ROCHESTER — In the atrium of St. Anne Church, hundreds of items were displayed for a next-to-new sale where one could buy a $3 photograph of the sea mounted on a wooden plaque inscribed with the words “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
One floor below, Father Peter Abas was helping a group of elderly women do just that by leading them through a hand-drumming session designed to unleash a flow of pleasant memories. A native of Borneo, Malaysia, the priest works and studies at the nearby University of Rochester and ministers at St. Anne. He said drums were part of Catholic liturgies in his homeland and that he also has coordinated an all-ages drumming group at St. Anne.
“In my country, the drum is used to call people to prayer,” Father Abas said. “Drums help people to reminisce their feelings and relieve stress.”
That notion was seconded by group participants Joan Seccombe and Mary Jane Marton, both of whom noted that they liked the way drumming relaxed them. Another participant, Lee Beaudrault, added that participating in the group’s exercises, which include jotting down pleasant memories, has helped to heal her from the loss of her husband, son and father over the years.
“When I came here, there was a lot of negative things on the surface I knew I was dealing with,” she said. “(Father Abas) helped me to get through the surface and find the positive things.”
St. Anne is filled with positive reminiscing as the parish marks its 75th anniversary. According to a parish history, St. Anne was founded to serve the Catholic population in the Mt. Hope-South Avenue area, and its first pastor was Msgr. George J. Schmitt, who had been serving as assistant pastor at St. Boniface, located nearby off South Avenue on Gregory Street.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark was slated to celebrate an anniversary Mass on Saturday, Aug. 20, and on Sunday, Aug. 21, St. Anne was set to host an anniversary banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Other anniversary events include an organ concert on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7:30 p.m., featuring Jonathan Ryan, parish music director, and Rudy de Vos, organist.
Betty Thomas, who chairs the 75th-anniversary committee, said she also serves on the parish’s strategic-planning committee as well as its solace committee, which puts on receptions for family members of deceased parishioners after their funerals. She noted that she’s dedicated to St. Anne because of its members’ commitment to one another.
“I refer to St. Anne’s as a family of faith, not a community of faith,” Thomas said. “People will drop everything and go visit you in the hospital if you’re sick.”
According to Sister Roberta Rodenhouse, RSM, St. Anne’s pastoral associate, the parish is currently home to 800 registered families, and boasts a wide variety of ministries. One such ministry is faith formation, overseen by Karen Barg, a 2003 graduate of Nazareth College. Barg coordinates religious education, sacramental preparation and youth-group ministry, and also is working with the parish’s young adults on starting a group for Catholics in their 20s and 30s, she said.
Among the various activities Barg promotes is “The Flamingo Raid,” in which the parish youth-group members place several pink flamingos — artificial, of course — in a parishioner’s lawn during the night. Parishioners can pay for this privilege, or, better yet, purchase insurance that it won’t happen to their lawn. Monies raised will be used to send youth-group members to Atlanta, Ga., in October for the National Catholic Youth Conference, Barg said.
Barg added that she is always amazed at the creativity and enthusiasm of the parish’s young people.
“The kids are ready and willing to do anything we throw at them,” she said.
Staff and volunteers say the parish as a whole welcomes new challenges, noting St. Anne is preparing to welcome a Bantu refugee family from Africa in September. Patricia Corcoran, co-chairwoman of the parish’s refugee-resettlement committee, said St. Anne is cooperating with Catholic Family Center’s refugee-resettlement program to aid the family in its move to Rochester. Parishioners have lent financial support to the effort, and one parishioner has even offered to house the family, she said. The parish seems ready and willing to take on the challenges that may come with settling the family, she said.
“I really think that this country has a great history of welcoming refugees, and it’ll be exciting to be a part of this,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran and Sister Rodenhouse added that the parish also takes care of its own, and is currently raising money to purchase an automated external defibrillator.
“If we only used it once in five years, we could save a life,” Sister Rodenhouse said.