family Center and pack lunches for the homeless.
Founding pastor of the parish was the late Rev. John Soltis, who served from 1959-69.
Other pastors have include Carl P. Clagett, 1970-75; Paul O. Smith, 1975-86; Thomas J. Brosmer, 1986-89; Edward J. McFarland, 1990-99; and Noble, 1999 to 2010.
Sill has served since 2010.