The new DVD "Companions on the Journey: Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart and Most Precious Blood Parishes" started out as a project to highlight the distinct histories of the three Cathedral Community churches and to help parishioners transition to one worship site in 2008.
Yet when parishioners began examining the three churches’ histories, they discovered that the parishes had been linked for years.
The new DVD is just one of a few new initiatives being undertaken by Rochester’s urban churches as part of recent clustering and mergers. Among other efforts are a building project at St. Monica Church and an emphasis on parish growth; a round of planning for the future at the Cathedral Community; and a special blessing to celebrate the coming together of parishes at Holy Apostles Church.
The DVD project grew out of the desire to bring together Cathedral Community parishioners prior to the 2008 closing of Holy Rosary and Most Precious Blood churches, said Carol Dady, a Cathedral Community parishioner and member of the committee that put together the DVD. She credited Father John Mulligan, former Cathedral Community pastor, with getting cameras rolling on the project.
"We thought it would be nice to preserve the memories and the history of the churches that were closing, and bring that along to the new community," Dady said.
She noted that Holy Rosary was founded as a mission of the former St. Patrick Cathedral. Sacred Heart Church originally was formed in 1911 from part of Holy Rosary’s territory. Sacred Heart was elevated to pro-cathedral in 1937 when St. Patrick Cathedral was sold, and was designated the diocesan cathedral in 1952. Most Precious Blood, meanwhile, began as a mission church of Holy Rosary to serve the scores of Italian immigrants who had moved into the area. Dady said those working on the DVD were surprised to find out how much the three parishes’ histories had been intermingled long before the cluster formed.
"We are hoping that (the DVD is) going to be a helpful thing for the people who had to say goodbye to the parishes, and there’s a lot of history there," Dady said.
The DVD also preserves the voice of its narrator, Father Lawrence Murphy, who died Oct. 22, 2008. Father Murphy served parishes in the Cathedral Community from 1993 to 2008.
"That adds to how special this will be," Dady said, noting that the DVD is for sale for $10 in the cathedral’s gift shop.
Father Kevin McKenna, Cathedral Community pastor, said parishioners will soon begin to create a five-year strategic plan with hopes that it will be in place by Pentecost.
"It’s kind of the next phase now that we are coming together as one parish community," he said.
Discussions about ways to create one community also have been occurring at Holy Apostles, the remaining church in the City West Catholic Community, which formerly comprised Holy Apostles, Holy Family (closed in 2008), St. Anthony of Padua (closed in 2007) and St. Francis of Assisi (closed in 2000).
"What we have done over the past year is very intentionally talked about being one community," said Father Paul Tomasso, who was pastor of Holy Apostles through the end of 2008.
A single finance council has been formed, and the parish council finalized a new constitution in September 2008. On the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 23, 2008, the parish celebrated a blessing of all the artifacts that were relocated to the Holy Apostles building from the three churches that had closed.
"We explained what each item was and put it in the church with a blessing," Father Tomasso said.
Organizers say a new building project at St. Monica is one way parishioners have tried to bring people together and grow since St. Monica merged with St. Augustine, Our Lady of Good Counsel and Ss. Peter and Paul churches and Emmanuel Church of the Deaf in 2006.
Planning for the building project began as part of the churches’ pastoral-planning process in 2005.
"When we first met, the words we focused on were welcoming and accessibility," said John Seebach, a member of the parish building committee. "Two years later, it’s nice to see that it’s (welcoming and accessibility) still there."
The parish contracted with LaBella Associates in October 2008 to draft final designs on the building project, and is continuing the emphasis on making the church welcoming and accessible, building-committee members said.
Portions of the building project are planned to improve visibility for parishioners of Emmanuel Church of the Deaf and to enhance accessibility for parishioners and visitors in wheelchairs.
The church is very fortunate to have the deaf community and people in wheelchairs who have been active in sensitizing other parishioners to the needs of those with disabilities, said Kathy Murty, a member of the parish building committee.
In the summer of 2007, the church also completed some deferred maintenance projects, including repairing roof leaks, installing a hearing induction loop, repairing stained glass and resurfacing the parking lot.
Its remaining wish list includes purchasing a vertically adjustable and horizontally movable ambo; improving wheelchair access; increasing the lighting in the sanctuary and making visibility improvements; creating an area for eucharistic adoration; installing ramps to the altar area; adding office space to the rectory; and adding an entrance ramp to the parish hall. If all goes on schedule, work could begin this summer.
Half of the proceeds from the sale of the Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Augustine and Ss. Peter and Paul buildings was put into a fund for the building project. Without the sale of the other three buildings, the projects at St. Monica would not have been possible, Seebach said.
The merged parish has put an emphasis on accessibility and welcoming as a way to promote parish growth, said John Curran, a member of the parish building committee. After an initial drop in the number of people attending from the four original parishes, the new St. Monica has begun to attract new people through such initiatives as hosting a weekly farmer’s market, he said.
"When you look at the congregation, you can see it changing demographically," Curran said.
To continue growing numerically, the parish is advertising for a new position: parish growth coordinator, said John DeMott, chairman of the parish building committee. The hope is that person could reach out to young people in the neighborhood, including a number of University of Rochester students in the area.
"We need to get out and invite people to worship with us," DeMott said.
Recent name changes
Cathedral Community: Comprising the Rochester parishes of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Holy Rosary (closed 2008) and Most Precious Blood (closed 2008).
Holy Apostles: Comprising the Rochester parishes of the City West Catholic Community, which comprised Holy Apostles, Holy Family (closed 2008), St. Anthony of Padua (closed 2007) and St. Francis of Assisi (closed 2000).
Light of Christ: The merger of Rochester’s St. Andrew and Annunciation parishes, and St. Philip Neri (closed 2003).
Our Lady of the Americas: The merger of Rochester’s Corpus Christi, Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier (closed 2008) and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (closed 2008) parishes.
Our Lady of the Angels: The merger of Rochester’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Michael parishes.
Peace of Christ: The merger of Rochester’s St. Ambrose and St. John the Evangelist parishes and St. James Parish in Irondequoit.
St. Luke the Evangelist: The merged Livingston County parishes of Holy Angels, Nunda; St. Lucy, Retsof; St. Mary, Geneseo; St. Patrick, Mount Morris; St. Thomas Aquinas, Leicester (closed 2008); the Newman Catholic Community of SUNY Geneseo; and Groveland Correctional Facility Catholic Community.
St. Monica: The merger of Rochester’s Our Lady of Good Counsel, Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Augustine (all closed 2006), Emmanuel Church of the Deaf and St. Monica parishes.