Corning church celebrates its 175th year with visit by bishop - Catholic Courier
People attend Mass.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano gives the homily during an Oct. 29 Mass at Corning’s St. Mary Church that marked the church’s 175th anniversary. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Corning church celebrates its 175th year with visit by bishop

“Indeed, this is an extraordinary day in the life of All Saints Parish,” declared Bishop Salvatore R. Matano as he began his homily at Corning’s St. Mary Church.

Bishop Matano was the principal celebrant for a jubilee Mass Oct. 29, noting the 175th anniversary of one of the Southern Tier’s oldest parishes. He celebrated the 10:30 a.m. liturgy while Father Matthew Walter, parochial administrator of All Saints Parish, concelebrated.

“For 175 years, the faithful have come together under the banner of our mother, Mary, to bring their concerns, their hopes and their aspirations to God,” Bishop Matano stated.

Parish became the first for Corning in 1848

Corning’s inaugural Catholic parish — originally known as Our Blessed Lady, Help of Christians — was founded in 1848 at the direction of Buffalo Bishop John Timon. The parish’s first church was dedicated by Bishop Timon in 1849, and a school opened in 1855.

Ground was broken on a new church in 1866, with Bishop Timon laying the cornerstone on June 10 of that year. The building opened for worship in 1870, carrying with it a new title: St. Mary, Mother of Mercy. It was dedicated Oct. 8, 1871, by Buffalo Bishop Stephen V. Ryan. The large stone structure — located on Corning’s south side, at 158 State St. — remains the place of worship for what is now known as All Saints Parish.

“Today, we honor the many hard-working people who, from the little they possessed, built a magnificent house of the Lord,” Bishop Matano said Oct. 29, referring to the many Irish immigrants — as well as a number from Germany — who were among St. Mary’s early parishioners.

Originally a parish of the Buffalo Diocese, St. Mary became part of the Diocese of Rochester in 1896 along with all other Steuben County parishes as well as those in Chemung, Schuyler and Tioga counties. In subsequent years, two more Catholic parishes were established in Corning: St. Patrick, founded in 1902 at 274 Denison Parkway; and St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1913 at 222 Dodge Ave.

Noted priests had ties to Steuben County parish

The parish’s first 100 years were recounted by Father Robert F. McNamara in A Century of Grace, which he released in 1948 as a centennial tribute to his native parish. The book marked the first of many parish histories written by Father McNamara (1910-2009), Rochester’s longtime diocesan historian.

Another priest of note with a St. Mary connection is Father Nelson Baker, who served the Corning parish in 1881 and 1882. He went on to found Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna, near Buffalo. There, Father Baker formed such ministries as an orphanage, a school, and a home and health-care facilities for infants and unwed mothers.

In 1987, the Diocese of Buffalo submitted to the Holy See Father Baker’s cause for canonization, and in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the rank of venerable. His cause for sainthood continues today.

Parish endures through several transitions

In 1990, St. Mary and the other two Corning churches became clustered with Immaculate Heart of Mary in Painted Post, which had opened in 1952. The four churches began sharing a pastor and staff, and they were combined to form All Saints Parish in 2001. St. Patrick Church closed later that year, followed by St. Vincent de Paul in 2018 and Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2019, amid declining Mass attendance and priest availability across the Rochester Diocese. In addition, the longtime school on the St. Mary campus, All Saints Academy, closed in 2022.

Through these recent transitions, St. Mary endures as the lone place for Catholic worship in the Corning-Painted Post region — the same designation it held for nearly its first half-century of existence.

“May God grant you all not only many graces for these past 175 years, but our community many more,” Father Walter told the congregation in his opening announcements for the Oct. 29 Mass.

Meanwhile, Bishop Matano invoked the parish’s present and former titles, All Saints and St. Mary, in encouraging those in attendance to remain faithful to their church going forward.

“How extraordinary it is that as you have all the saints as your patron, your ultimate patron — queen of all the saints — is the mother of God. And so, as you look to the future, keep Mary before your eyes,” the bishop said.

Tags: Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Steuben County News
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