Holy Cross Church offers welcoming Mass for St. Mary’s parishioners
By luke eggleston / SUN staff writer
DEWITT — The people of Holy Cross Church are no strangers to change. Last year, the parish community said goodbye to its old church and opened a new one.
Now the parish will embrace change once again as it opens its doors to the community of St. Mary’s in Jamesville, which held its final Mass Sunday, July 1.
Although the church was built to accommodate a larger parish community, Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel said that it was not in anticipation of Holy Cross’s merger with St. Mary’s.
Sunday, July 8, Holy Cross held a special welcoming Mass during which items from St. Mary’s were ceremonially introduced to the church including a crucifix, a parish directory, a sacramental book and a rosary as a reminder that St. Mary’s is named for the Holy Mother. The final items were the bread and the wine, which were consecrated and distributed during the Mass. In addition, a special bulletin was designed for the Mass with images of both Holy Cross and St. Mary’s Churches.
Leo and Barbara Clark attended St. Mary’s in Jamesville for 39 years. Both said that closing St. Mary’s was a sad occasion but that the new parish community they found themselves in was very welcoming.
“The people are very friendly and they’ve been very nice,” Barbara Clark said.
Joe Fielding attended St. Mary’s for 25 years before he began coming to Holy Cross two months ago. Fielding believes the priest shortage that has impacted the church nationwide is a growing problem that must be addressed especially given an expanding Catholic population.
“It was hard. You get used to a place after 25 years and then to change,” Fielding said. “I feel that the church does have to make some changes to policy because there’s a lower number of priests being ordained, while the population of the world is getting larger. I think the church is in trouble too.”
Fielding noted, however, that the parish community at Holy Cross has been very hospitable.
Generations of St. Mary’s and Holy Cross parishioners alike attended the Mass and Msgr. Yeazel opened by making special mention of the new attendees.
Msgr. Yeazel’s homily heavily stressed evangelization and the necessity of acting now before crises emerge.
He noted that evangelization presents new challenges for the 21st century Christian.
“Going door to door was easier in Jesus’ times,” Msgr. Yeazel said.
He elaborated by using several examples.
For instance, on one occasion, Ed McMahon, the famous sidekick of former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson, answered a knock at his door to find two Jehovah’s Witnesses standing outside in the rain. Because of the inclement weather, McMahon allowed the pair to enter his home. As they sat in his living room, McMahon, anticipating that the Jehovah’s Witnesses would launch into their denomination’s pitch, asked, “What now?”
“We don’t know, we’ve never gotten this far,” they replied.
Msgr. Yeazel used the example to illustrate that evangelization is challenging for everyone, even its most ardent practitioners.
“You see it’s just as hard for them as it is for us,” he said. “They have as many problems as we do bringing the word of the Lord to people’s doorsteps.”
Msgr. Yeazel underscored the urgency of bringing Christ to people.
“The Lord says don’t wait for a crisis, be there for one another now,” he said. “In the church right now, there are people that have that feeling that they’re drowning.”
He cycled through a number of types of personal crises and also noted that new parishioners in attendance might be going through something similar as they say goodbye to their old church.
“Maybe many of you are from St. Mary’s and you’re brokenhearted because you’ve lost your church,” Msgr. Yeazel said. He noted that it is important to begin “sharing with one another” as a community “right now.”
“People need to know that they are loved and the Lord tells us to go and tell them that,” he said.
After Msgr. Yeazel delivered his homily, the special items from St. Mary’s were brought to the altar. Holy Cross music director Ernest Camerota selected a special personal composition for the Mass entitled Together We Grow. Camerota noted that he had written the song for the first Mass of the new church.
Following the Mass, the parish held a special welcoming reception for parishioners from St. Mary’s in the church’s spacious hall.
While most of the families from St. Mary’s are complying with the Syracuse Diocese’s decision to merge its parish community with that of Holy Cross, a small percentage have stated that they will not attend the new church. A modest number of St. Mary’s parishioners signed a letter to the Vatican asking to have their parish remain open. According to Msgr. Yeazel, such requests are almost never honored.