History of Blessed Sacrament
Blessed Sacrament Parish was formed from the rapidly expanding population of southeast Rochester. As the city’s new industries grew and attracted increased numbers of workers, people were spreading out from their downtown neighborhoods into the surrounding countryside. Bishop McQuaid founded Blessed Sacrament parish primarily to relieve the overcrowding of worshippers at St. Mary’s Church, but parishioners were drawn here from St. Boniface Church and Corpus Christi Church as well. As the population continued to spread out Monroe, East, and University Avenues, Blessed Sacrament parish was in turn split up to form the parishes of St. John the Evangelist in 1914 and Our Lady of Lourdes in 1926.
Blessed Sacrament Church was the nineteenth Catholic Church to be established in Rochester. At that time, to implement Bishop McQuaid’s vision of the integration of Catholic schools with parish life, the first structure built for the new parish was a two-story building, with one story for the church and the other for the school. The cornerstone of our original red brick church-school building was laid on November 3, 1901, in a grand ceremony attended by 5,000 people. The completed building, dedicated on April 13, 1902, stood on the site of the present parking lot. Then on September 19, 1911, the cornerstone was laid for our current church building.
The original building served as a school until 1930, when it was demolished to make room for a parking lot, as more and more parishioners were coming to church by the increasingly popular automobile. The new school building was immediately constructed and served as our parish school until it was closed in 1990 as part of a diocesan re-structuring of Catholic schools. In the 1990s, the building was used by Corpus Christi School until its eventual closing in 2008. Today, the school is used for numerous church and faith formation events, as well as being a resource for our Upper Monroe Avenue neighbors.
From its founding, our parish school was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph, for whom the present convent was built in 1939, by combining two Rutgers Street houses.
Our parish has been led since its founding by seven dedicated people:
1901 – 1963 Rev. Msgr. Thomas F. Connors, Pastor
1963 – 1968 Rev. Msgr. Edward J. McAniff, Pastor
1968 – 1980 Rev. John P. Norris, Pastor
1980 – 1983 Rev. Anthony J. Valente, Pastor
1983 – 2000 Rev. Bruce F. Ammering, Pastor
2000 Sr. Chris Treichel, OSF, Pastoral Administrator
2000 – present Rev. Robert J. Kennedy, Pastor
Naturally, our parish population has undergone significant changes since 1901! In the early twentieth century, neighborhoods were ethnically concentrated: ours was mainly German and Irish. During the 1960s, large single-family homes, like those on Oxford Street, were broken up into apartments. Since the late 1970s, these apartments have become desirable for young adults, attracted by the commercial life of Park and Monroe Avenues. For over two decades, young adults have made up one-third of our parish population. And with the softening of the sense of a parish as a geographically bound entity, Blessed Sacrament has attracted parishioners from all parts of the Rochester area. Today, half of us live outside the neighborhood.
In our first century, Blessed Sacrament Church celebrated more than 20,000 weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Our parishioners mark milestones and celebrate the passages of their lives at Blessed Sacrament. We invite you to join us and do the same!
History of Saint Boniface
Bishop Timon of Buffalo (The Diocese of Rochester had not yet been formed.) approved of the Redemptorists purchasing land on what is now Gregory Street to build this new church.
In 1860, work began on the new church. It was a three story brick building which was to house a rectory, church and school. On June 8, 1861, the church was dedicated and placed under the patronage of St. Boniface, a saint from the same part of Germany, as many of the new parish’s parishioners.
Reverend John P. Klein, THE FIRST PASTOR, 1861-1875
By June, 1861, Bishop Timon had appointed its first resident pastor, Reverend John P. Klein, a pastor from Lancaster, Pa. Father Klein’s first major undertaking was to open a school, and by the fall he had hired Mr. Charles Koesterer as a teacher and organist.
Reverend Florian Payer, THE SECOND PASTOR, 1865-1875
The second pastor, Reverend Florian Payer, was appointed in July, 1865. He wanted to improve the school so he brought a group of School Sisters of Notre Dame from Germany to teach in the school. A house west of the church was purchased for the sisters, who arrived on August 30th and started teaching on September 2, 1866. The school’s registration was 80 boys and 94 girls.
Father Payer bought land on Pinnacle Hill for a cemetery. He also purchased a bell for $350 and had a belfry erected in the rear of the convent.
