Keeping History Alive

May 11-17, 2006
Keeping History Alive
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
Society of Parish Historians to Hold Spring Meeting at Cathedral

The Society of Parish Historians has been quietly dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich history of parishes. The group of 70 members works in close collaboration with Diocesan Archivist Carl Roesch. He and his volunteers gather and catalog all the items sent to the archives located in the Chancery. Since 1983, Roesch has been maintaining archival collections of information and materials of historical value for the diocese and parishes.

Bishop Frank Harrison approved the establishment of the Society of Parish Historians in 1985. The mission of the Society is to preserve Catholic historical heritage by researching and preserving individual parish histories. The Society’s goal is to bring all those who are dedicated to their particular church’s history together to support and advance them in their work. Anyone can join the Society. One does not have to be the historian of a parish to belong.

The Society meets once in the spring and then again in the fall at one of the parishes in the diocese. Talks and displays about how to gather, preserve and record parish histories are given. The group’s spring meeting scheduled for Saturday, May 20, will be especially meaningful. It is the 20th anniversary of the first meeting of the Society of Parish Historians in 1986. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. John the Evangelist Church in Syracuse will host the meeting.

The gathering will begin at 10 a.m. with a welcoming address by Bishop James Moynihan at the Cathedral Parish Center. Refreshments will be provided and free parking will be available in the parking lot located to the left of the Parish Center. Following Bishop Moynihan’s address, a tour of the Cathedral, including the crypt, will be conducted. Also on display will be the 175-year-old brick from the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, which was sealed in 1825 and given to Bishop Patrick Ludden by Pope Leo XIII. Because the Cathedral is consolidating with St. John Evangelist Church, the group will then depart for St. John’s with one of the Cathedral’s hosts providing directions. Free parking will be available. Once there, participants will be given a historical presentation of St. John’s, the first cathedral of Syracuse.

Following the presentation, a business meeting will be held, followed by the election of officers for the 2006-2008 term. Offices include president, vice president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, treasurer and four delegates from each region of the diocese. The meeting will end with lunch being served in the church hall.

Ed Long, interim president of the Society of Parish Historians, said the meeting hopes to show through the anniversary activities how even the “bishop’s church” of the diocese is merging with another church and is not exempt from change. In addition, an open house will be held on Sunday, May 21 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the Cathedral. It is open to all in the diocese and is particularly aimed at sharing the Cathedral’s history and ecclesiastical art with St. John’s parishioners. St. John’s parishioners will be invited guests of the Cathedral. Guides representing both parishes will be placed at 18 stations throughout the Cathedral to answer questions and to explain the various sections (stained glass, relics in the altars, Holy Door brick) of the Cathedral. Refreshments will be available in the Parish Center throughout the open house.

“The Society of Parish Historians is in the process of reorganizing,” explained Long. He is running for the group’s presidential office. “If I’m elected, there are a number of things I would like to see happen,” he said. “I’d like to see our website used more often. Each month, I would like to see one of our historians put a brief history of their church on the website. I would also like to see more of an outreach to the parishes in the diocese that don’t belong to the Society. With the closing of many parishes looming on the horizon, the problem of where the sacramental records will be stored and how they will be located will become a central question, and tracking them down a daunting task for many. The parish historian, working in conjunction with archivist Carl Roesch through a central registry in the archives that will list the location of these records, may be the answer.” Long said that it is especially important for parishes that will eventually close to have their contribution to the diocese be preserved for researchers and future generations.

As historian for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Long has a natural interest in the Society of Parish Historians. A parishioner of the Cathedral since 1980, Long has been a member of the Society since 2004. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” remarked Long. “I look forward to the meetings. It’s wonderful because I get to talk with the other historians about their parishes and the diocese. It’s beautiful — seeing history through someone else’s eyes. They are very knowledgeable.” Margaret Long, a member of the Society, also enjoys participating in the group. Father Neal Quartier, who is the rector of the Cathedral and administrator at St. John’s, appointed her parish historian of St. John the Evangelist in Syracuse. “I was happy to contribute the knowledge that I have about the church,” said Long. “I know quite a bit about the church. Over 50 years ago, I was born and baptized in the parish. I completely enjoy being a member of the Society. Ed Long is a tremendous source of knowledge for both churches. It’s a pleasure working with him.”

Those interested in their parish’s histories and willing to contribute information and historical data to the diocesan archives are encouraged to join the Society of Parish Historians. For further information about the Society, call Ed Long at the Chancery Archives Office at (315) 470-1493 or the website:

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