Not one, but three parish anniversaries were noted in a single Mass on Oct. 11 — with a very special guest leading the proceedings.
Bishop Salvatore R. Matano celebrated the 10:30 a.m. Sunday liturgy at Elmira’s St. Casimir Church. His visit paid tribute to the 125th year of the founding of St. Casimir Parish, the 80th of St. Charles Borromeo and the 75th of Our Lady of Lourdes. The three churches have operated as a combined parish, Christ the Redeemer, since 2009.
"The people were very pleased to see the bishop. Many remarked how personable he was," reported Father Scott Kubinski, pastor of Christ the Redeemer, who served as concelebrant.
Nearly 300 people were on hand for the anniversary liturgy, which included Bishop Matano confirming two adults, Elizabeth Hall and Matthew Murray, along with violin and flute accompaniment for the regular choir. Another highlight was the bishop’s homily, according to Father Kubinski: "He touched on how the people of yesteryear sacrificed much to build their churches, and how that same sense of sacrifice is at the heart of who we are as Catholics."
Father Kubinski was especially impressed with Bishop Matano’s personal touch, noting that after Mass the bishop graciously posed for photos, attended the reception that followed, and greeted many individuals throughout the late morning and early afternoon — including Father Kubinski’s own mother Dorothy, 91: "I mentioned to the bishop that my mother was in attendance and he made a point of mentioning her at the Mass and then spoke with her as he exited and also at the reception."
Father Kubinski added that the mutual affection between Bishop Matano and his flock was so apparent that it led him to recall the words of Jesus in John 10:14: "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me."
The post-Mass reception took place in the Faith Formation Building at the former St. Casimir School. Father Kubinski noted that a team of three Christ the Redeemer parishioners — Janine Novick, Mary Ann Philpott and Ray Kreydatus — worked on parish histories that were displayed in church and at the reception. He added that he would like to bring parts of those displays to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Charles Borromeo for weekend liturgies as well.
Speaking of histories, St. Casimir has the lengthiest one among Christ the Redeemer’s three sites, having been founded in 1890 to serve a large influx of Polish immigrants in the Elmira area. That year a small wooden church opened on Roe Avenue. In 1912 the present brick church, at 1000 Davis St. in northern Elmira, was dedicated. In 1990, as part of building renovations done in preparation for St. Casimir’s centennial celebration, the Divine Mercy perpetual-adoration chapel opened in St. Casimir’s basement. It is one of only two such chapels currently operating in the Southern Tier; the other is at St. Ann Church in Hornell.
St. Charles Borromeo, located in the Village of Elmira Heights, came into being in 1897, only seven years after St. Casimir. Originally, St. Charles was a mission parish of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads. Masses in St. Charles’ early years were celebrated at a home on Prescott Avenue as well as the Odd Fellows Room on Oakwood Avenue. In January 1905, the first church was opened on Grand Central Avenue. St. Charles became a full-fledged parish in 1935, getting its first resident priest at that time. The present church, located at 130 Oakwood Ave., was dedicated in 1960.
Our Lady of Lourdes, located at 1100 W. Church St. in West Elmira, was dedicated Oct. 26, 1941, by Bishop James E. Kearney. A striking feature of the church’s interior is a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France, which forms a background for the altar. The grotto was designed to duplicate in smaller scale the site where the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes. A statue of Mary stands at a high level while a statue of St. Bernadette in kneeling position is at a lower level.
The first instance of consolidation among Christ the Redeemer’s churches occurred in 1994, when St. Casimir and St. Charles Borromeo became a cluster — an arrangement by which one pastor oversees two or more churches. Our Lady of Lourdes joined the cluster in 2006. Three years after that, all three churches’ staffs, finances and councils were merged — the result of a diocesanwide pastoral-planning process — and the new parish name of Christ the Redeemer was adopted.