In 1867, the church was incorporated under the laws of New York State. By 1869 the church was enlarged by adding 40 feet to accommodate the growth of the parish. This new addition was blessed by Bishop Bernard McQuaid, the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Rochester.
Father Payer resigned in 1875 to become the chaplain of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Milwaukee. Bishop McQuaid appointed the Reverend Herman Renker from Germany as its third pastor.
Reverend Herman Renker, THE THIRD PASTOR, 1885—1893
Father Renker purchased land in 1876 for a playground for the school children and exchanged residences with the sisters, who moved the convent into the school building. He also bought more land along Whalin Street in 1882 and 1884.
With the acquisitions of these various pieces of land and the size of the congregation growing, the parish decided to build a larger church. A fair was held from August 27th to September 1st, 1883 to raise funds for a new church. This fair netted $7,326.
During 1885, plans were drawn up for the new church. The church was to be built in the Gothic style as was an adjoining rectory. The New York City architect William Schnickel was commissioned to design the new building.
In the spring of 1886 contracts were awarded to the following for work on the new building.
Masonry to August Pappert……$29,900
Carpentry to Henry Oberlies……$23,811
Stone cutting to Peter Pitkin…..$14,061
In April, 1886, the ground was broken for the new church, and in June the cornerstone was laid. As the building of the church was progressing so was the building of the new rectory. The rectory was ready for occupancy by December 3, 1886. A year later, December 18, 1887, Bishop McQuaid blessed the new rectory and church. Then the sisters returned to the house that the pastor had occupied.
This new church was considered one of the finest churches in Rochester. The interior was 130 feet long and 63 feet wide with a tower 195 feet above its foundation.
The altars, communion rail and pulpit were handcrafted out of oak by the sculptor A. Halstrick. The main altar was 27 feet high by 16 feet wide. It contained seven panels of artistic images and statuary.
The church also had stained glass windows depicting the life of St. Boniface. A new organ was installed in 1894. After the new church was completed the old church was remodeled with the first and second floors used for the school and the third floor as a parish hall. The church also had stained glass windows depicting the life of St. Boniface. A new organ was installed in 1894.
After the new church was completed the old church was remodeled with the first and second floors used for the school and the third floor as a parish hall.
Reverend Frederick Rauber, THE FOURTH PASTOR, 1894-1909
The health of Father Renker began to fail and Father John Boppel was sent to assist him. Finally on April 17, 1894 Father Renker died. Bishop McQuaid then appointed Rev. Frederick Rauber, the pastor of St. Mary’s Dansville as the fourth pastor.
During the pastorate of Father Rauber the new church’s debt of $26,000 was paid off. In June of 1900 a new convent was built and by November the sisters were living in it. He also bought land at the corner of Gregory and Nicholson Streets and had a parish hall erected there( The German House) in 1908. This building contained meeting rooms for the parish’s various clubs and a hall for plays and gatherings. The building was valued at $33,000.
Right Reverend Monsignor John Boppel, THE FIFTH PASTOR, 1909-1947
Father Rauber’s health caused him to resign as pastor. Bishop Hickey appointed Rev. John Boppel, who had previously served with Father Renker, as the fifth pastor on August 1, 1909. During Father Boppel’s 38 years as pastor he saw the founding the Men’s Club in 1909, the parish’s 50th anniversary in 1911, and his silver jubilee of ordination in 1918.
More construction was to follow with the building of the present school in 1922. The three story school contained fifteen classrooms, nurse’s office, principal’s office, in the basement club rooms, kitchen, and cafeteria. In the center of the building was a large auditorium.
In 1927 the convent was enlarged giving it more bedrooms, two parlors, a music room and a chapel. To offset the expense for these improvements, Father Boppel sold the parish hall across the street.
In 1931 he received the honorary title of “Monsignor” and eventually in 1932 was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester under Bishop O’Hern.
The parish celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 7, 1936. Seven years later Msgr. Boppel celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest. A month after his jubilee he suffered a slight stroke, but recovered and returned to continue his pastorate for another four years. He continued working right up until September 1,1947 when he suffered a heart attack and died.
