VESTAL — After more than a dozen years of prayer, planning and hard work, the parish community of Our Lady of Sorrows Church gathered to celebrate the first Mass in its new church Dec. 22.
Some 800 people attended the dedication Mass, celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham along with pastor Father John Kurgan, former pastor Msgr. John Putano, priest in residence Father Matthew Brown and Deacon Dale Crotsley.
The new church complex stands on 15 acres of land at 801 Main Street, the site of the former Our Lady of Sorrows school, about a mile from the previous church campus at 157 Clark Street. The new complex provides needed space for the 1,500-family parish. Conversations about the need for a new, larger church began in 2000 during Msgr. Putano’s pastorate; ground was broken on the project in September 2012.
In his homily, Bishop Cunningham commended those assembled for their contributions of funds, work and prayer and said he was “privileged to be here now to see and to rejoice in the work of your hands.”
“The dedication of a church building marks an important moment in the life of the community, for it represents a time of new vitality and life for worship, for fellowship, for mission,” he said, also noting that a “church is not built only from bricks and mortar. It is formed by the living stones, the assembly, whose faith brings them to this place to encounter the Lord and to receive from him the divine grace that sustains and strengthens them for the journey of faith.”
At a reception following the Mass, Father Kurgan said that the day was both exciting and emotional. That morning, he celebrated the last Mass at the former church. “There were some tears, certainly, because of everything that had happened in that building since 1951,” he said, “but people applauded at the end of the Mass when we were preparing to take the Blessed Sacrament to the new church. They applauded the fact that the community is growing, that it’s vibrant, that it’s alive.”
In addition to donating, parishioner Helen Gates helped to choose some of the church’s interior elements and to clean in advance of the dedication Mass, though she quickly noted that everyone in the parish worked hard along the way. A parishioner since 1964, she said, “I really am going to miss my old church [building], but this — this is really just fantastic.”