On Feb. 23, 1941 Our Lady of Good Counsel Church (OLGC) was dedicated by Bishop Walter A. Foery. Originally a mission of St Ambrose, the church’s first census indicates that 243 families (about 925 members) lived in the parish’s geographic area. From the beginning, OLGC was a parish that had strong ties to the local community. The founding families were of mixed nationalities, many of whom worked for the Endicott-Johnson Company, makers of shoes and boots. The strong ties between parish and community were a reflection of the mission of Endicott Johnson to be a vibrant presence in the community through providing parks, low-cost housing, recreational opportunities and medical care.
Through the years, ministries were developed that addressed various needs of the larger community. In 1972, a Catholic Youth Organization was created to encourage healthy lifestyles of young people, both among parishioners and the community-at-large. In 1973, a parish food pantry was established, chaired by Mary Lou Mastro. In 1973 the Golden Age Group was created to help local senior citizens.
Today the legacy of the founding members continues. The food pantry (stocked by parishioners and various community organizations — including a yearly post office drive) continues to serve the needy in the area. Last year about 3,000 people received emergency food. The CYO program, one of the largest in the diocese, welcomes young people from the local community. The Golden Age Group has morphed into the “over 50 club,” different name, same sense of community.
Over the years new connections to the community have been formed. The parish now has a Friday evening soup kitchen, staffed by parishioners and other community members, which serves 80-100 hot meals every week. Young people, as part of their faith formation, are actively involved in the community through the Faith-in-Action program. They help out at three local community soup kitchens, a community food pantry, two nursing homes and the Special Olympics. In partnership with the Broome Developmental Center, they organize and provide activities for many of the clients. We continue to support the larger community through the Rice Bowl collection, SOS Shelter and the New Hope Center of Tioga County through the Souper Bowl Sunday collection.
In 1995 a decision was made to let space in the now-closed school to non-profits only, in keeping with the strong community ties. Meals on Wheels of Western Broome is a major tenant and they provide an invaluable service in allowing senior citizens to stay in their own homes. Several Boy/Girl Scout troops meet weekly in the dedicated “community room.” The local AA group (one of the largest in the area) meets every Sunday evening.
Red Cross holds “communities of faith” blood drives in the parish center. The parish facilitates the emergency evacuation center for Charles F. Johnson School and the Ideal Nursing Home. In addition OLGC has been designated by the American Red Cross chapter as an emergency disaster relief center, capable of housing and feeding up to 500 displaced persons.
When the parish center was built in 2001, it immediately became a central location for meetings and dinners for community groups. Recently, the Samaritan Counseling Center held a fundraising Bavarian Dinner for 250 people. Also, a local Indian community hosted a Hindu New Year’s celebration for 300 people. The parish center has had wedding receptions (one was for 450 people — they were married at St Mary’s in Binghamton). This past year Mom’s House held an event here and the Lions/Lionesses had a rummage sale to help their causes. There is an on-going collection of clothing for the St. Pauly ministry and each Christmas season an overwhelming number of toys and articles of clothing are collected and delivered to Broome County Catholic Charities. When the new pastor, Father Michael Galuppi, arrived one of the first things he wanted to do was expand the Sunday bulletin to let people know about all the ministries and outreach that take place each week at OLGC.
So much has been done in the past 70 years, but much remains to be done. There are parishioners who have a vision. Ideas have been discussed to find a way to bring medical and mental health help to the soup kitchen guests. One very insistent parishioner wants to explore providing shelter for the homeless. The potential for parish-community connections is immense.
Founded in the shadow of Endicott-Johnson, a company light-years ahead in community involvement, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church continues to look for and provide ways to deepen the ties between the Catholic faith community and the larger community. Proud of past work and all those who made it possible, parishioners are sure that the faith community will continue to reach out to all. This is our history and this is our future.
Deacon Tom Harley is parish business administrator at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott.