It was fitting that members of five Livingston County parishes chose to name their newly combined parish after the evangelist St. Luke, a physician and healer, according to Father Patrick Connor, pastor.
“In our community, we are called to be a healing people,” Father Connor noted.
At the culmination of a second round of pastoral-planning, the parishes of the Western Livingston Regional Planning Group — St. Mary in Geneseo, St. Thomas Aquinas in Leicester, St. Patrick in Mount Morris, Holy Angels in Nunda and St. Lucy in Retsof — combined in July to form St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, a single parish with multiple worship sites.
Since that time, Father Connor said he and Father Joseph Marcoux, parochial vicar, have been working to heal and unify parishioners, who had to make difficult decisions during the pastoral-planning process. These decisions included forming a single pastoral council, pooling their finances and establishing a centralized staff and offices at St. Mary Church.
The parish will reduce the weekend liturgical schedule from seven Masses to six starting in January, Father Connor said. The parish also has considered selling some of its rental properties, which do not include church buildings.
Bill Lissow, a member of the pastoral council and the committee that oversaw pastoral planning, said this summer the parish council voted to recommend that St. Thomas Aquinas Church be sold. But Father Connor said discussion of such a sale was tabled as the parish looked for alternate ways to raise funds.
So far, the parish has had two successful fundraising chicken barbecues and a spaghetti supper, the pastor said. Parishioners are planning a chowder supper at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at St. Mary’s parish center, 13 North St., Geneseo.
Despite the challenges, Lissow said he has an immense amount of respect for the people he worked with on the pastoral-planning committee and parish council.
“They have the patience and dedication to make this thing happen,” Lissow said. “We have gone through tough, tough arguments and tough, tough decisions, and yet I come away from the table with the highest respect for everyone at the table because they have worked hard to make the best decisions possible.”
Parishioners were involved in the pastoral-planning process from the start, noted Deacon George Spezzano, the parish’s pastoral minister. A newsletter was created to keep parishioners informed, he said, and parishioners also met with a similar group from Tioga County that had already gone through the pastoral-planning process.
“Everything we did was brought back to the parishioners,” Deacon Spezzano said.
He noted that the distances between worship sites within St. Luke the Evangelist and the diversity of communities were concerns.
"We’ve had some real struggles coming together, but we are together now,” he said.
Father Connor said the parish may get a local composer to create a Mass and a local artist to create an icon honoring St. Luke. The parish also will host a St. Nicholas party at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at St. Thomas Aquinas, 175 Main St., Leicester. Children at the party will be asked to leave their shoes at the door so they can be filled with treats.
“We are just trying to bring our community together to help celebrate our unity as well as honor our diversity,” Father Connor said.