Leicester church slates closing Mass - Catholic Courier

Leicester church slates closing Mass

St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Leicester, Livingston County, which has not held Sunday Masses since 2004, will celebrate its final Mass at noon Sunday, June 22.

The liturgy will include the symbolic removal from the church of sacred objects, said Father William Kamau, pastor of Geneseo’s St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, which comprises St. Thomas, Holy Angels Church in Nunda, St. Lucy Church in Retsof, St. Mary Church in Geneseo and St. Patrick Church in Mount Morris. A coffee hour and reception also are planned for after Mass.

"This move started quite a long time ago," Father Kamau said of St. Thomas’ impending closing. "We have not been having Mass there because of the number of people. The numbers there have gone so low."

A small group of parishioners had been working for the past nine or 10 months to come up with alternatives to closing the church, said parishioner Beatrice Cicero of Leicester.

"We feel terrible about it," said Cicero, who began attending St. Thomas in 1950 after she and her husband were married. She said all five of her children were baptized in the church, and her three daughters were married there.

Cicero said the group had put together several proposals to rent out parish buildings to generate funds to keep the church open for special-occasion liturgies. For example, she noted that a kitchen in the basement of the church has been used for many fundraisers and also has been rented out for showers and a wedding reception. Nevertheless, parish officials decided this year that it was necessary to close the church permanently, Cicero said.

"We have been trying to get them to change their minds," Cicero said. "But now, we have to just put it behind us. There’s nothing more we can do."

Father Kamau noted that no one wants to close a church, but that circumstances have forced St. Luke Parish to do so.

"This is a painful change," he said. "We are trying to walk with everybody at St. Thomas, and we are praying for them."

The Leicester church ceased regularly scheduled Sunday Masses in 2004 upon the sudden departure of Father Michael Murimi, pastor of St. Thomas and St. Lucy in Retsof, who was unexpectedly recalled to his home diocese in Kenya. Sunday Masses at St. Thomas drew between 50 and 90 worshippers, parish officials said in 2004. After Sunday Masses ceased, the church was used only for baptisms, weddings and funerals, and Father Kamau said most of its parishioners now attend St. Mary, while others attend St. Lucy and St. Patrick.

The Leicester church at 175 Main St. is 111 years old. Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid founded it as a mission of St. Patrick in 1897, and Bishop Thomas F. Hickey raised it to territorial parish status in 1916, according to The Diocese of Rochester in America: 1868-1993 by Father Robert F. McNamara.

 

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