On Sept. 16 the congregation at St. Dominic’s in Shortsville celebrated the 106th anniversary of the parish, which has undergone a renaissance of sorts over the past few years.
Former pastor Father William Cosgrove helped mark the anniversary by celebrating the parish’s first Mass at a new altar, which was constructed from pieces of the church’s two previous altars. According to parishioner Tony Muscolino, the new altar is a fitting symbol of the parish’s renaissance.
Muscolino and several other parishioners took parts from altars the parish had purchased in 1954 and 1967 and combined them to bring the new altar into compliance with liturgical reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council, said Father John Gagnier, pastor.
“Altars in (the 1950s) were basically a back shelf for flowers and candles and a front where you said Mass,” Father Gagnier said of the 1954 altar.
The altar purchased in 1967 follows a more modern design, with a flat table top resting on two supporting legs. This altar was simply placed in front of the 1954 model, and both continued in use. Since current liturgical guidelines stipulate that churches should use one altar only, Father Gagnier said he decided to rectify the situation.
The new altar is the latest in a long string of renovations and improvements that have taken place since Father Gagnier became pastor of the parish in 2000. Since then the parish has created a reconciliation chapel and an outdoor Marian grotto, had its organ remanufactured and reinstalled, and made other improvements.
Muscolino has had a hand in many of those projects. An experienced woodworker, he said he first became involved in parish projects more than 20 years ago when an older gentleman asked him to help paint the church. The gentleman passed away shortly after beginning the project, and Muscolino spent the next 15 months painting the church, which involved painting intricate designs in gold leaf, he said.
Since then, he’s built a new ambry, helped construct the reconciliation chapel, leveled the choir-loft floor to accommodate the remanufactured organ, raised the choir-loft railing, helped install a hardwood floor in the loft and built several wooden quatrefoils. Muscolino spearheaded the altar project, which began in March.
The project was actually more complicated and labor intensive than building a new altar from scratch, Muscolino said, noting that the two former altars had to be taken apart very carefully since most of their parts were going to be reused. He and a team of volunteers spent countless hours working on the project, and Muscolino even took a week off from his job so he could devote his full attention to the altar.
When asked what motivated him to volunteer so much time and effort to beautify his church, Muscolino had a simple reply.
“I guess you could say it in one word — God,” he replied. “I don’t know what else would motivate people any more than that. You want to see us able to have a place where people can go to worship God and be embraced by everything there is to see, and to feel like they belong to it.”
Muscolino and his fellow volunteers also used pieces of the old altars to build a new stand for the tabernacle, which is topped by a scale replica of the church’s cross. Four decorative towers, which were part of the old organ, have been placed on either side of the tabernacle, and candle holders and flower pedestals from the 1954 altar also have been incorporated into the design of the new altar and the tabernacle tower behind it.
“The secret is to make everything look like it’s been there forever,” Muscolino said.
The new altar stone is made from marble that was taken from Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral during its renovation, and small, round pieces of this marble were placed under each of the sanctuary’s candles, Father Gagnier said. Inside the altar stone is a relic of St. Mateo Correa Magallanes, a Mexican priest who was martyred during the Mexican Revolution of the 1920s and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
Father Gagnier said he was excited that the parish was able to obtain the relic, noting that parishioners can probably identify with St. Mateo because he lived in the same century and hemisphere as they do, and also was a Knight of Columbus. The Shortsville parish’s own Knights of Columbus council — which is named after Bishop Joseph L. Hogan, seventh bishop of Rochester — was formed in 2002, Father Gagnier said.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark blessed the altar stone Sept. 12, and the new altar was unveiled to parishioners during the Sept. 16 Mass. The altar adds to the church’s overall beauty and conduciveness to worship, Muscolino said.
“We have something people can walk into as a church and walk out feeling loved. It’s just a very warm, precious feeling that you don’t always get,” he said. “It’s just something that is very natural to walk into. It’s a place that is warm and loving and welcoming.”