Very few folks can say they’ve been to both the opening and closing Masses for their church, especially when 67 years have elapsed in between.
Such was the case for Joan Quigley, who was on hand Sept. 7 for the final liturgy of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Painted Post. She and her husband, Dick, served as gift bearers at the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
“I was there when the parish opened, on Christmas Eve of 1952,” she said, also recalling that she and Dick were among the first couples married at the church — on Jan. 15, 1954.
Many other memories surfaced for the approximately 100 people who gathered one final time at 115 E. High St. The special liturgy was celebrated by Father Matthew Jones, pastor of All Saints Parish, and concelebrated by Fathers Lewis Brown, John Forni and Patrick Connor with a reception following in the Rogers Hall parish center that featured a variety of memorabilia on display.
Mary Lou Fawcett, who served as a sacristan and altar server at the Sept. 7 Mass, recalled how Immaculate Heart of Mary thrived for many years both spiritually and socially. She noted that some of her best friends were fellow parishioners, particularly those who belonged to the Women’s Club with her.
“The Women’s Club was just a wonderful thing,” said Fawcett, an Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioner since 1973. “We always had speakers and different things like that. We put on beautiful parties — Christmas parties, birthday dinners.”
Quigley agreed that during its early history, Immaculate Heart of Mary was a social hub for many.
“This was before computers. If you wanted to find out anything, you found out in church,” she remarked.
Another staple of Immaculate Heart of Mary was its founding pastor, the late Father Harold F. Rogers. After being tasked by Bishop James E. Kearney with starting the parish in 1951, Father Rogers remained in that role for some 30 years until his 1981 retirement.
Immaculate Heart of Mary was among four Steuben County churches that became clustered in 1990 and then formed into All Saints Parish in 2001. St. Patrick in Corning closed later in 2001, and Corning’s St. Vincent de Paul followed suit just last year as All Saints continued to grapple with diminishing Mass attendance and priest availability along with mounting expenses — factors affecting the entire Diocese of Rochester.
Meanwhile, regular Sunday Masses were discontinued at Immaculate Heart of Mary more than 10 years ago, although the church continued offering daily Masses while the still-unsold structure was made available for sale. Daily Masses ceased in late August just prior to the closing Mass; Father Jones said that vacating Immaculate Heart of Mary permanently will save substantially on utility costs.
“No one’s surprised by this. It’s been on the docket long before my arrival,” said Father Jones, who became All Saints’ parochial administrator in 2018 and was named pastor by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano earlier this year. “It was a matter of time.”
“As much as I don’t like it, I know it has to be done,” Fawcett added.
The lone remaining worship site for All Saints is St. Mary Church, 155 State St., Corning. Weekday Masses are held there at 12:15 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, along with Liturgy of the Hours at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Also in the plans is an occasional 8:30 a.m. Tuesday Mass primarily for the students of All Saints Academy, which is located on St. Mary’s campus.
Father Jones noted that the Memorial to the Unborn, located on the grounds of Immaculate Heart of Mary and dedicated in 2004, will be moved to St. Mary campus. In addition, the church’s stained-glass windows, which were installed in the 1980s, will replace the clear glass windows in the mausoleum of Corning’s St. Mary Cemetery.
Father Jones lauded the cooperation of All Saints parishioners such as Fawcett — who plans to be a sacristan at St. Mary Church — during this time of transition.
“It’s an energetic, very ambitious parish that wants to work together,” he said.
Yet while looking ahead with hope, Father Jones also acknowledged that the closing of Immaculate Heart of Mary is “very difficult” for many, and thus he sought to arrange a closing Mass so they could pay proper tribute.
“We need it; it’s necessary,” Father Jones said. “We can talk about how it’s just a building and moving on, but the fact is that people spent their lives here — getting married, raising children. It was a big bright spot.”
Quigley, who moved with her husband to Canandaigua last year, appreciated the chance to bid farewell to her beloved church.
“It was very settling, very settling,” she said of the Sept. 7 liturgy.Tags: Steuben County News