The closing of St. Andrew Church in Dundee in June 2009 felt like a death to the close-knit parishioners who worshipped there, said Sister of St. Joseph Anne Alderman. More than three years later, however, that community has experienced something of a rebirth in recent months.
St. Andrew Church was sold on Oct. 15 to three private buyers who live out of town, according to Father Stan Kacprzak, pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community, which included St. Andrew. Rather than dwelling on this melancholy fact, however, former St. Andrew parishioners came together in November to celebrate the resurrection of an important piece of St. Andrew’s history. On the Nov. 30 feast of St. Andrew, the bell from the Dundee church rang out proudly from its new lofty location at St. Michael Church in Penn Yan, which also is part of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community.
Father Robert Ring, who was pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community from 2001-11, said he proposed the idea of moving the bell to the Penn Yan church because he thought it would be a powerful way to remember the legacy of all those who worshipped at St. Andrew, and parishioners eagerly embraced the idea.
"We just wanted a piece of St. Andrew to be there. We wanted to be remembered," said Charlie Frost, who worshipped at St. Andrew and now attends Mass at St. Michael.
Before St. Andrew closed, parishioners gathered funds to eventually move the bell to St. Michael, Father Kacprzak said, but that was just the first of several hurdles to overcome before the bell could be moved. For starters, the bell tower at St. Michael needed to be renovated in order to accommodate the bell, according to Doug Marchionda Sr., chairman of St. Michael’s buildings and grounds committee.
The original plans for St. Michael, which was built in 1901, had called for a bell tower, but the parish ran out of money during construction and the bell tower was started but never completed, Marchionda said. The builders went as far as they could before capping the tower with a roof and leaving a pile of bricks behind on the tower’s sub-floor, he added. St. Michael parishioner Dick Osgood drew up the renovation plans necessary to obtain a building permit and the parish hired Upstate Builders to build dormers and supportive beams and redo the bell tower’s roof, Marchionda said.
Marchionda, his family and their company, Marchionda Excavating, donated most of the equipment, tools and skills needed to lower the bell from its tower at St. Andrew and into the choir loft below. They then maneuvered it through a window and into the bucket of a waiting boom truck, which lowered it onto a flatbed trailer. Once the bell had been trucked to Penn Yan, a crew from Weaver’s Crane out of Lyons lifted the bell into its new location.
Many of the people involved with the process volunteered their time, and those who were hired only charged the parish what it cost them to perform the work, Marchionda said.
"The best part of the story is the church is complete, and it is completed by the people from St. Andrew, so they are definitely a part of St. Michael," he added.
The bell was rung for the first time during the Nov. 30 celebration, to which all the former parishioners of St. Andrew received special invitations. That day Father Kacprzak asked for God’s renewed blessing on the bell.
"There were some tears, remembering the past, but people were most grateful," he said, noting that those who now worship at St. Michael likely will think of St. Andrew each time they hear the bell ring.
"It’s very special to have it there, because now we hear the same kind of clanging that we used to hear before and after every Mass. It’s just a very welcoming sound," said Sister Alderman, executive director of Cobblestone Springs, a spirituality and renewal center in Dundee.
"It sounded wonderful," added Bob Sullivan, a longtime St. Andrew parishioner. He was baptized at St. Andrew in 1924 and remained part of the parish until it closed. Whenever there was a special occasion, such as the end of the Korean or Vietnam wars, St. Andrew and the other churches in Dundee would ring their bells, recalled Sullivan, who was in charge of ringing St. Andrew’s bell for many years.
Several other items from St. Andrew have found good homes, noted Father Ring. The church’s Stations of the Cross were given to the St. Padre Pio Chapel in Gates, which opened in 2008. Several vestments and other liturgical items are used in the other churches in Our Lady of the Lakes, and several were sent to missions, Father Ring said.
St. Michael also received a large cross, which St. Andrew parishioners created by contributing pieces of wood from their homes during Lent 2009. The cross is "a symbol both of the welcoming of the St. Andrew’s community, their holding a prominent place in our worship at St. Michael’s, as well as the fact that the closing of the church was an experience of dying and rising, to be joined to Christ’s sufferings on the cross," Father Ring said.
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