Reverend Walter Kohl, THE SIXTH PASTOR, 1947-1957
Bishop Kearney appointed Rev. Walter Kohl, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Watkins Glen, as the sixth pastor on September 19, 1947. Father Kohl had also been a teacher for eight years at Aquinas and for fifteen years at St. Andrew’s Seminary.
Father Kohl continued making improvements on the property. In 1948 the school’s floors were refinished, walls were painted, furniture refurbished and a fire alarm was installed. In 1950 the convent underwent improvements and in 1953 a modernized kitchen and dining room were added to it. In 1951 the church’s cross was repaired.
As the parish neared its 100th anniversary in 1961, plans were made to renovate the church, school and convent for this occasion.
A “Financial Need Appeal” drive was planned in 1956 to raise $125,000 for this purpose. The parish responded in February of 1957 by pledging $214,209!
With the funds being raised, the work was started on the convent roof in December of 1956 followed by work on the school’s and church’s roofs.
The church’s roof was completed on November 6, 1957. Late that afternoon around 4:20 p.m., a fire started because of sparks from a charcoal fire pot the workers had been using on the roof. A worker tried to extinguish it, but by the time the fire department arrived the high winds had allowed the fire to spread through the roof and the steeple. Second and third alarms were called in. The fire lit up the night sky and could be seen for miles around. Finally, the fire was extinguished later that evening.
After the church was examined the next day, it was declared a total loss. It was determined it would have to be razed.
(It was said that the bells in the tower mysteriously started to toll just as the fire broke out as though they were tolling the death of this church.)
The charred remains of the church remained as a constant reminder throughout the winter. The school’s auditorium became the temporary church until plans could be made.
Since winter had set in, the demolition had to wait until the spring. The parish had to take care of their immediate needs. Many neighboring churches and businesses had offered their buildings. All of the offers were gratefully acknowledged. However, after consideration the school’s auditorium became the parish’s temporary home. With paint and redecoration and the labor of the people, the auditorium served as a good home for the church throughout the rebuilding months.
As with any such tragic story, many tales arose about the fire and the times after it.
But one thing that did spring from this situation was the intense and generous outpouring of the parishioners. They were determined that “St. Boniface will rise again!”
An image of St. Boniface’s steeple that appeared in many newspapers, including the Miami Herald, on May 2, 1958.
Just prior to the fire, the parish was in the process of removing the bodies from its cemetery and transferring them to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. With the help of Mr. Harry Schoff and Miller Brothers Funeral Directors, Father Kohl carefully transferred a total of 1030 bodies. With this task completed, the property was sold for $18,000 in May of 1958.
Now came the task of removing the old church. On Easter Monday, April 7, 1958, the Atlas Wrecking Company began taking the remaining structure down. The work continued with much publicity until St. Boniface’s feast, June 5, 1958.
The Building of the Third Church
A group of parishioners and Father Kohl asked Joseph Flynn from the firm Bohackett & Flynn to draw up plans for the new church. The plans were drawn up for contemporary Gothic structure. They were accepted and the contracts were awarded to the following companies:
Friederick Construction Company, general contractor
Horacek and Hayden, electrical contractor
Lobene and Hayes, plumbing contractor
McCormick Company, heating and air conditioning
Ground was broken for the new church on April 5, 1959 and building started immediately. During this period of planning, Father Kohl’s health had failed and he had to resign as pastor.
Bishop Kearney appointed the Rev. Francis Taylor the seventh pastor in 1959. He assumed the job of overseeing the construction and completion of the new church. Upon assuming this job, he assessed that the amount of the 1957 fund appeal and the insurance from the fire would not cover the cost of the new building.
He gave a detailed report about this to the parish. He also told them that with the completion of the work $314,000 had to be paid to the contractors. Therefore he saw a need to hold a fund drive to reduce this cost. So in November of 1959 over the period of several weekends, the appeal raised $200,000 which was $65,000 over their goal. He was very pleased with this result since only two and half years before, the people had pledged $220,000 for repairs to the parish buildings.
Father Taylor also had to continue the process of ordering new altars, stations, statues from Daprato Studios, pews from Rochester Novelty Company and stained glass windows from Pike Stained Glass studios.
A new organ was purchased from Teller Organ Company. Because the church organist Philip Kreckel had over the years helped Teller design organs for other churches and play introductory concerts for them, Teller allowed him to design his own organ and only charged for the materials not the labor. They also worked in the large metal pipes that were salvaged from the old organ into this new organ.
