Tried and True

Nov. 4-10, 2004
Tried and True
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
St. Cecilia’s Church Celebrates 100 Years of Faith and Friendship

SOLVAY — It was with much ado that parishioners of St. Cecilia’s Church gathered at Drumlin’s on Oct. 23 for the Gala Centennial Dance. Folks were decked out in their finest as they came together for Mass and then the dinner and celebration. After 100 years of sustaining a strong, faithful congregation, a party was indeed in order. The dinner was one of the last events on the year-long celebration calendar. A closing liturgy Mass is planned with Bishop James Moynihan on Nov. 20.

The celebration began back in September of 2003 with a liturgy and proclamation followed by a centennial dinner, spaghetti supper, a tribute, a sock hop and a class reunion for those who had attended St. Cecilia School before the doors closed in 1987. Father George Hartnett, pastor of St. Cecilia’s, describes his parish as “wonderful, warm, welcoming and full of hardworking people with a tremendous love of their parish.” That was certainly evident at the October celebration. One parishioner has been a particularly long-standing member. Rose Olgeaty, who will celebrate her 100th birthday in December, enjoyed the dinner and reminiscing about the old days. Another parishioner, Rosina Capella, celebrated her 100th birthday in September. Olgeaty said she has always loved serving at her church. Baptized at St. Peter’s Church at Split Rock which was then attached to St. Cecilia’s, Olgeaty’s connection at St. Cecilia’s extends back as far as she can remember. Olgeaty helped with religious education classes and says Father James McGraw, who was pastor beginning in 1914, was her “favorite” priest.

Separating St. Cecilia’s from the town of Solvay is an unlikely possibility. The loyalty and generosity of the people who built St. Cecilia’s reflects the same character of the town itself. Olgeaty worked at Solvay Bank until she was 80 years old. She also sang in the church’s choir, worked alongside her husband, John, as a member of the Ladies Auxiliary for the town’s fire department. She was a member of the Altar & Rosary Society and loved to crochet and knit. Her three children live in the area and her daughter, Peggy, lives with her, which allows her to maintain a high level of activity for a woman about to turn 100. Olgeaty plays cards and dominoes as often as possible and gets around very well. The dinner dance was an opportunity for the parishioners to socialize and visit with priests who have served their parish or are serving now. Father Paul Machira came to the church in 2002 from Africa and serves as parochial vicar. “The strength of the parish is its people,” Father Machira said at the gala. “They are very welcoming and very happy to be in this parish. Everyone’s tied together, everyone’s involved.”

Father Angelo Libera, who grew up in Solvay, was on hand at the party to help celebrate. He is retired but serves at St. Anthony’s on Syracuse’s south side most weekends. Msgr. Carl Denti was also at the gala. He still serves St. Cecilia’s by celebrating Mass, and even though his new pace maker is currently slowing him down a bit, Msgr. Denti noted, “The pace maker isn’t going to slow me down. It just means I’ve gotta keep going.” The spirit of the parish was also reflected in the beautiful stained glass hanging that was raffled at the event. The round window, made by Scott Brennan, is made up of portions of the stained glass windows that blew out of the church during the Labor Day storm in 1998. The glass was saved and transformed into not only the impressive round hanging, but also formed into 529 stained glass crosses which were distributed at the end of the gala.

Annemarie and Michael Masterpole served as general chairs for the gala event. They explained that their committee worked about 40 hours in Brennan’s workshop on Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during July, August and September to make the crosses. Each person had a job to do; cleaning the glass, cutting it, gluing it, shaping the cross with a copper wire and even wrapping them in boxes to be distributed after the gala. That is the type of dedication that pervades the parish. Michael Masterpole said simply, “If you know what the town of Solvay is about — how our community is so united and how we work together — then you know what St. Cecilia’s is about.” Rick and Roseanne Scrimale grew up in Solvay and both attended St. Cecilia’s School. Today they travel from Onondaga Hill to bring their two children, Nina and Antonio, to Mass at St. Cecilia’s. “It’s our second family,” Rick Scrimale said. “The parish holds onto tradition more than any organization or school that I’ve ever seen.” “When you say you’re from St. Cecilia’s, people know what type of parish you have,” Roseanne Scrimale added.

The two of them serve now in the parish’s religious education program. One of the strongest features of the parish is the willingness of the lay people to serve each other for the good of all. The third pastor of St. Cecilia’s, Father Thomas Driscoll, is credited with great determination and enthusiasm for the catechetical programs. He even organized the church’s first “Religious Vacation School” back in the summer of 1934. The parish’s classes were so popular that year-round religious education classes were developed. Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception served in the parish and at the school for many years. After a lengthy absence, Father Hartnett has brought back three sisters of the same order to serve the parish today. The sense of tradition and the love the parishioners have for their church that has spanned 100 years shows no signs of ebbing today.

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