Cayuga County parishes selling former schools, rectories - Catholic Courier
The front of a school building in Auburn that will be sold.

The former St. Joseph School building in Auburn is one of four properties owned by Catholic parishes in Cayuga County that has been listed for sale. (Courier file photo)

Cayuga County parishes selling former schools, rectories

Four church-owned properties have been listed for sale as a result of ongoing pastoral planning by Catholic parishes in Cayuga County.

The buildings currently for sale are:

  • the rectory of St. Joseph Church in Weedsport;
  • the rectory of St. Alphonsus Church in Auburn;
  • the former St. Joseph School building on the grounds of St. Alphonsus; and
  • the school building on the grounds of Holy Family Church in Auburn.

No churches are listed for sale, but several parish-owned buildings have been repurposed to better serve the needs of the local Catholic community, according to information provided by Father Frank Lioi, pastor of one of the two clusters of Catholic parishes in Auburn and northern Cayuga County.

Pastoral-planning process began years ago

The most recent round of pastoral planning in the area began in 2017, when Bishop Salvatore R. Matano asked the pastors of parishes in Auburn and northern Cayuga County to form teams to assess the ministerial and administrative needs of their parishes and to plan for future declines in the number of priests available to serve them.

This work led to the 2019 clustering of St. Ann in Owasco with the Auburn parishes of Sacred Heart, Holy Family and St. Alphonsus.

The following year, the Auburn parishes of St. Mary and Sts. Mary and Martha, which already shared a pastor in Father Lioi, formed a cluster with Our Lady of the Snow Parish in northern Cayuga County.

Shortly before that cluster formed, Bishop Matano accepted the recommendation of Our Lady of the Snow’s then-pastor, the late Father William Darling, to close St. John in Port Byron due to declining Mass attendance and other factors.

A final Mass was celebrated at St. John on June 27, 2020, and the church was eventually put on the market. The Canal Society of New York State purchased the building in the spring of 2021 and turned it into the Samuel Center for Canal History.

That same month, Bishop Matano asked leaders of the two clusters to develop a pastoral plan for the Catholic community of Auburn and northern Cayuga County, and a planning committee comprising pastors and parish representatives was formed. The committee studied each of the nine churches and its facilities, taking into account the conditions of the buildings as well as community demographics, priest availability, financial information and projections about future facility needs.

The committee eventually recommended the closure of Holy Family, St. Alphonsus and St. Francis of Assisi churches in Auburn as well as St. Joseph Church in Weedsport. Father Lioi and Father John Gathenya, then-pastor of Holy Family, St. Alphonsus, Sacred Heart and St. Ann, presented the recommendation to Bishop Matano in the spring of 2021.

Bishop decides churches will remain open, but parishes must make changes

However, following several discussions with the diocesan Presbyteral Council and listening sessions with the Auburn community, Bishop Matano decided in August 2021 to keep all nine of the Auburn and northern Cayuga County churches open — with a caveat.

“I hereby direct that in the next year by September 1, 2022, the parishes present their concrete efforts made to divest themselves of unnecessary properties and to utilize only those facilities needed to serve the religious, pastoral and spiritual needs of the faithful,” Bishop Matano stated in an Aug. 11, 2021, letter to Father Lioi and Father Stephen Karani, who became pastor of Holy Family, St. Alphonsus, Sacred Heart and St. Ann in June 2021.

Fathers Lioi and Karani met with Bishop Matano and the Presbyteral Council on Sept. 27, 2022, to provide an update on the parishes’ efforts to comply with the bishop’s requests. They explained that not only had two former rectories and two school buildings been listed for sale, but several other buildings have been repurposed, Father Lioi said.

The former rectory at St. Francis of Assisi now is being used for the consolidated parish offices of St. Mary, Sts. Mary and Martha, and Our Lady of the Snow, and the rectory at St. Mary no longer has offices and will be used only as a residence for priests serving the clustered parishes, he said.

The former St. Hyacinth School now is used by St. Albert the Great Academy, while the rectory at St. Hyacinth houses visiting guests and the Dominican Sisters from Nashville who serve as consultants to the private school and to Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate.

“Holy Family Church has contracted with an architectural firm to furnish documentation on the condition of the (church) building,” Father Lioi added.

Tags: Cayuga County News
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