The church’s construction took ten months and was completed by March 6, 1960. The doors were opened that day and the parish celebrated Masses there for the first time that weekend. Later that month on March 29th, Bishop Lawrence B. Casey consecrated the altars.
On the feast of St. Boniface, June 5, 1960, Bishop James E. Kearney led the solemn dedication of the new St. Boniface Church. The parish also decided to celebrate its 100th anniversary at the same time since it was so close to the actual date.
As the poet Ralph Longale had envisioned in his poem, St. Boniface did rise again! The parish did have something to celebrate on this anniversary its 100th — many years of commitment to the faith of their ancestors and a strong commitment to keep St. Boniface a vital presence of God in this community with a beautiful new church as well as a congregation devoted to their faith.
Taylor continued to lead the parish until his health required him to cut back. Bishop Hogan appointed the Rev. Winfred Kellner to become the parish administrator. Eventually Father Taylor retired in January of 1979 and remained in residence until his death on June 26, 1980.
Reverend Winfred Kellner, THE EIGHTH PASTOR, 1979—1983
One of the first appointments of Bishop Matthew Clark, the newly consecrated bishop of Rochester, was Father Kellner as the eighth pastor of St. Boniface on August 22, 1979. During Father Kellner’s time a parish census was taken. (The first since 1965.) With the results of this census, Father was able to revise the mass schedule. This was also the period of gas and energy shortages and fewer available priests. To cut down on energy expenses, daily masses would be celebrated in the convent chapel. This allowed the reduction of the heating expense of the church. To help with the school’s expenses, a group of parishioners started the “200 Club”- a weekly lottery series. By the end of each series the group gathered for a party and presented the pastor with a check for school expenses.
As expenses were rising, Father and the parish council began to investigate various methods to raise the weekly collections. Also at this time, the diocese was searching for a home for Becket Hall, a house of discernment for men thinking about the priesthood. The sisters were changing assignments at this time so the convent would soon be empty. Father offered the convent as an option.
With the parish having two nursing homes and two high rise apartment houses, Father started to get the parishioners interested in ministering to these.
In June of 1983, Father Kellner was appointed by Bishop Clark to become chaplain of Monroe Community Hospital.
Reverend R. Richard Brickler, THE NINTH PASTOR, 1983—2011
On July 31, 1983 Bishop Matthew Clark appointed the Rev. R. Richard Brickler as the ninth pastor of St. Boniface. Father came to the parish from the Diocesan Tribunal. As with the pastorate of Father Kellner, new challenges have developed during Father Brickler’s pastorate that the preceding seven pastors had not faced. The energy crisis remained, but now it was the mounting prices for it. Still other challenges arose- the priest shortage, people moving from the city into the suburbs, fewer children attending Catholic schools, lower attendance at Masses, higher prices for goods and services and an aging parish population.
In early 1984, the sisters were going to join with other SSND’s for housing around the city, so the convent would be empty. But by July of 1984, the diocese decided that the convent would make a good new home for Becket Hall since the parish area contained many opportunities for the young men to explore various ministries. By August of 1984, Becket Hall moved into the former convent and was there for over twenty years. Even with the parish receiving rent for the building, parish funds were very tight.
Father realized that the financial circumstances were such that he needed to try something to improve the situation. In March of 1984, he began the Sacrificial Giving Program developed out of the Syracuse Diocese that Father Kellner and the parish council had researched a few years earlier. The parishioners embraced the concept and the weekly collections increased and stabilized to the point that bills were now being able to be paid on time. This program continues until this day with Father only having to speak about the collections and review the principles of giving once a year.
The school had been part of the parish since its beginning. On May 28, 1984, the school held a major reunion for all its former students. Over 1400 students returned for the Mass followed by a dinner at the Mapledale Party House. Alumni came from all over and from as far back as the class of 1911.
But within the diocese, the schools were being asked to consider joining together. In November of 1984, Father and the school principal were going to meetings about consolidating the junior highs of St. Boniface, St. Anne, St. John and Blessed Sacrament into one junior high at Blessed Sacrament. After much discussion, the idea was put to a vote in each parish. St. Boniface rejected that idea and the junior high stayed in our school. But by November, more meetings were being held by the Urban School Planning Commission concerning the future of the twenty city Catholic schools. By February of 1986, the Urban School Commission decided that the school was to become a K-6 building with the junior high going to Blessed Sacrament.
