A Blessed Union

Dec. 1-7, 2005
A Blessed Union
Father Robert Chryst, pastor at St. Anthony pf Padua Church in Syracuse, stands outside his church holding the “Unsung Hero” award presented to the parish
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. Anthony of Padua and St. Mary of the Lake Parishes receive Unsung Hero Award St. Anthony of Padua Church in Syracuse was struggling financially 25 years ago. Consequently, St. Mary of the Lake Church in Skaneateles made a commitment to help out financially, enabling St. Anthony’s to minister to the spiritual needs of its parishioners on the southside of Syracuse.

On Oct. 20, St. Anthony of Padua Church and St. Mary of the Lake Church were honored for their commitment to respect and their validation of diversity in the community at the P.E.A.C.E., Inc. annual Champions of Diversity dinner.

The two parishes were selected because of their affirmation and dedication to the organization’s mission — to help people in the community to realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient. P.E.A.C.E., Inc. — People’s Equal Action and Community Effort — is a human service agency that helps individuals and families throughout the city of Syracuse and surrounding areas become self-reliant through a variety of programs and services.

Father Robert Chryst of St. Anthony of Padua Parish and Father Thomas McGrath of St. Mary of the Lake Parish have facilitated a unique relationship between the respective parishes. St. Anthony’s Parish has continued to maintain and support its mission of serving the spiritual needs of its parishioners in the heart of the city of Syracuse through the financial contributions of St. Mary of the Lake Parish and St. Anthony’s Alumni Association. St. Mary’s makes financial contributions on a regular basis, which enables St. Anthony’s to continue bringing the Catholic faith to its parishioners. St. Anthony’s Parish is comprised of an ethnically- diverse population. The church wants to continue serving the community.

“Our parish community is a landmark institution on the southside,” remarked Father Chryst. He feels the contributions his parish receives from St. Mary of the Lake are invaluable. “It’s very helpful to us to meet our obligations to the diocese and to meet our expenses,” he said. “This relationship has been going on for the last 25 years —Father William Esposito was the pastor here when it started.” Over the years, St. Mary’s and St. Anthony’s have shared more than finances. Their participation in several annual events has brought them closer together. The annual Christmas Pancake Breakfast at St. Anthony’s has been enjoyed by young and old from both parishes. The breakfast includes a visit by Santa Claus. St. Anthony’s parishioners have also enjoyed traveling to Skaneateles to participate in St. Mary’s annual parish picnic.

Father Chryst was somewhat surprised when he heard that his parish had received the Unsung Hero Award. “Our relationship is not all that different from other city and suburban parishes,” said Father Chryst. Father McGrath can’t say enough about Father Chryst’s dedication to St Anthony’s Parish. “Father Chryst is so present to the parish and neighborhood. He does a wonderful job — we are happy to help.” Father McGrath witnessed the extent of Father Chryst’s involvement when he concelebrated at St. Anthony of Padua’s 100th Anniversary Mass four years ago. “As I was walking in the procession, I said to myself, ‘The church is so beautiful.’ I asked, ‘Who did the shiny floors?’ Then I learned that Father Chryst had done them. He also directed the choir and then went on to concelebrate the Mass.”

Father Chryst attended the P.E.A.C.E., Inc. dinner accompanied by 19 other parishioners from St. Anthony’s. Among those in the group were Father Esposito, some long-time parishioners and parish council members. “It was a very enjoyable evening,” reminisced Father Chryst. “It was a different kind of award. We are grateful for St. Mary’s help. We pray for them every Sunday, and I am sure they pray for us.”

Father McGrath, along with some of his parishioners also enjoyed the dinner. “It was magnificent,” said Father McGrath. “It was nice to be part of a good community event, and to be honored at it was very nice. It’s a nice thing to be a part of a joyful evening. We received a trophy, which we now have on display in the entrance way of the lower level of our church. I got a new appreciation of what P.E.A.C.E., Inc. does.” Father McGrath mentioned that St. Mary of the Lake pastoral associate Mary Gregory had attended the dinner and enjoyed it very much. She attended St. Anthony of Padua’s School as a child. Father McGrath was very surprised and felt very humbled when he learned that his parish had won the award.

“God has blessed us in so many ways, so we have tried to share with St. Anthony’s,” said Father McGrath. “Our parishioners feel very good about sharing our blessings. Each week, we publish the amount that we send.” As Father McGrath reflected on the benefits of his parish’s relationship with St. Anthony’s, he said, “You can’t measure the benefits. When you share in the spirit of the Gospel, the blessings are many.”

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