Parishioners pray during the 75th anniversary Mass.
Parishioners pray during the 75th anniversary Mass.
As attested by those whose families helped found Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton, the small community of faith-filled families grew into a community of Catholics who dreamed of forming their own parish and prayed it into being.

“Every significant event in my life is tied to that parish,” said parishioner Patricia Williams, whose maternal great-grandparents were founding members. “In times of trouble, in times of joy, our parish has always been there for us.” 

PHOTO GALLERY: 75th Anniversary Mass in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, West Trenton

On Oct. 23, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish celebrated the blessing of a diamond anniversary – 75 years of faith, unity, generosity and humility, as expressed by Father Ariel Robles, pastor.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated the anniversary Mass, which was concelebrated by Father Robles, and former pastors Father Michael Hall, now pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, and diocesan director, Office of Worship; Msgr. Ralph Stansley, retired and living in Villa Vianney, Lawrenceville, and Msgr. Dennis A. Apoldite, episcopal vicar of Mercer County and pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton. Other invited guests included the Filippini Sisters from neighboring Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing.

In his homily for the parish community of some 651 families, Bishop O’Connell spoke about humility, which is the “realization we are all created by God … that God is the giver of all good gifts, gifts that are not meant for us to keep to ourselves but to share. Sharing God’s gifts with generosity and openness is what makes a difference in the lives of others and therefore in our own lives.”

Following the Mass, Bishop O’Connell blessed a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the parish hall in the Church basement. Williams recalled that the new statue replaced one that had been broken during a windstorm. “The new statue is heavier and sturdier; we wanted the Bishop to bless [it].”

Mary Szmutko, who works in the parish office and is the wife of Deacon Steve Szmutko, added that Father Robles was able to repair the old Sacred Heart statue that sustained damage to the hands. The old statue is now being kept indoors and will be moved into the room that was once served as the baptistry and is now being made into a small chapel.

Szmutko added that benches have been set up near the new outdoor statue and people are regularly known to stop by to pray.

The celebration continued with a catered luncheon in the newly blessed parish hall, which had been expanded and renovated under the direction of Father Hall. “He started the project, and it was finished not long after Father Robles arrived,” Williams attested. Many of the parish renovation work included the help of parishioner Jack Trainor, who recently turned 99 years old.

Renovations included the replacement of the heating and air-conditioning systems, as well as the division of the space to allow for various conference rooms. Szmutko said religious education classes are now held in the parish hall. Prior to the pandemic, the classes were held in Villa Victoria Academy. Once the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the classes were held virtually until the parish hall became available for in-person classes.

The jubilee luncheon was the largest gathering in the renovated space to date, Williams said. “I believe we sold 215 tickets, and everyone was able to fit comfortably!”

Reflecting on the milestones of the parish Smith noted that some 200 children are enrolled in the religious education program, and ministries include adult faith formation/Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, Knights of Columbus, Marys of Mary and a seniors’ club, among other programs and ministries.

Debbie Smith, who also works in the parish office, spoke fondly of her 20 years as a parishioner, and her pride in her son, Father Jim Smith, a native son of the parish. Father Smith served Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish whenever possible during the four years of seminary training, recalled Smith. Father Smith, who has been ordained for four years, is currently parochial vicar in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson.

Smith acknowledged those who arranged the jubilee, saying, “Everyone worked so hard, the parish council came together so beautifully to be able to put together this celebration.”

Williams’ grandparents were active in the construction of the current church building, where her parents, Kees and Angela Geurds, were married, as were she and her husband, and both of her sisters. She has made it a point to give back to her spiritual home, serving the parish in numerous capacities.

“I have been a lector for years, and taught religious education before I had kids,” Williams recalled. “More recently I served on the finance committee, the parish council, as a member of our cohort team, and as a substitute religious education teacher as needed. I give of my time because I want to see this parish live on.”

The 75th jubilee “is very special to me and to my family,” she emphasized, pointing out that her son was named Matthew for the St. Matthew window in the church, sponsored by her grandparents, Pasquale and Mary Muscente. “It’s such a beautiful church. The organ is beautiful … and everyone is welcome!”