Elmira’s St. Charles Borromeo Parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary in the fall — but it took a bit of investigative work by parish staff members before 2004 could be deemed the proper celebration year.
The centennial Mass is due to take place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, with Bishop Matthew H. Clark presiding. A dinner in the parish hall will follow.
According to Jean Keenan, faith-formation director for the St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo cluster, uncertainty had arisen regarding the official founding of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. Keenan explained that Masses in Elmira Heights had been celebrated at the Odd Fellows Hall and in homes in the late 1800s — a few years before St. Charles Borromeo Church was built as a mission of St. Mary Our Mother Parish in Horseheads — and that St. Charles Borromeo didn’t become separately incorporated as a parish until 1935.
Earlier this summer Keenan and Deacon Bill Dougherty, the longtime parish deacon, visited the original St. Charles Borromeo building on Prescott Avenue, a short distance from the current church that opened in 1960 at 130 Oakwood Ave. Keenan and Deacon Dougherty located the cornerstone, and after scraping away some paint, discovered the numerals “1904.” Upon further research, Keenan found that construction on the church was done mostly in the fall of 1904, with the first Mass celebrated there in January 1905.
“So we decided to go with November,” she said of the 100th-anniversary event. “We just decided it’s time for a celebration of St. Charles.”
Leading up to the celebration, a committee is being established and a weekly historical blurb has been running in the St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo bulletin. Keenan, who was born and raised in St. Charles Borromeo Parish, added that parishioners can join in the effort by providing photographs and other artifacts to display Nov. 6. Along those lines, Keenan said the parish hopes to acquire the cornerstone from the first church, which is currently vacant and has housed a nightclub and restaurants in recent years.
Keenan also envisions the Nov. 6 gala as a community-wide celebration. “There are good feelings in Elmira Heights between all the different denominations. I’m sure we’ll invite all the different pastors,” she said.