Groton church adds children's chapel - Catholic Courier

Groton church adds children’s chapel

On the one hand, “cry rooms,” as they’re commonly called, are not favored by all pastors due to their perceived effect of dividing the congregation.

Yet at St. Anthony Church in Groton, Father Frank Lioi found an even more profound division occurring: parents removing their crying children from the church altogether, missing out on Mass as a result.

Therefore, Father Lioi felt strongly about the creation of a children’s chapel at St. Anthony’s in northeastern Tompkins County, where he recently concluded a two-year pastorate. Construction on the facility began just after Easter of this year, and work was completed in time for its dedication during an evening Mass on Ascension Thursday, May 20.

According to Father Lioi, the idea for a children’s chapel surfaced as a way of utilizing donations made by parishioners in memory of Father Bernard Carges, St. Anthony’s pastor from 1997-2002, who died in April 2003. Those monies, combined with funds raised through the diocesan Partners in Faith campaign, covered the cost of the $10,000 project, which also included a refurbished reconciliation chapel.

The children’s chapel was constructed on the site of former confessionals in the 30-year-old St. Anthony’s church building. “These had been unused for years,” Father Lioi said.

Work was overseen by Tim Higgins, a Groton contractor. The room is also highlighted by a plaque honoring Father Carges; dedication of the chapel was held on the one-year anniversary of Father Carges’ memorial Mass at St. Anthony’s.

Included in the chapel design are a window and speaker so that separation from the rest of the church is minimized. Father Lioi commended the finished product, commenting, “The physical construction — you would think it had always been there.”

While noisy children are the most likely candidates for this part of the church, Father Lioi said he refrains from using the term “crying room.”

“We call them chapels to signify that they are places of prayer,” he explained. “Kids are there to pray, even though they’re in a socialized location.”

Father Lioi said parents should feel free to seek out the chapel even if their children have not become noticeably disruptive. “You don’t have to be crying before you come in. You could be fidgety,” he quipped.

Karen Brown, St. Anthony’s pastoral minister, said that use of the children’s chapel is catching on slowly because not all families have yet become accustomed to its availability. However, she said, “From what I’ve heard, the majority of the people feel it’s nice.”

Brown noted that the children’s chapel can also serve as a bride’s preparation room, as well as for religious-education classroom space and overflow seating for holiday liturgies. “It was just wasted space, sitting there. Now it can be used for a lot of things,” Brown said.

She credits Father Lioi, who headed St. Anthony’s as well as Holy Cross in Dryden from 2002-04, for having the vision to enact this project. “He made a huge impact on St. Anthony’s, everybody will tell you that. And a good one,” Brown said.

Father Lioi began a new pastorate in late June at St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn. Father Scott Kubinski now serves as priest administrator of St. Anthony’s and Holy Cross.

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