VESTAL — Ron and Patti Heebner walked the path through the Stations of the Cross shrine outside St. Vincent de Paul-Blessed Sacrament Church Aug. 11. They found a quiet time as hundreds of other parishioners shared a meal in the nearby church hall. Earlier that day, a dedication was held for the outdoor shrine, new parking area and updated church.
The ceremonies marked the end of a one-year process, a few months shy of second anniversary of the merger of the two parishes. Blessed Sacrament parishioners were welcomed to St. Vincent’s at the end of 2011, following the second flood in five years to devastate their church.
“[Pastor] Father [Edward] Zandy handled the merger very well. He brought over little things; he tried to make sure that anything he planned included both churches,” Patti Heebner said, admiring the shrine. “I can see people coming here. He has benches strategically placed where someone can walk for a while, they can read, they can bring a prayer book or read devotions. This was well thought out.”
With the flood of 2011 still in the minds of many St. Vincent-Blessed Sacrament parishioners, the shrine, grotto and rosary garden stand as testament to the merger of the two parishes.
“It’s beautifully done. It’s such a symbol of both parishes because so much of what was important to us at Blessed Sacrament was brought over — the stations and altar and the shrine of Mary,” said trustee Debbie Grassi, who has been a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament since before the merger.
The refinished stations, made of metal, are posted on wooden plaques along a path that winds through a grassy area with trees located alongside the entrance road to the parish. Ron Heebner remembered the stations had come from Blessed Sacrament.
“They hung in Blessed Sacrament’s halls there. We set them over one side. Then it became the end of a wing. We measured it out and hung them as even as we could. Then the flood came and we took them down,” he said.
The altar down the meandering path, said trustee Greg Hrostowski, is at the base of a gentle amphitheater in front of the Blessed Mother. Needed upgrades and improvements to the entrance, parking lot and walkways, along with landscaping, complete the project. According to Father Zandy, more than $600,000 was spent on the refurbishments, which also include a new kitchen, new doors, handicapped access including electric doors and a drainage system.
He also said the project came out beautifully, highlighting a campfire area off to the side of the shrine, which is used by young people on evenings before they head off on retreat.
“Everything lights up at night. The stations light up at night. The grotto lights up at night. So if people want to come at night…they can walk the stations at night,” Father Zandy said. “We had beautiful grounds here so why not utilize them? That’s my philosophy.”