The East Deanery of the Rochester Diocese comprises 14 parishes and 22 church buildings sprinkled among Finger Lakes communities in Cayuga, Seneca and Tompkins counties. Its dean is Father Frank E. Lioi, pastor of St. Mary and Ss. Mary & Martha parishes in Auburn.
All Saints/Holy Cross/St. Anthony
A three-church cluster in northern Tompkins County, formed in 2005, unites faith communities from Lansing, Dryden and Groton.
- All Saints in Lansing was founded in 1913 with the opening of its first church. In 1933 a new structure went up, serving All Saints until 2007. That year, a brand-new church, at 347 Ridge Road (Route 34B), was dedicated near the parish center that had opened in 1995.
- Holy Cross, begun in 1950, held Masses its first 20 years in a chapel at George Junior Republic, a facility for at-risk children. The Dryden/Freeville parish’s first church, at 375 George Road, opened in 1970. Father Thomas K. Cleary, founding pastor, served 35 years until 1985.
- Masses in the Groton area were first celebrated in homes for a small number of Catholic families, before St. Anthony Parish was established in 1874 with the dedication of its first church on South Main Street. In 1975 the current St. Anthony church facility, at 312 Locke Road, was dedicated.
Good Shepherd Catholic Community
Formed in 2002, Good Shepherd Catholic Community is the only Catholic parish in southern Cayuga County and comprises worship sites in King Ferry, Aurora, Moravia and Union Springs.
- In 1867 a group of Catholics, many of them Irish immigrants, purchased land in King Ferry — then known as Northville — and founded Our Lady of the Lake. They erected the church the next year. The parish was a mission of St. Michael in Union Springs until 1913.
- The roots of St. Patrick date back to 1841, when a visiting priest celebrated the first Mass known to take place in Aurora. A house purchased in 1855 served as the parish’s first church, known as St. Agnes, and ground was broken for the current St. Patrick Church in 1872.
- For the first few years after St. Patrick in Moravia was founded in 1872, parishioners attended Mass in a house. In 1884 the cornerstone was laid for the church building, which remains in use. Father Thomas F. Hickey became the parish’s first resident pastor in 1888, 21 years before he became bishop of the Diocese of Rochester.
- The early parishioners of St. Michael built a church in Union Springs — then called Springport — when the parish was founded in 1851. In 1974 the parish purchased and moved into a former Episcopal church, and a renewal ceremony was conducted the next year.
Parish of Mary, Mother of Mercy
This parish was formed in 2016 when the churches in the Seneca County communities of Ovid and Interlaken came together with the church in Trumansburg, which is in Tompkins County. Capuchin Franciscans from the Province of St. Mary previously had been providing pastoral care for all three parishes for several decades.
- The Catholics of Ovid formed Holy Cross in 1849, but construction of their church was not completed until two years later. In the meantime parishioners worshipped in private homes, a shop, a courthouse and even a saloon. The parish’s first church was completed in 1851, and the current structure was built in 1895.
- In 1874 the Catholics of Interlaken — then known as Farmer Village — began construction of St. Francis Solanus. Once completed, the parish initially was a mission of Holy Cross in Ovid and later became a mission of St. James the Apostle in Trumansburg. In 1956 St. Francis Solanus became a parish in its own right.
- In 1854 a Catholic priest in Trumansburg purchased a former Methodist church and converted it into St. James the Apostle, which remains in use today. In 1895 the parish moved and expanded the church building, which was heavily damaged by fire in 1949. The church was rebuilt and dedicated in 1950.
Holy Family, founded in 1834, is the oldest Catholic parish in Auburn. For nearly 30 years its spiritual home was a remodeled former Methodist Church. Construction of the current church was completed in 1861. Two towers and 20 stained-glass windows were added in the early 1900s, and the church underwent significant renovations in 1958 and again in 1988.
