A Century of Challenges

Oct. 7 – 14, 2004
A Century of Challenges
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Paul FInch
Binghamton’s Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish Celebrates 100 Years of Service

Binghamton — When a steeple was placed on the new Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church in 1960, it didn’t sit just right. It was eventually removed and placed back atop the roof, with a small addition by the Boy Scout leader at the parish. “He put a medal of Cyril and Method right up in the cross there,” said lifelong parishioner Patricia Mangurian. “It’s a true story.”

Inside the current church building, the patron saints watch over the congregation from over the choir loft in a painting that came from the original church building. Other paintings of the same era featuring Jesus and saints line the ceilings from the rear of the church to above the altar. Many of the statues also came from the first building, which was used for nearly 60 years. Bishop Patrick Ludden arrived in a carriage with four white horses to place the cornerstone in 1904. He was followed by two Slovak priests from Pennsylvania. The parish was founded by Slovaks. Many came from the coal mines in Pennsylvania to work for the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company in Broome County. Some of their descendents still attend the parish 100-years later. “My grandparents were the first couple married in the original St. Cyril’s Church,” said Carole Shramek, a lifelong parishioner and member of the 100th anniversary committee. “They were married the day the church officially opened.” Shramek’s parents were also life-long parishioners.

“When you get to that 100 year anniversary, I think it’s a sign of how God has continued to bless the parish and strengthen the parish and hopefully will help it continue to grow.” said Brother Edward Falsey, OFM Conv., who has been in residence at the parish since 1985. The parish is named for two saints, although it’s commonly called St. Cyril’s, without a mention of his brotherBinghamton’s Ss. Cyril and, St. Methodius. “They brought the alphabet, language and faith to the Slovak people,” said Bev Harkness, parish secretary for 23 years. “One time we had some people in our hall for breakfast after a funeral and they thought they were in a Methodist church because that saw Methodius or Method involved there and they didn’t know if they were invited back into the church because they were Catholics. So I had to explain the background of St. Cyril and Methodius,” said Mangurian. “We have a very warm and friendly congregation. The people are very open,” said Shramek. “Even if you don’t know them by name, they’ll greet you and stop and talk.” Harkness is a convert whose husband is a life-long parishioner. Her husband’s grandmother often told her stories of the early days of the parish. “She used to walk up and down Clinton Street and collect a nickel from each of her Altar-Rosary Band members and that’s how they bought the mattresses for the convent. So it has a long history of hard-working, sacrificing people and it’s been a privilege to work here and serve here.” Parishioners have risen to a few challenges over the years. On Easter Sunday 1939, a fire destroyed the church hall. It was rebuilt within 2 years. Then in December of 1967, a gas explosion blew out inner doors and did other damage to the building. The church was reopened in time for Christmas.

St. Cyril’s first pastors were assigned by the Diocese of Syracuse. That changed in 1923 when Franciscan Friars arrived. Father George Sandor, OFM Conv. is the current pastor. Four priests and one brother live at the friary now. From 1911 to 1979, the parish operated a school. The Sisters of Saint Joseph served first as teachers. Later, the Slovak Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius took over teaching duties.The convent was leased to Catholic Charities in 1985 and this summer the former school building was sold for use as senior housing.

The parish has ambitious plans for the future, with a $650,000 fund drive to make improvements to the church and hall. The Slovak heritage and a rich history of social gathering will be a part of the 100th anniversary celebration. The Slovak Ambassador to the US will attend a dinner dance on Saturday, October 16 at the Binghamton Regency Hotel. Slovak hymns and some people in traditional costumes will be featured the following morning at the 11 am Mass to be concelebrated by Bishop James Moynihan.

For more information on the 100th anniversary events, call the St. Cyril’s Parish Office at (607) 724-1372.

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