In 1831 a handful of Catholics in Seneca Falls banded together. Their numbers were small, and their financial resources were even smaller, but they were determined to found a parish.
These ambitious, faithful people were the forefathers of what would eventually become St. Patrick Parish in Seneca Falls, according to a parish history provided by Father William Laird, pastor. St. Patrick parishioners celebrated the parish’s 175th anniversary with a March 24 Mass and reception with Bishop Matthew H. Clark.
There was no Catholic church in Seneca Falls in 1831, according to the parish history. That year the members of the Catholic Society of Seneca Falls began meeting each Sunday to pray, discuss the Scriptures, teach their children about their faith and pool their meager resources in hopes of eventually building a church.
Their small church — St. Jerome Church — was dedicated in 1836, and the parish expanded as more Irish immigrants arrived in the area, according to the parish history. Parishioners began building a bigger church, which in 1851 was dedicated as St. Thomas Church.
As the parish grew, additions were made to the church and its size was doubled, according to the history. In 1864 these additions were completed and the church was renamed St. Patrick Church.
Those first few early parishioners were willing and eager to do whatever was necessary for the success of their parish, even if it meant donating their time and hard-earned resources to the church. Although nearly 200 years have passed, parishioners today still share those same sentiments, according to several current parishioners.
After retiring from his full-time job, parishioner Dick Allbright served as the parish’s volunteer business manager for nearly a decade. He took on that role and his numerous other activities within the parish simply because he had the time and they seemed like the right things to do, he said. The parish has always felt like home for Dick and his wife, Joan, perhaps because it’s such a caring community, Joan added.
“Parish life is what you make of it, and there’s so many ways to get involved,” noted George Sanderson, a member of the parish pastoral council’s executive board.
Sanderson, a Seneca Falls native, converted to Catholicism in 2000. He recently retired and, about 18 months ago, he and his wife, Patricia, moved to Seneca Falls from Pennsylvania. Although they’ve been in Seneca Falls less than two years, they’ve already become very involved in their new parish.
“We felt that we had a calling to come here for family reasons, and all of a sudden our parish became our extended family,” Sanderson said. “We found it very welcoming, and the people were very open in receiving us. That’s one of the very special things about this parish that I hold in my heart.”
Patricia is a lector at the parish, and the Sandersons are both extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, are involved with St. Patrick’s social-ministry committee and have worked on various outreach projects. Sanderson said he is impressed by both the variety of opportunities available at St. Patrick as well as the number of parishioners who take advantage of them.
“When I converted to Catholicism I pledged to give my (time, talent and treasure) to the church as best as I could, and I see people here just doing that,” Sanderson said. “This parish really humbled me. There’s many good role models here within the parish community for me to look at.”
One of those people is Joyce Sinicropi, a fellow extraordinary minister of holy Communion and lector who also has been a parish trustee and has been involved with the pastoral and finance councils and stewardship committee. Sinicropi vividly remembers her first volunteer experience with the parish.
“When I was a high-school student, a gal who was running the cake booth at the church festival called and asked me if I would make some phone calls and solicit cakes,” Sinicropi said. “I found it rewarding, and I’ve been a volunteer ever since.”
Her dedication to St. Patrick and her Catholic faith have formed the framework for her life, and Sinicropi said she can’t imagine her life without either her faith or the extended family she’s found at her parish. Fellow parishioner Fred Galletti said he feels the same way.
“It’s a great parish. I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” said Galletti, an active parish volunteer who graduated from the parish’s parochial school in 1950 and later sent his four children there.
The parish’s commitment to Catholic education is one of the traits that makes it stand apart, Sinicropi noted. St. Patrick School was built in 1879 and was open until 2005, when it merged with St. Mary School in Waterloo and became the site of the current St. John Bosco School, which the parish strongly supports, Sinicropi said.
“St. Patrick’s has been determined to keep Catholic education in our community. We realize the importance of youngsters receiving a Catholic education, and we’re determined to keep that open,” she said.
The parish is set to cluster with St. Mary Parish in Waterloo under a new pastor in June. The clustering process has already encouraged the development of an active, healthy and vibrant environment, Sanderson said.
“I think it’s going to be a very good joining of the two communities,” Father Laird said.
“Priests have come and gone, generations of families have passed on and new families have made us part of their life here. The one thing that we can count on is change, and that St. Patrick’s Church in Seneca Falls is a familiar place that welcomes you if you are open to it,” added parishioner Lori Parish.