Because the 125th anniversary of the parish was coming, plans were started in December for the celebration the following year. The opening Mass of this celebration was held on January 12, 1986. Even the church’s interior got a new coat of paint. (This was the first repainting since its opening in 1960.) Over the months, there were special events: a special Lenten series given by the assistant pastor on four Mondays of Lent, a Latin Mass in April, a Homecoming Mass and reception for former priests and sisters of the staff as well as for those who were vocations from the parish in May. Finally on Saturday evening June 7th, the 125th anniversary Mass followed by a dinner at the Mapledale Party House was held.
Later that month on June 28th, Father Brickler celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest with a Mass followed by a reception in the school’s auditorium.
Over the summer, the pastoral assistant, Sister Pat Pullman, gathered a group of the parish’s senior adults and from this meeting arose a group that continues to meet until this day. They chose the name “The Twilighters”. The Twilighters hold monthly outings or meetings that allow them to socialize as well as pray together. Now they are working with our cluster churches to provide for the needs of the three parishes’ senior adults.
August 1989 brought more meetings with the schools changing to diocesan quadrant schools which meant they were no longer run by the parish but by the quadrant. By June of 1990, many city and suburban schools were closed and their students were placed in other remaining schools. St. Boniface still remained open as a K-6 building.
Since the buildings had their emergency needs met over the years, it was time to attend to the overall improvement of their interiors. The rectory needed attention to paint, new rugs, furniture and drapes. So in 1991 these needs were starting to be met.
When this new church was constructed, the outside walkways were installed using flagstones.This was similar to the Church’s floors. But as the outside walks received years of harsh winter weather, the stones began to crumble posing safety hazards for anyone using them. The parish council agreed that it was time to do something. So Father Brickler and the council embarked on the first capital improvement fund raiser since the fire of 1957.
For the sidewalk project, the parish needed to raise $15,000. When the campaign concluded in September, 1991, 270 donors gave $31,640. Father was most surprised and appreciative of this response. Not only was he able to repair the sidewalk, but other projects could be done with the remaining funds. On the weekend of November 24, 1991, he blessed the sidewalk.
The year 1991 was also the 125th year the School Sisters of Notre Dame had continuously serviced our school.
In 1993, the remaining city Catholic schools received a grant from Robert Wegman to fund the WEE Program. This program helped set up pre-school education for city families in the city Catholic schools. As the years went on, he also gave more grants to these schools to help the city families have a good alternative educational choice to the city public schools. This funding continued until 2008 when the city Catholic schools were closed.
Our present church building was erected in 1959/60, just prior to the Second Vatican Council. With this council, the universal church experienced sweeping changes from hearing the Mass in each country’s native language, to having the action of the Mass facing the people and other physical structural changes as well as renewed ways of thinking.
As a result, some changes had to be made to our new church building. One was that the priest needed to face the people. So early on Father Taylor had the main altar moved out so the priest was behind it looking out at the congregation. Most of the other changes were not done immediately. The congregation had quite a bit of adjusting to do with the council changes without also changing the building that had replaced their beloved fire ravaged church.
Starting around 1995 and for many succeeding months, the liturgy committee led by Father Brickler studied the council’s document, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship.
After much study and discussion, the conclusion was that it might be time to up date the physical setting of the church. But Father and the committee were aware of how the various parts of the new church were given as memorials to love ones. Father then went about informing each of the donors of the area that needed to be changed, what was needed and if this was alright with them. The rest of the parish was also informed of what changes were needed and why through articles in the bulletins and during the weekly announcement times.
Eventually in 1996, just in time for the Lenten season, the altar rail was removed and the marble floor refinished to hide where the rail had been. Several pews were removed from the back of the church to make way for a gathering area and a row of pews in the middle of the church to provide a break aisle. Also the marble baptismal font was moved from the vestibule to the new gathering area so it would be more noticeable and usable for baptisms. To finish the look of the interior, red seat cushions were purchased.
When the congregation saw the changes, they were pleased. And as one older parishioner said about the removal of the altar rail, “ Now I feel as though God’s arms opened to welcome me to Mass.”
