St. Anthony in Elmira, Holy Family in Rochester set closing Masses - Catholic Courier

St. Anthony in Elmira, Holy Family in Rochester set closing Masses

Diocesan officials have announced that two churches with lengthy histories in their respective cities, St. Anthony in Elmira and Holy Family in Rochester, will close in June.

St. Anthony Church has scheduled its closing Mass for Friday, June 13, on the Feast of St. Anthony. The liturgy will begin at 5 p.m. and will be followed by a reception. Meanwhile, Holy Family’s final Mass will take place on Sunday, June 29, at 10 a.m.

Father Walter Wainwright, pastor of Elmira’s Blessed Sacrament Parish (St. Anthony, St. Patrick and Ss. Peter and Paul), told the Catholic Courier that St. Anthony has been plagued by a declining number of families while at the same time "it is costing more and more to keep it open. It is in need of major repair that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Father Wainwright added that St. Anthony’s closing was originally recommended by the Chemung-Schuyler Regional Council, and parishioners have known for several months that this course of action was imminent.

"They’ve been aware of it, and as a matter of fact they’ve been expecting it. But it’s never easy," Father Wainwright remarked.

St. Anthony, located at the corner of North Main Street and West Washington Avenue, was established in 1907 to accommodate the city’s quickly growing Italian community. Three years later a parish school opened; it remained in operation until its closing in 1971. In 1994 the parish clustered with St. Patrick Parish and they began sharing the same pastor.

In 2006 Ss. Peter and Paul Church joined St. Anthony and St. Patrick to form a three-church cluster. Last year those churches became a single parish with multiple worship sites while merging staffs, finances and parish pastoral councils. The newly formed parish took the name of Blessed Sacrament. As often happens in these types of consolidations, the parish has now deemed that it can operate with fewer church buildings. St. Patrick and Ss. Peter and Paul will remain open, whereas St. Anthony will be the first Catholic Church to close in Chemung County since Elmira’s St. Cecilia and St. John the Baptist both closed in 1998.

Attendance and financial concerns also were chief catalysts in the closing of Holy Family Church, located at the corner of Jay and Ames streets in Rochester.

Father Paul Tomasso, pastor, explained in a letter to Holy Family parishioners on the weekend of May 25 that the closing is based on an extensive study by the Futures Task Force — a coalition made up of people from Holy Family and Holy Apostles, the two remaining churches in the City West planning group. The task force had, in January 2008, called for the two churches to consolidate at Holy Apostles by June.

"Present times have brought real problems and challenges to our community. Holy Family is a very large complex. Our congregation is small compared to our space, as are our finances," Father Tomasso wrote.

Holy Family was established in 1864 and for several generations housed German and Italian families until acquiring a cross-section of ethnic groups. Over the last several years Holy Family’s attendance has steadily declined, even though it stood to gain new worshipers from other area Catholic churches that recently closed.

Holy Family will be the seventh Catholic church to close on Rochester’s west side since 2006. The others are St. Augustine, Our Lady of Good Counsel and Ss. Peter and Paul (2006); St. Anthony of Padua (2007); and Holy Rosary and Most Precious Blood (2008). The elementary school located on Holy Family’s campus also is closing in June.

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