Founded in 1848, Immaculate Conception became one of the first Catholic parishes in the Southern Tier and was Ithaca’s lone parish for more than a century. Originally known as St. Luke, the parish opened its first church in 1851. Only nine years later, a larger church went up and was incorporated as Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1898 the current church at 113 N. Geneva St. was dedicated.
Our Lady of the Snow
Parishes in the northern Cayuga County communities of Port Byron, Weedsport and Cato merged to form this parish in 2005.
- St. John was founded in Port Byron in 1958 as a mission of St. Joseph in Weedsport, and the two parishes shared a pastor for some time. For the first 42 years of its existence, Masses were held in a schoolhouse that had been remodeled and converted into a church. In 1900 the current church was constructed.
- The oldest of the three faith communities, St. Joseph was founded in Weedsport in 1854 as a mission of St. Alphonsus in Auburn. A wooden church was built and served the parish for four years. In 1858 a new church was built, which housed the parish until the church’s demolition in 1957. The current church later was built on the same site.
- In 1868 the Catholics in Cato purchased a plot of land and designated it as the site of a future church. However, St. Patrick was not officially founded until 1874, when construction began on the church structure. Construction of the white frame church was completed in 1875.
Sacred Heart/St. Ann
The histories of these two Cayuga County parishes have been intertwined for more than 60 years.
- Sacred Heart in Auburn was founded in 1956, and construction of the first church building began the following year. Parishioners completed much of the work themselves, and the finished building housed the parish until 1973. That year, construction began on Sacred Heart’s new hexagon-shaped church, and the building was completed in 1974.
- Owasco’s Catholic families founded St. Ann in 1911, and the following year, the parish purchased a former Presbyterian church. Lightning struck the church in 1921, necessitating repairs, yet the parish still paid off the debt incurred from the church’s purchase by 1927. In the 1940s the parish put on a chicken barbecue, which became an annual fundraiser that continues today.
This Auburn parish was founded in 1853 by Catholic families of German and Irish descent. Initially the fledgling parish did not have a church or a resident pastor, so Redemptorist Fathers from Rochester traveled to Auburn to say Mass, first in a local hotel and later in a barn. The parish acquired a resident pastor in 1869, built a church in 1929-30 and added a parish center in 1967. The St. Alphonsus campus is home to St. Joseph School, which educates students in preschool through eighth grade.
St. Catherine of Siena
With the dedication of its new parish center on April 29, 2017, this parish at 309 Siena Drive, Ithaca, added a proud chapter to its 58-year history. St. Catherine of Siena was incorporated in 1960, and Masses were celebrated at Cornell University for the parish’s first two years until a permanent home opened in Cayuga Heights in 1962.
Ss. Mary & Martha
This parish was formed in 2012 when an Auburn parish with Italian roots merged with a neighboring parish with a Polish background. The resulting new parish has integrated components of both cultures into parish life, taking pride in such traditions as its pierogi kitchen and its annual Italian festival, both of which are popular in the community.
- Auburn’s Italian immigrants founded St. Francis of Assisi in 1907. The parish built its first church in 1908 and a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in 1951. The current church was built in 1958. The parish continued to reflect its Italian heritage even as Catholics from other cultures joined those of Italian descent in the pews, and the current church features statues crafted from Italian marble.
- St. Hyacinth was founded in 1905 at the request of Auburn’s Polish immigrants. The first church was built in 1907 and housed the parish for more than 50 years. Conventual Franciscan friars from St. Anthony of Padua Province provided pastoral care from 1926-2005, when diocesan priests again began serving St. Hyacinth. The current church was built in 1964.
St. Mary was founded in Auburn in 1868, and its first Masses were celebrated in homes, public buildings and later in a temporary wooden structure known as the “Shanty Church.” The cornerstone for the current church building was laid in 1870 and the structure was dedicated in 1877. A pipe organ installed in 1890 remains in use today, as do the bells that were installed in the parish’s newly completed bell tower in 1926.