In 1997, we needed to reduce and rearrange the Mass schedule. The weekend Masses were changed to 5p.m. on Saturdays, 8:30 and 10:30 on Sundays. Eventually the daily schedule was reduced to 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8 on Saturday mornings.
Not only was Father Brickler going to school consolidation meetings, over these years, but in 1998 Parish Strategic Planning meetings began. With the shortage of priests and lower attendance in churches, new parish configurations were urged.
Over many years of meetings and discussions, a plan was designed for the Monroe /Clinton Group that the three parishes St.Boniface, St.Mary’s and Blessed Sacrament would remain open but with only two priests. St. Boniface and Blessed Sacrament would share a pastor/pastoral administrator and St. Mary would retain their administrator. The three parishes would reduce their weekend Mass schedule to two per church so that the two sacramental ministers could service the three parishes. Eventually after all these meetings, this plan has been accepted by the Bishop and is scheduled to begin in June of 2011.
After twenty years, Becket Hall had decided to find a different location for their house of discernment. So in 2006 Becket Hall left the convent. For about two years, Father and the parish council tried to find a new occupant for the convent. In 2008, the Sisters of St. Joseph worked out an arrangement to rent the convent for one of their ministries. They have been with us for the last three years.
Throughout the years since the 1990’s, schools were still meeting to decide their future. In January of 2008, a decision was made by the diocese to close thirteen of the remaining 20 Catholic schools. All but two city schools were closed. So after 147 years of having a school, St. Boniface found its school closed.
The building was retained by the parish for parish functions, but a search was started to find an occupant for it. The desire was to find some type of educational group to be housed in it. By September of 2009, the Jesuits from McQuaid along with the Sisters of St. Joseph teamed up to open a middle school called Nativity Preparatory Academy, grades 5-7 for children at risk. The concept had been used by the Jesuits in other areas of the country. The students’ school day would be from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Once again the parish had a school presence on the premises.
On June 5, 2011, the parish celebrated its 150th anniversary as a parish. Throughout the year various events gathered the congregation to recognize the richness of their history —a chicken and biscuit dinner, homecoming for the religious ( staff and vocations from the parish), and various other events. On June 5th, the feast St. Boniface, a Mass celebrated by Bishop Clark marked the occasion followed by a picnic for all on the grounds.
Throughout the twenty-eight years, Father Brickler had been pastor, the church and school consolidation meetings were not the only activities that kept him busy. Father would be present for almost every parish groups’ meetings, numerous funerals, weddings and baptisms. But his availability to the sick and needy of the parish has been greatly appreciated. Weekly visits to the parishioners in hospitals, visits to the homebound, and monthly Masses at St. John’s Home, the Episcopal Church Home and Pinnacle Place have given those parishioners who had no way to get to church, a strong feeling of still being a vital part of the parish.
Even with all the demanding meetings, the Tribunal and situations that needed his immediate attention, Father Brickler managed to keep his great sense of humor.
June 3, 2011 was Father’s 50th anniversary in the priesthood. By the end of June, Father retired.
Reverend Robert Kennedy, THE TENTH PASTOR, 2011-2017
Pieces of St. Mary’s History…..
Over the many decades, Irish immigrants, dedicated priests, pastoral assistants, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of St. Joseph and thousands of faithful worshippers have passed through St. Mary’s doors. Today, St. Mary’s continues to be a wonderful parish devoted to meeting community needs. Below is an selection of notable events from its history…
In January, 1833, a group of Catholics purchased an unused Methodist Church (site of the present Convention Center) and began renovating it for the new parish of St. Mary. The first Mass was said in this building in 1834. Rev. Bernard O’Reilly became the first pastor.
In 1851 the school was forced to close due to the inability to find qualified teachers in Rochester.
In 1853, the Bishop officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the new St. Mary’s Church. When completed in 1858, the walls, ceiling, and pillars were all painted with biblical stories and with scenes from lives of the saints. Over 130 gas burning lamps illuminated the building.
On June 9, 1957 the first Sisters of Mercy arrive in Rochester and begin work at St. Mary’s. A new convent is built north of the Church. The sisters begin visitation of the sick and poor.
