A pair of buildings within Elmira’s St. Anthony/St. Patrick cluster were recently renamed to honor two integral figures in parish history.
At St. Anthony’s, the parish-center facility is now known as Father Burns Parish Center. The building is named after Father William A. Burns, who served as pastor of St. Anthony’s from 1953 until he retired in 1977. It was during Father Burns’ lengthy pastorate that the parish center opened in the 1960s. Father Burns died Aug. 20, 2003, at age 96.
Although Father Burns took over a predominately Italian-American parish, “They grew to love him very much,” said Father Walter Wainwright, current pastor of St. Anthony/St. Patrick.
“They changed my name to ‘Father Bruno,'” Father Burns remarked during a 1998 interview with the Courier.
Father Wainwright also noted Father Burns’ strong legacy in other parts of the city. He grew up in Elmira, attending St. Patrick’s Parish and Ss. Peter and Paul School; and he lived in retirement from 1977-81 at Ss. Peter and Paul Church. He also served as Elmira Catholic High School’s vice principal from 1936-38 and its principal from 1938-53.
“He was a great man. If you wanted to do something, he would say to go ahead and do it. If it was something that hurt the church he would have stopped them — but 90 percent of the time it was for the benefit of the church, and he went along with it,” said Joe Troccia, one of the St. Anthony/St. Patrick parishioners who suggested that the parish center be renamed for Father Burns. “He was very good to me, and very good to all the parishioners.”
“He was a very good pastor, good with people. He had a dry sense of humor,” added Don Drake, who, like Troccia, is a longtime St. Anthony’s parishioner.
Meanwhile, on the St. Patrick’s campus, the cluster offices have been renamed the Rose M. Kingston Building. Miss Kingston, a former teacher at Elmira Free Academy, was a lifelong parishioner from St. Patrick’s who died Jan. 14, 2004.
“She was very, very generous to the parish,” said Father Wainwright, noting that Miss Kingston shared considerable financial resources with the parish and was also highly active in church activities. “Rose was a much-loved person. Everybody knew her.”
Bishop Matthew H. Clark, in his Courier “Along the Way” column, noted in 2001 that he had recently met Miss Kingston at a confirmation ceremony.
“Father Wainwright pointed Rose out to me and told me she was celebrating her 91st birthday that evening … it was a privilege to spend a moment with this faithful, loving woman,” the bishop wrote. “Rose was remembering her parents and thanking God for the life God gave her through her parents’ love for one another. She thought of her siblings — all now fully with God. And she said she could not think of a better way to conclude her birthday than to come to church to pray for and with the young candidates whom we were confirming in the Holy Spirit.”
Father Wainwright said recent proposals to rename each building were passed unanimously by the St. Anthony/St. Patrick parish pastoral council.
A dedication ceremony for the Rose M. Kingston Building was held May 9 following the 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s, on the eve of what would have been Miss Kingston’s 94th birthday. Father Wainwright said a similar acknowledgement will take place for the Father Burns Parish Center later this year, possibly around the time of the parish festival in September.