ROCHESTER — Karen Andrese’s granddaughter received her first Communion on May 6. The next day, Andrese received her last Communion at Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Andrese pondered the meaning of the two events as Good Counsel celebrated its final Mass May 7.
“It was a touching feeling to walk up,” she observed about the experience of receiving communion at the final Mass. a 1976 graduate of Our Lady of Good Counsel School, she added that she remembered both the school and the parish fondly.
“You knew everybody,” she remarked.
John Meade also attended the parish school during the 1970s. Currently a parishioner at Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece, Meade said he came back for Good Counsel’s final Mass because he held such fond memories of the community.
“The 19th Ward was a just a tremendous place to grow up,” he said.
Catholics in the 19th Ward have seen two of their churches closes in as many weeks, with St. Augustine on Chili Avenue celebrating its final Mass April 29. Along with St. Monica Church, 831 Genesee St., St. Augustine and Good Counsel constituted the 19th Ward Roman Catholic Community. St. Augustine’s and Good Counsel parishioners have formed a larger community that now worships at St. Monica, under the leadership of Father Raymond Fleming, who was pastor of all three churches.
Both closed churches had been part of the 19th Ward/Corn Hill/Bull’s Head Planning Group, which also encompasses Ss. Peter and Paul on West Main Street. Ss. Peter and Paul likewise is designated for closing at a date that has not yet been determined, and its parishioners, too, will join the community at St. Monica. Parishioners of Emmanuel Church of the Deaf, which formerly held its Masses at Good Counsel, have also moved to St. Monica, according to Father Fleming.
The closings were recommended by the planning group, which includes representatives from all five parishes. Bishop Matthew H. Clark approved the committee’s recommendation last fall.
In their planning process, the committee considered such varied factors as the declining number of priests; reduced attendance due to a declining city population; the strength and efficiency of combining their financial resources; and the desire to pool resources for ministry in light of the various facilities’ ages and need for ongoing maintenance.
Good Counsel opened Oct. 7, 1928, and was the spiritual center for the lives of thousands of Catholics over the years. Among them was Gail Rothfuss, who attended the church in the 1950s and ’60s. Like other Good Counsel parishioners, she saw the church and the 19th Ward neighborhood that surrounded it as a single entity that shaped her life.
“I liked the smallness and the closeness of the 19th Ward,” she said.
Nicholas Reeder, a parishioner for more than a decade, was a choir member, lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. He said he spent a good portion of the final Mass crying.
“It’s like being at a funeral, mourning the loss of a dear friend, a dear family member,” he said.
Doris Dunbar, a parishioner since 1949, raised five children in the neighborhood and still lives across the street from the church. She noted that she grew up in a small town, and appreciated the friendliness of Good Counsel when she and her husband moved to Rochester in the late 1940s.
“I always felt at home here,” she said.
Although many Good Counsel parishioners expressed sadness over the closing of their parish — and many had tears in their eyes at the final Mass — most of those who offered comments said they accepted the necessity of the closing.
“I feel pain for many of the people who have been here all their lives,” said Marilyn Catherine, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Although she has attended Good Counsel for 12 years, Catherine said she was looking forward to attending St. Monica. “I have lots of hope for our new community,” she said. “I plan on being active in growing our new parish.”
John Cottrell, a parishioner since 1972, was a lector and former school board member. He said he would miss the fellowship, the parish picnics and the other celebrations he experienced at Good Counsel. Like Catherine, however, he noted that he was ready to move to St. Monica.
“All I see is we’re changing locations,” he said. “It still remains a very strong worshiping community.”
Andrea Ehmann read the opening greeting at the final Mass, which drew about 500 people. Chairwoman of the parish’s closing committee, she said the liturgy was an emotional experience.
“It was wonderful to see a lot of the former parishioners come back for the final Mass,” she said.
David and Kathy Moore, volunteers at the parish, noted that the offertory procession at the final Mass included parishioners carrying such items as a painting of Our Lady of Good Counsel, which the late Bishop James Kearney had given to the church.
“I think it was important to try to express our history,” David Moore said.
Kathleen Bianchi and her husband, Mark, were both volunteers at Good Counsel, and said that they hoped the new larger community at St. Monica would succeed. That sentiment was shared by Father Fleming.
“It’s wonderful to know that the traditions and the Catholicity will continue, not in this building, but certainly in this neighborhood,” he said.