Although the coronavirus pandemic upended plans for the celebration of final Masses at Holy Ghost and St. Helen churches in Gates, parishioners did have a chance to bid final farewells to both worship sites last week.
Parishioners marked the closings by visiting and praying in the churches both June 26 and 27, said Father Michael Schramel, pastor of Parish of the Holy Family, which encompassed Holy Ghost and St. Helen as well as St. Jude the Apostle Church.
“It was a beautiful closing,” Annette Basset, a Holy Ghost parishioner for 43 years, told the Catholic Courier June 29. “We got the church all decorated and beautiful, and everybody is saying the same thing: We’re all sad for each one of our churches.”
Basset’s husband, Tom, noted that the closing of the two churches was expected, especially after they merged with St. Jude the Apostle Church in Gates. In 2016, the three churches formally came together as Parish of the Holy Family.
In January, Father Schramel told the Catholic Courier that the recommendation to close Holy Ghost and St. Helen had resulted from a series of meetings beginning in September 2019 among the finance and parish councils and officials from the Diocese of Rochester. He explained that the proposal was prompted by such factors as declining attendance, unused and underused buildings, and an aging community in Gates.
St. Jude the Apostle was chosen as the parish’s sole remaining worship site, and Holy Ghost was subsequently sold to the Imagination Day Care. St. Helen, meanwhile, was sold to the Rochester Academy Charter School.
Annette Basset said that members of all three churches have come to know each other in one way or another since Parish of the Holy Family formed five years ago, and she said she is hopeful the move to worshiping at St. Jude the Apostle will bring forth a supportive parish family.
“Yes, we’re very sad (about the closings), but we’re taking our memories with us, and nobody can ever take them away from us,” she said.
All three of the Basset children not only attended the former Holy Ghost School but also received their first penance, first Communion and confirmation there and also were married at the church, Tom Basset said.
“Getting involved in the school and the church meant a lot to me over the years,” Annette Basset said, “and I think my kids feel the same way, because all my kids go to church there, so not only were they raised there, but that’s their home church. My memories are the family atmosphere that we had there. A lot of priests have crossed our path, Sisters of Notre Dame, as well as deacons that have guided us and have come and gone, but we will never forget them.”
“I love the parish life; I love the closeness, and I need it,” Tom Basset added. “We’ve been very blessed, and I am hoping that is going to continue, and I know it will through St. Jude.”
“It’s not what we had planned, but it’s better than what we could have hoped for,” said Linda McGrain, a 44-year St. Helen parishioner who served on the closing committees of both churches.
McGrain and her husband, Patrick, have three children, who all received first penance, first Communion and confirmation at St. Helen, she said, and the whole family was very active within the church.
“I think over the years it is important to remember all of the friends we have made in our church; we call them our church family,” she said. “With the two buildings closing this (past) weekend, now we will all be one over at St. Jude, but I think that the friendships we have made and the love that we share, good times, bad times through sickness and deaths, that’s the important thing to us.”