Pasquale and Theresa Ianno, parishioners of St. Mary of Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament Parish, engage in a conversation with Bishop Douglas J. Lucia at a reception following Mass on Saturday, Feb. 22.

By Fran Perritano | Special to the Sun

UTICA — Diocese of Syracuse Bishop Douglas J. Lucia visited St. Mary of Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament Parish for the first time and celebrated Mass on Feb. 22 and 23.

Bishop Lucia delivered the homily at weekend Masses and attended receptions in his honor after all services. His host was Father James Cesta, pastor of the Utica parish for more than 10 years.

Though it was his first visit to Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament, the bishop said he was impressed.

“It’s a very beautiful church. I love the church, I love the wonderful parish community,” he said. “I feel very much at home here.”

Father Cesta said it was an honor having Bishop Lucia here so soon in his apostolate.

“It’s an honor that he chose to visit Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament early in his career as our bishop,” he said. “He enjoys visiting a parish that is vital and attractive and dynamic.”

Mount Carmel is one of the oldest, yet most vibrant, parishes in the diocese. It was established in 1896 and will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2021. The first Mass was offered Dec. 20, 1896, in the basement of the yet-to-be completed church. Nearly five years later, on Sept. 15, 1901, Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini blessed the cornerstone of the new church. Priests from the Scalabrini order served the parish for nearly 100 years.

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia celebrates Mass Saturday, Feb. 22, at St. Mary of Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament Parish in Utica alongside Father James Cesta, pastor of the parish (pictured above and below). Bishop Lucia spent the weekend celebrating Masses at the parish. (Photos courtesy Fran Perritano)

In an interview for the 2020 winter issue of “More Good News,” the parish’s quarterly magazine, Bishop Lucia said his mission as a priest and now as a bishop is to guide his flock.

“I really believe that the role of a bishop is to be a pastor,” Bishop Lucia said. “So through my work in parishes, the people trained me to be a pastor. My work in the various diocesan offices has given me experience in the workings of a diocese.”

In one of Bishop Lucia’s first visits to the Utica area shortly after being named bishop, he not only was a pastor — but also a softball player.

He participated in the Men in Black softball game at Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School, a gathering to help foster vocations to the priesthood. He said in the “More Good News” interview that playing in the game was special to him and, hopefully, it meant something to the other priests, seminarians and others in attendance.

“I enjoy life and I like it when people gather to share and enjoy life’s moments,” he said. “So for me, it was a moment to do something I enjoy, playing ball. I also hoped it showed the priesthood is fun, too, but what makes it work is teamwork.”

To view a photo gallery of the bishop’s visit to Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament and to learn more about the parish, visit You also can follow on Facebook (, Twitter (@mtcutica) and Instagram (, and check out the parish’s YouTube channel at

Perritano is the webmaster and parish magazine editor at St. Mary of

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