St. Helen’s has been a landmark for worship — and education — on Union Street in Schenectady since 1955.
On Sunday, May 1, 1955, St. Helen’s Church was consecrated. The Most Rev. William A. Scully, bishop of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, officiated during the morning ceremony. About 1,000 people were in the red oak pews for the first service inside the new church.
Rev. William P. Casey, who had become pastor of St. Helen’s in July 1945, celebrated the first high Mass. Casey led the parish until 1957.
The concrete and brick building at 1801 Union was built on the former site of the Rindfleisch cleaning company. A marble altar and altar rail were lit from above by a rose window; stained-glass windows provided colorful light to the sides of the buildings.
St. Helen’s parish had been serving the eastern edge of Schenectady since 1926. The first church had stood at the corner of Union and Lakewood Avenue, the present site of Trustco Bank.
Getting ready for school
Construction of the new building began in 1954. Parish officials also had plans for a school. The original Rindfleisch cleaning plant was renovated at a cost of $260,000 and converted into St. Helen’s School, another project for 1955.
The school opened during the fall of ’55, with 150 pupils in kindergarten through third grade. Other grades were added later.
Sister Mary Agnes and colleagues from the Sisters of the Presentation were the first teachers. In addition to classrooms, the sisters also supervised a gymnasium that included a stage and kitchen.
“With its unusually high ceiling, we wondered how the janitor would ever replace burned out lights, but found out that he was using an extension ladder for the project,” wrote reporter D.E. Ritz of the Schenectady Gazette.
Renovation of St. Helen’s Church began in 1986. It was rededicated Oct. 3, 1991.
Categories: Life and Arts