Later that year, St. Mary’s School opened in the church basement with an enrollment of 200 pupils. The Sisters of Mercy taught the girls. Boys were admitted in 1860 with the arrival of the Christian Brothers from Canada.
In 1858, St. Mary’s founded a soup kitchen and cared for over 40 families. During the recession of the late 1850’s St. Mary’s opened a women’s’ shelter and an employment office.
In 1859 St. Mary’s St. Vincent de Paul Men’s Society raised money for the poor of the city regardless of religious belief.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, St. Mary’s pastor, Daniel Moore, obtained State authority to raise a brigade of soldiers. Father Moore resigned as pastor to become chaplain of the over 300 men who enlisted.
In 1864, the Sisters of St. Joseph opened a home for orphaned boys in a new building at Court and South St. (St. Mary’s Place). Eventually St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s orphanages merged in 1942 to become St. Joseph’s Villa.
In the 1870’s, salaries of the teaching nuns at St. Mary’s were paid by the Rochester Board of Education, but were so small that other funding was necessary. The sisters and girls in St. Mary’s industrial school made lace and flowers which were sold in the Bert Fitsimons Department Store.
In 1873, St. Mary’s opened a new school building for 500 students. It ran until 1950.
In 1879, St. Mary’s planned the biggest picnic the city had ever seen. Five locomotives were chartered to haul train loads of picnickers to Charlotte. Over 10,000 people enjoyed roasted oxen, and viewed a barge of fireworks launched from the Genesee River.
St. Mary’s confirmation class numbered 135 boys and girls in 1880. Four girls from the parish entered the sisters of Charity that year.
In 1881, St. Mary’s opened a nursery school for between 30 and 50 children each day. A fee of 5 cents per day was charged to those who could afford it. It operated through 1906.
In 1891, the current Stations of the Cross were installed in St. Mary’s. The church floor was rebuilt with a slant making the rear pews higher than those in the front.
In 1897, the The “Carnival of the Century” was held – a nine day carnival which raised enough money to pay the $1,200 parish assessment and its $5,600 debt.
In 1916, transepts were added to St. Mary’s church giving it its present cruciform shape. The Tiffany rose window was installed behind the organ.
In 1918, with influenza raging in Rochester, Sisters from St. Mary’s worked among the city’s black community ministering to the many victims of the epidemic.
In 1938, the 80th anniversary of the dedication of St. Mary’s church building was celebrated with an Old Home Week. Monsignor Fulton Sheen of Catholic University gave the Sunday sermon.
Outdoor shrine is built to Mary, Protectress of Travelers. Prayers are offered for the safe return of the 145 parishioners fighting in World War II.
From 1943 through 1949, St. Mary’s had a weekly radio broadcast on WHEC.
In 1947, new stained glass windows were installed. St. Mary’s becomes the first church to be air-conditioned.
In 1949, Monsignor James McAniff becomes pastor after the untimely death of Rev. George Kettell, who had been pastor for 15 years.
In 1950, St. Mary’s School closes due to declining enrollment and financial difficulties.
In 1951, a new Italian marble altar is dedicated in memory of Dr. Ketell.
In 1953, the Austin organ was installed at a cost of $50,000.
In 1955, the Rectory was enlarged and the cloister walk was added between church and rectory.
During the 1950’s, over 150 parish homes were demolished to make room for city highways.
In 1978, St. Mary’s celebrated the 125th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone; also, the chimes given by Kilan and Caroline Schmitt were rededicated.
In 1980, Monsignor McAniff retired after 31 years, the longest pastorate of any priest at St. Mary’s. Fr. James Lawlor accepted Bishop Clark’s appointment to be the new pastor at St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s Parish of the Deaf was located in the lower church with Father Thomas Erdle as pastor. Fr. Ray Fleming succeeded Father Erdle and guided the community until they moved to Good Counsel parish in 1992.
In 1983, a lift was installed to assist people in wheelchairs or those who find the steps difficult.
In 1984, St. Mary’s began a year-long celebration of its 150th year with a Mass of Thanksgiving on New Year’s Eve. South Street became St. Mary’s Place. Parishioners wrote letters to the people of 2034 A.D. for our time capsule.
In 1984, St. Mary’s Community Forum was inaugurated. It was renamed Downtown Community Forum in 1986 by Sister Joan Sobala and P. David Finks.
