By Deacon Tom Picciano
SUN contributing writer
ENDWELL — A faithful group of women and men meet each morning for the rosary and Mass at Christ the King Church. Most have made it part of a routine for a dozen or more years. While faces have changed, some of the general intercessions have been offered unchanged for years.
“For the safety of the unborn,” they recite, “let us pray to the Lord.” Prayers follow for travelers, for healing, for the sick and shut-ins, for prayers answered, for the Holy Father, bishops, priests and deacons, for caregivers to the mentally and physically ill — each petition originated with someone who once attended — or still attends Mass there.
“That’s the most amazing thing about it. If someone is not there, they put forth the same intention every day. Somebody usually comes out and says it,” Father Hobbes observed. “There’s a closeness there that probably could be an argument for small Christian communities of various interests that might help us in the future.”
The community that gathers each weekday at Christ the King joins hands across the chapel during the Lord’s Prayer. Moments later, each makes their way forward for Communion.
“It shows what good things can happen when the Eucharist is the center of our lives, that it does build community. It does teach people how to reach out and help each other. If you can get that kind of spirit working in other communities, working together it would be great,” Father Hobbes said.
“There’s a power there in that room that’s very, very special,” he added.
Three stained glass windows beautify the small chapel. It was part of a building expansion following a 1988 fire in the main sanctuary. The crucifix that was above the church altar before the fire now hangs behind the chapel altar. Statues of Mary and Joseph are on shelves on the walls to the side. Mass-goers sit in groups of upholstered chairs, facing the front from three sides.
One day recently, more than a dozen people sang “Happy Birthday” to a friend just moments after morning Mass concluded in the cozy room. Before heading out to breakfast together, they spoke to The Catholic SUN. Rather than speak individually, they preferred to share their comments as a group. The only names they wanted to use were of those who were no longer with them.
Those who have passed away include Carl Giammichele, a parish founder who would set up for Mass and Mel Spirito who shared her voice by reading Scripture each morning. There was also Barbara Brink, another founder, who walked from her nearby home, and Bernie Balles, who had also lived nearby. Harold Purtell would often attend 8 a.m. Mass and then serve at funerals.
“We’re a support group for each other and the real reason is to receive our Communion, the Body and Blood of our Lord. Our devotion to him,” said one member of the morning Mass group. “We have also supported each other through trials and tribulations through our losses, through health issues.”
“We’ve developed a strong bond,” said another. There’s always some time after the rosary and before Mass begins to talk about the day’s news as the group looks to “solve the problems of the world.”
The core group is made up of both women and men, mostly retired. If someone doesn’t attend on a particular day, others worry if they’re all right. If they hear of an illness of a group member or family member or just a person who needs a prayer, that name will be among the petitions. After Mass, Father Hobbes waits in the hall outside to give a warm greeting to each person who attended.
“What a way to start off the day!” exclaimed one woman.
“It’s cozy. I don’t think we’d be as close if we didn’t have the chapel,” added a second.
But with the prospect of reconfiguration in the Syracuse Diocese, sadness looms at Christ the King. “We’re heartbroken,” another woman expressed.
Christ the King and Our Lady of Angels are slated to merge. A committee made up of the two parish council presidents, trustees, priests and deacons has been meeting for months to guide the effort. In August, a new pastor will be assigned to both parishes, but sometime after, one new parish will emerge. As members of the smaller of the two buildings, Christ the King parishioners are beginning to accept the inevitable.
No matter what the future holds, members of the morning Mass group say they will keep their bond. “We’re going to make it a point to try to get together,” they said.
“A lot of people would like to continue the daily Mass here if at all possible, even if we move someplace else. I’m not exactly sure how practical with that being the situation. Maybe occasionally,” Father Hobbes said. “I think as a group they sort of seem to do a lot of good things.”