Mount Morris church honors its 150th anniversary with Mass - Catholic Courier
A man dressed as St. Patrick.

St. Patrick, portrayed by Richard Barry, speaks to parishioners Nov. 10 at the start of a Mass that marked the 150th anniversary of St. Patrick Church in Mount Morris. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Mount Morris church honors its 150th anniversary with Mass

MOUNT MORRIS — It may have been Nov. 12, but the attention St. Patrick Church gave to its patron saint during the 10 a.m. liturgy could well have passed for March 17.

On the church’s front steps was “St. Patrick” himself. Bearded and brandishing a miter, he offered hellos in an Irish brogue to all who arrived for the Mass celebrating 150 years since the church building was founded.

Moving inside for the start of liturgy, “St. Patrick” paced up and down the center aisle, shouting a rousing address to the congregation that extolled the church’s distinguished heritage. Still in his saintly garb, he hustled up to the choir loft just in time for the opening hymn. His actual identity is Richard Barry, a choir member who also is a longtime actor. Barry told the Catholic Courier that this was his first effort at portraying St. Patrick.

Father Sylvester Bioh, the celebrant, then greeted the congregation by saying “Good morning,” pausing, and adding “Happy anniversary,” touching off applause. The festive atmosphere continued throughout Mass. As a final nod to St. Patrick Church’s Irish heritage, the choir offered a stirring rendition of the traditional Irish prayer (“May the road rise up to meet you … ”) after Communion, generating one more round of applause.

At the luncheon that followed, Michele Donovan — who has belonged to St. Patrick all of her 77 years — swelled with pride over the 150th-anniversary celebration as well as her church community.

“This church means everything in the world to us,” she stated.

Bishop McQuaid dedicated 150-year-old Mount Morris church

The brick structure is located at 46 Stanley St. in this western Livingston County village, adjacent to the Genesee River and two miles from the northern entrance to Letchworth State Park. St. Patrick Church was dedicated in December 1873 by Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid, inaugural bishop of Rochester, just five years after the Rochester Diocese was formed.

Masses had been celebrated in Mount Morris in private homes as far back as the late 1830s. As a wave of Irish immigrant Catholics arrived in the region, the first St. Patrick Church went up in 1850 before giving way to the present-day church. A parish cemetery on Murray Street was dedicated in 1886, and a parish school, staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph, was dedicated in 1911. The school closed in 1974.

For many years, St. Patrick was one of two Mount Morris Catholic parishes — both with distinct ethnic representations. The other was Church of the Assumption, which opened in 1914 and closed in 1961. Located on Clinton Street, it served a large local Italian population.

In 2006, St. Patrick became part of the newly formed St. Luke the Evangelist Parish along with St. Mary, Geneseo; Holy Angels, Nunda; St. Lucy, Retsof; and St. Thomas Aquinas, Leicester (now St. Juan Diego Community).

Pastor, parishioner stress importance of building for the future

During his homily Nov. 12, Father Bioh — who currently serves as parochial administrator of St. Luke the Evangelist — invoked the example of Ireland’s patron saint in imploring his parishioners to help keep the pews filled at “this beautiful church.”

“St. Patrick worked very hard to convert people, to convert pagans. He brought many people to Christ,” said Father Bioh, asking each parishioner to bring one person to Mass “so that the next generation can also benefit” from the presence of St. Patrick Church.

A nod to the future was reflected by several children taking active roles in the 150th-anniversary Mass. They included youngsters in the opening procession holding flowers that were placed before the altar; youth lectors; and teens carrying collection baskets.

Donovan, a Mount Morris resident who graduated from St. Patrick School, said it’s vital for parishioners of all ages to do their part in ensuring a long future for St. Patrick Church.

“It’s the people who make the church, and the people who need to keep it going,” she said.

Tags: Livingston County News
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