Bishop establishes Oswego church as shrine
By Katherine Long | Editor
OSWEGO — St. Mary of the Assumption became “a house of prayer for all people” Aug. 15 as Bishop Douglas J. Lucia inaugurated the church as a diocesan shrine.
“This morning, we gather on this beautiful Feast of the Assumption, we gather in this house of God, as we today celebrate it becoming a house of prayer for all people, especially for the people of our diocese,” the bishop said during the first of two special Masses he offered at the shrine that day.
St. Mary of the Assumption parish was founded in 1849 and the current church structure was completed in 1925. In 2020, Bishop Lucia merged the parish territories of St. Joseph, St. Mary, St. Paul, St. Stephen the King, and St. Peter in Oswego and the mission of Sacred Heart in Scriba to form Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Oswego, and established St. Mary’s Church as a personal parish and oratory dedicated to offering the Latin Mass. St. Mary’s is the first church in the diocese to be established as a shrine by a bishop, Bishop Lucia said.
At St. Mary’s, “Masses will be offered in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms and Eucharistic Adoration will be available, as will the Sacrament of Penance,” the bishop wrote in an Aug. 6 letter announcing the establishment of the shrine. (Read the bishop’s letter on page 8 of this issue.) “Furthermore, individuals and parish groups alike from throughout the Diocese of Syracuse and even beyond will be able to journey to this place to find spiritual renewal and solace.”
The bishop told the Sun he wanted to establish a shrine “for the spiritual needs of the diocese, especially as we go into the synod. I wanted a place where we could come and pray.”
About 80 people gathered for the first Mass celebrated at the shrine, a Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Bishop Lucia, the principal celebrant, was joined by Father James Schultz, the first pastor of the new shrine church; Father Schultz had served as the pastoral administrator of St. Mary’s for the last year.
In his homily, Bishop Lucia shared insights from his recent silent retreat at the monastery of the Order of the Monastic Sisters of Bethlehem of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno. Homilies are not offered during Masses celebrated there, he explained; rather, the sisters and retreatants spend 30 minutes in silent, prayerful reflection after the liturgy.
“I began to appreciate those 30 minutes so much,” the bishop said. “I began to really understand what … the sisters were doing by allowing God’s word to enter into them and form them.” He connected that practice to the Gospel reading for the Vigil of the Assumption: “While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’ He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it’” (Lk 11:27-28).
Mary’s “blessedness was because she acted; she took to heart God’s word,” Bishop Lucia said. “And I’ve been thinking about you and me. What about us, if we really did the same? How different would our lives be if we took seriously God’s word? Not just saying that we heard God’s word, but even more that we let God’s word come into us?”
The Feast of the Assumption is an “invitation to open our lives more and more to God,” the bishop said.
“As we come to this house of prayer, this new shrine, which is a place of pilgrimage — and what is pilgrimage but an encounter with God — here we come and we, in a sense, join ourselves to our mother Mary. She who served by her suffering. And so here we can bring our suffering. She who gave her life in service. And here we can, again, learn more and more of how God wants us to serve, how God wants us to love him and to love one another.”
It was in the silence of her heart that Mary could say yes to God, Bishop Lucia said, “and that’s also what we’re invited to learn here today.”
Recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament preceded the second Mass of the day.
Bishop Lucia offered the first “Pilgrim Mass” in the Ordinary Form, joined by Father Schultz and Father John Canorro, pastor of Christ the Good Shepherd. As Mass began, the bishop blessed the Shrine of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, newly installed near the sanctuary; the shrine was transferred from St. Therese Church in Munnsville, which closed earlier this summer.
In his homily, the bishop reflected on St. Therese’s example. “She was behind monastery walls, just like the sisters I was with [on retreat]. She wasn’t out in the world, so to speak. And yet the story of her soul, her own vocation of love, has inspired so many,” he said.
“That is my simple prayer,” the bishop continued. “That we learn from Mary, our mother; we learn from our sisters and brothers the saints; we learn from them how to magnify the Lord. And if anything’s going to change our world today, if anything’s going to change our church today and help our neighbors, it’s doing simply what Mary did and what she said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.’”
We pray for that grace, “not only for ourselves but for all who will come to this place on pilgrimage,” Bishop Lucia concluded. “That here, they will hear God’s word anew. Here, they will come to know his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance. Here they will be nourished by the Eucharist. But probably most importantly, here in silence they will come to know God’s voice in their life, just as Mary and the saints of old have. Amen.”