WESTFIELD – St. Mary’s Parish and schools have been part of the community for more than one-third of Westfield’s 350 years.
To honor those ties and show St. Mary’s is here to stay, the parish will join thousands of others in the Westfield 350th birthday parade May 19.
For the past several weeks, volunteers and staff of the parish schools have worked to create a float depicting what the parish is all about. It includes books, a church and the focal piece is a statue of the parish namesake, Mary the Blessed Mother.
St. Mary’s High School Principal Matthew Collins said as soon as he heard about the parade, he wanted St. Mary’s to be involved.
“This is really about being part of the community,” he said.
Collins tapped into his creative side and devised a plan for the float. The front is student-focused and leads up to Mary and the church.
The plan was the easy part, said Collins. Where and how to build it was the challenge.
Mark and Laura Lee Arena, owners of A Signature Fence, stepped up and offered space in their Union Street business. Kosynski Farm then offered the use of a 20-foot trailer – and the truck to pull it. Once those details were in place, Collins said everyone pulled together to start building.
“Our students are required to do 30 hours of community service each year, so this was the perfect project for them,” he said. “Parents, parishioners and former students have helped.”
One parent called upon a friend heavily involved in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade floats to consult on needed materials.
While the church is not an exact replica of St. Mary’s, it does include some features of the building, such as stained-glass windows and a brick façade.
“It’s been fun and we’re happy with how it’s turning out,” Collins said. “St. Mary’s schools have been part of Westfield for 120 of those 350 years, and the church has been here even longer. We are proud to be an integral part of the community.”
The Westfield 350 parade steps-off Sunday at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Western and Kensington avenues. ST. Mary’s will have a float and marching contingent representing the parish and its schools, which offer education for children from preschool through high school.