SCOTTSVILLE — Over the past 12 months, St. Mary of the Assumption
Parish marked the 150th anniversary of its church building by
continuing ongoing renovation work, and filling the building with
music, musings and the creation of new memories.
The parish kicked off its celebration last summer with an exhibit of
the art of the late Maryknoll Sister Marie Pierre Semler. Born in 1901
in Chili Center, Sister Semler studied art in Rochester and created
more than 900 works of art in her career.
Among the other events that the parish held to mark the anniversary
was a March concert by Rochester’s Eastman School of Music Community
Education Division. The celebration concluded Aug. 15-17, starting with
a Mass on Aug. 15 that featured seven priests who had formerly served
the church. Bishop Matthew H. Clark presided at a liturgy Aug. 17,
which was followed by an ice-cream social attended by 210 people.
Irene Goodwin, the parish’s pastoral administrator since September
2002, noted she was impressed with the hard work that parishioners put
into the year-long celebration.
“They have worked many hours, giving tirelessly of their time and
talent,” Goodwin wrote in the Aug. 17 liturgy program. “In my first 11
months at St. Mary’s, it has been a true blessing to me to see many
work very hard together for the good of this Catholic community.”
In an interview, Goodwin added that St. Mary’s is currently home to
550 registered households, whose members worship in what is reportedly
the oldest church continually in use in the Diocese of Rochester. The
church itself is currently undergoing renovation, which has included
work on its pillars and roof.
The church’s cornerstone was laid Aug. 15, 1853, the feast of the
Assumption of Mary, according to a parish history written by Glenn J.
Kist. To bring St. Mary’s history alive, the parish exhibited many
historical artifacts in its hall this month, including an anvil once
owned by Patrick Rafferty, a founding parishioner and original owner of
the land upon which the church stands.
Consisting primarily of Irish Catholics, the parish community had
actually existed for several years prior to the construction of the
church, and was assigned its first permanent pastor in 1848. Since
then, thousands of Catholics have called St. Mary of the Assumption
their spiritual home, including Alexander Gilbert, a parishioner for
more than 70 years, and his wife, Catherine, a parishioner for 49
“It’s had its ups and downs, but if you think of the history of (St.
Mary’s) I think it shows you it’s worth working for and keeping going,”
said Catherine, who served on the anniversary committee. As part of her
work, she published historical facts about St. Mary’s in the parish
bulletin over the past year. Her husband helped design and build a
model of the church for its 125th anniversary celebration in 1978,
which was recently used as part of a parish float in an Aug. 16
The Gilberts have also served the parish in many capacities over the
years. Alexander has volunteered to maintain the parish grounds and
property, and his wife chairs the parish’s social-ministry committee.
The Gilberts’ dedication to St. Mary’s is shared by Donna and Ray
Treat, both of whom serve as catechists to third-graders every Sunday
“I enjoy seeing their inquisitiveness and openness and learning at
that age,” Donna said of her students. “They have more insight than you
The parish’s sacramental minister, Father William Endres, said the
parish is gifted with many young people interested in their faith.
“I think there’s a great potential for vocations to the priesthood
and religious life,” he said. “And I think we’ve got some fine
potential lay leaders.”
One of the people helping to nurture that potential is Sean
Esposito, who coordinates the parish’s altar servers, in addition to
serving on parish council and St. Mary’s liturgy committee. Esposito,
who was an altar server as a child, noted that he wanted to pass on
what he learned about the Mass to his young charges.
“I learned so much about my faith from being involved in the Mass,”
he said. “If I can inspire a little growth in all or some of them a
little down the road it’s a worthwhile thing.”
Ray Treat noted that it was his experiences at St. Mary’s that
inspired him to convert to Catholicism a few years ago. In particular,
he said he was attracted to his wife’s faith through the sacraments.
“There’s so much visualization of what we do through the
sacraments,” he said.
Sacramental preparation is among the duties of Wendy Krug, the
parish’s newly hired faith-formation coordinator. She and her husband,
Jamie, also serve as the parish’s music ministers. The young couple
joined St. Mary’s a couple of years ago and said they were impressed by
its welcoming atmosphere.
“It’s small enough where everybody knows each other,” Jamie said.
His wife added that after the couple attended their first Mass, a
parishioner greeted them when they came back the next week.
“I was surprised that someone noticed that we were new and noticed
that we were back,” she said.
Such friendliness would be no surprise to Dolores Loftus, a
parishioner since 1963. Loftus has worn many hats as a volunteer,
including serving on the anniversary committee as well as the
environment and floral committee, which oversees the appearance of the
church and its altar. Loftus said St. Mary’s is a place where
generations have combined their efforts to live out their faith.
“I’ve always liked the way the older and younger generations work
together,” she said. “There’s no separation whatsoever. Whatever needs
to get done gets done.”