Final Masses at Rochester’s Holy Rosary and Most Precious Blood churches will take place March 9.
The Cathedral Community, which comprises those two churches as well as Sacred Heart Cathedral, announced in November that the community would consolidate prior to Holy Week, with the cathedral serving as the sole worship site thereafter.
According to a question-and-answer sheet distributed in November, the consolidation is to provide an opportunity for the community to grow, allow priests and staff to be more available at Sunday Masses, and give young people the opportunity to be with more of their peers.
Parish officials have said the consolidation recommendation was based on factors including the difficulty of keeping 12 buildings running, a drop in the area’s Catholic population and demographics of the neighborhood. In November, Father John Mulligan, pastor, said that projections of priest availability did not play an immediate role in the consolidation decision, but noted that a future reduction in priests was a possibility.
The final liturgies are set for 9 a.m. March 9 at Holy Rosary and 11:15 a.m. March 9 at Most Precious Blood, according to Father Mulligan. The rituals at each church will include removing items that will be transferred to the cathedral, but those items have yet to be determined, he said.
Beginning Palm Sunday, the community’s Mass schedule will be 4 p.m. Saturday, and 7, 9:15 and 11:15 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday.
The community is planning several events prior to the consolidation, including a presentation celebrating parish histories at 3 and 7 p.m. March 2 at Aquinas Institute. The event will include viewing a DVD that tells of the Cathedral Community’s journey of faith from its beginnings in 1889 to the present. The 40-minute DVD is culled from more than 400 photos, several audio interviews with parishioners and some video interviews as well.
“It will be on things that make (the churches) unique, and things that make them similar,” Father Mulligan said. “They are intertwined.”
Other events marking the consolidation will be a prayer labyrinth at Sacred Heart Cathedral March 3-5; communal reconciliation services at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. March 11; and the annual St. Joseph’s Table after all Masses March 15.
“We have come a long way, and every day we see signs of new growth. We are in the springtime of our new parish,” Father Mulligan wrote in a Feb. 18 article in the parish bulletin. “Not every parishioner feels this way, but things are sorting themselves out.”
Antonia Carfagna of Greece, a Holy Rosary parishioner ever since she was a baby and an alumna of the parish school, said that although the process was difficult, people were able to work through the difficulties in listening sessions.
“Through that, the (transition) committee really has been sensitive about how communication is shared,” Carfagna said.
Still others said they did not feel their concerns were heard during the listening sessions, four of which took place in 2006; the fifth took place in July 2007.
“I went to almost every meeting that I was able to go to for the last three years,” said Annette DeCarolis, who has been attending Most Precious Blood since she joined the church’s choir in 1955. “They had their mind made up, no matter what we suggested.”
DeCarolis, of Greece, said that most parishioners of Most Precious Blood do not live within the parish boundaries, and that she believes many such parishioners will join the parishes in which they live rather than moving to the cathedral.
“When you are going to lose people, you haven’t accomplished anything,” DeCarolis stated.
She said Most Precious Blood has been active in its neighborhood over the years, including cleaning up surrounding land for a park and fighting off the establishment of several adult-oriented businesses — advocacy that she fears might be lost if the church is no longer used for worship. Cathedral Community supporters have said they hope parishioners of the consolidated community will continue the neighborhood outreach they have started at their respective parishes.
Bob Bill, who said he drives past five other parishes on his way to Most Precious Blood from his Chili home, said he hasn’t decided what church he will attend after Most Precious Blood closes. He said, however, that he does not plan to go to the cathedral.
“How do you stay committed when you are being forced to do things a specific way, and forced to attend a worship site?” he asked.
Carfagna said she has mixed feelings about the upcoming move to the cathedral, which she said she believes will give parishioners new life.
“I call it acceptance and excitement,” said Carfagna, who was part of the pastoral-planning process and a member of Holy Rosary’s parish council and of the combined parish council.
She noted she’ll miss Holy Rosary’s stained-glass windows and memories connected with the church, including receiving her sacraments there, seeing her niece get married there and witnessing her father’s funeral Mass in the church.
She said she hopes the church building will be put to a future use that will help the neighborhood, just as its youth drop-in center and annual parish formerly festival did.
“I would like it if it could be related to some form of outreach or community outreach,” she said.