Making New Memories

June 24-July 7, 2004
Making New Memories
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
Merged Parishes in Binghamton Begin New Life as Church of the Holy Trinity

BROOME COUNTY —- The congregation at the newest parish in the Diocese of Syracuse was asked to make the sign of the cross with three fingers on Saturday, June 12. The motion was in honor of the Holy Trinity, the name for a parish formed from the merger of three. Bishop James Moynihan celebrated the dedication Mass, which had two entrance processions. The first included members of the Confirmation class, carrying relics and banners from the three former churches. People dressed in Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak and Czech costumes made up another procession, which also included the Knights of Columbus, clergy and the bishop. More than 700 people filled the church to capacity.

“It was a joyful weekend of celebration and unity after a long and difficult two years for the members of the former St. Ann’s, St. Joseph’s and St. Stanislaus Kostka parishes. Tears that were shed during the dedication Mass were tears of happiness,” said parishioner Diane Salva, a member of the Liturgy and Worship Committee and a religious education teacher. The dedication came slightly less than a year after the formation of the parish. St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Ann’s and St. Joseph’s parishes were located within blocks of each other in the City of Binghamton and the Town of Dickinson. One pastor retired and the other was transferred, which lead to the eventual joining of the three. Each church was closed in a ceremonial Mass. Weekend Masses were held at the former St. Stan’s while renovations were made at the former St. Ann’s.

“As a family, we grieved together over the closings of the St. Ann’s, St. Joseph’s and St. Stanislaus Kostka Churches,” said Salva. “Through the merger process our faith was tested and we were called to question what is truly important to us as Catholics. The Dedication Mass was proof that we passed the test and are now a strong, united parish and for myself and many others our faith has been strengthened.” The renovated building encompasses memories, including an altar with relics from all three parishes. A crucifix which hangs over the altar comes from St. Stanislaus. Wood carvings that were inside St. Joseph’s now adorn the doors at the handicapped entrance. More items from St. Stan’s and St. Joseph’s will be added to the building in coming months. The renovated building also has a larger sanctuary, which has been painted and stenciled. Other improvements include a new ambo, new carpeting in several areas, and a new sound system. Lighting will soon be finished. In the summer, an elevator will be installed. Strong remembrances of the past built the three former parishes. Marie Lukasik serves on the Liturgy and Worship Committee.

“My grandparents helped dig the foundation for St. Stanislaus in the early 1900’s; my husband’s family and my family have been lifelong members of St. Stan’s. We were married there; our children received their sacraments there, one son was married there, and our first grandchild was baptized there. We struggled with many emotions when we learned that our church would be closed,” said Lukasik. Lukasik said the loss of the individual parishes was difficult, but parishioners are now looking ahead to the new Holy Trinity.”We grieved, we mourned, and we prayed, as did many others. We supported each other, and with the help of members of all three parishes and plenty of opportunities to talk through our emotions, we have been able to move on. Our new parish is vibrant and full of hope that we can and will follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Yes, we have a beautiful single church building, but we are still members of the same church we have always belonged to.” Lukasik said.

As the number of priests declines, more changes will have to be made to parishes in the diocese in the next several years. Members of Holy Trinity believe their experience could serve as a model for parishioners elsewhere in the future. “Closing a parish is a grieving process, but as in any goodbye experience, there comes a time to move on. The time it takes is different for each person; moving on happens slowly.” said Lukasik. “But the reality is that we can’t move on until we let go of the anger and heavy burdens that surface in these situations. Jesus knew the sadness and ache of letting go and saying goodbye, too. We find our courage and strength to go forward from Him.” Father Canice Connors, OFM Conv., Provincial for the Franciscan friars, delivered the homily at the Mass and said he admired the way Brother Ed Falsey, OFM Conv., organized the closing of the three parishes with liturgies of grieving. He also said that the dedication Mass was “one of the most moving liturgies I’ve participated in for a considerable period.” The Franciscan presence in the Southern Tier is one that Father Canice hopes brings peace and reconciliation. “We see this as one more opportunity to witness to peace and reconciliation and to develop a clearer mission to evangelize the area and serve the poor. The Sisters of Ss Cyril and Method are an integral part of the effort,” Father Canice said.

Salva believes there is a bright future ahead for the new parish. “Regardless of the background of any churches facing a merger, what is important is that we are all Catholic.” Salva said. “We are working at Holy Trinity to honor the ethnic backgrounds of the former parishes and are finding ways so we can all enjoy and share in the rich traditions they represent, at the same time creating our own new traditions. The parish family at the Church of the Holy Trinity is looking toward the future with hope and enthusiasm.”

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