In 1985, planning for the renovation of St. Mary’s Worship Space began.
On August 6, 1985, St. Mary’s parish participated in a retreat commemorating Hiroshima.
In 1985, the first annual Lenten project for Fr. Damian Milliken’s mission in Tanzania begins. Fr. Ray Fleming becomes pastor of St. Mary’s Church of the Deaf.
In 1987, fundraisers for the renovation of the church began. Task forces met for fine arts & crafts, furniture and liturgical environment. The renovation process began.
In 1988, Fr. Joe Brennan came to St. Mary’s.
In 1990, “Operation St. Mary’s” Lenten project now included support of four native Tanzanian sisters studying at Nazareth College. Mary Lu Coffey began as parish liturgist and minister to seniors.
In 1991, “St. Mary’s Connection for Gay & Lesbian People, Family & Friends” was formed. Its goal was to work to end social & church injustice toward gay and lesbian people and to be a source of reconciliation between church and families and friends of gay and lesbian people.
In 1991, St. Mary’s was one of four parishes in the country featured in the national publication Church citing DCF for its creative approach to social ministry.
Some of the other Social Ministries at St. Mary’s include:
• Bethany House
• Unemployment Support Group & Welfare Reform
• Melita House
• Catholic Action Network
• Habitat for Humanity
In 1992, the Rectory was refurbished – living quarters, meeting rooms, offices and library.
In 1993, names for lower level church space and the new library were decided: The Dugan Center and Maria Lowry Library.
*The Dugan Center was named after Ray Dugan, parishioner and usher at St. Mary’s for over 60 years.
*Maria’s Library was named after Maria Lowry, parishioner from the mid 1950’s when she came from Austria. After her death in 1992 the parish received her collection of Thomas Merton’s writings and the furniture in the library.
Deacon Bill Coffey became St. Mary’s staff person for social ministry. Diane Kannell became Director of Religious Education.
Four young people from St. Mary’s participated in World Youth Day, a four day spiritual & educational forum. Wendy Brundage, Mark Carpenter, Cora Kannel and Heidi Leibert.
In 1994, St. Mary’s hand bell choir and vocal choir ensemble performed at the White House.
In 1995, St. Mary’s rectory was made handicapped accessible. “Words on the Wall” was begun whereby we project our songs for weekend Masses on the wall instead of using hymnals. Communion is administered under both forms.
1996: Some of St. Mary’s Long Range Plan:
• A Diverse Community
• Recognize the need for life-long spiritual development
• Welcome priests from other nations
• Educate parishioners for pastoral administrative transition & the meaning of Church
• Enhance the role of women in the Church
• Promote well qualified, caring staff and volunteers
• Offer enrichment to the wider community
1997, Fr. Jim Lawlor departed as Pastor of St. Mary’s. After his Sabbatical he was assigned to St. Catherine’s in Mendon. Fr. Bill Donnelly was appointed as Pastor of St. Mary’s.
In June of 1998, Catholic Family Center recognized St. Mary’s for outstanding support, partnership and collaboration.
Sr. Joan Sobala, SSJ, left St. Mary’s in June, 1998. Sister Kay Heverin, SSJ, joined St. Mary’s as Pastoral Associate in July.
In 2000, Sister Brian Madigan arrives and becomes Director of Faith Formation. Diane Kannel becomes Director of Pre-School and Sacramental Ministry.
In 2002, Richard Wolf is assigned as Pastoral Associate and oversees R.C.I.A. and Liturgy.
In 2006, The Parish Cluster Five Year Plan was formed. This includes St. Mary’s, Blessed Sacrament and St. Bonifice. Helen Halligan retires and Daniel Aune becomes new Director of Music.
In 2007, Fr. Bill Donnelly’s work is re-assigned to become St. Mary’s Sacramental Minister. Anne-Marie Brogan becomes our new Pastoral Administrator. She comes to us with a wealth of experience. The Women’s Spirituality Group forms in December. The Center for Interfaith Studies & Dialogue gave Father Joe the First Annual Interfaith Leadership Award for service to the interfaith community.
On September 22, 2008 Fr. Joseph Brennan passed away. He is sadly missed.
In 2009, St. Mary’s celebrated its 175th Anniversary with a year-long celebration of events.