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Bishop Douglas J. Lucia will celebrate a Mass at 10 a.m. Sunday, July 16, at St. Lucy Church as it marks its 150th anniversary.

The Rev. John J. Kennedy, a priest of the Albany Diocese, was appointed as the first pastor. Father Kennedy was nearly blind and vowed that he would dedicate this new church in honor of St. Lucy, patroness of the blind, if he regained his sight. Miracle of miracles, Fr. Kennedy regained his sight and true to his promise, the new church was named St. Lucy.

The first Mass was celebrated on Nov. 1, 1873. Bishop Patrick A. Ludden stated that St. Lucy’s was the “handsomest“ church in the city. It is no wonder that famed local architect Archimedes Russell was responsible for its design. Fr. Kennedy, who was much loved by all, served as pastor of St. Lucy’s for 34 years.

St. Lucy’s experienced rapid growth and in 1891 a new St. Lucy’s Academy opened in September to three grades with 150 students. Three years later, St. Lucy’s School opened with 860 students taught by 18 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Beginning in the 1950s, the parish neighborhood faced dramatic changes with the construction of the James Geddes housing units. Fr. John Burke, who became pastor in 1965, brought the church to the neighborhood by establishing a center known as Unity House. It was then through the vision of Fr. Ray McVey that Unity House evolved into Unity Acres in Orwell, Oswego County, which would serve as a home for alcoholics and homeless men.

In the spirit of Vatican II, Fr. Ted Sizing, pastor from 1970 to 1978, undertook a major renovation of the church, creating a new sanctuary that enabled people to be closer to the altar.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Fr. Jim Carey was instrumental in founding a Native American Community in honor of then Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the 17th century Mohawk. Fr. Carey also took the initiative in leading the Native American Community in petitioning Rome to make Tekakwitha a saint … and in fact they were successful. On Oct. 21, 2012, Kateri was officially declared a saint.

In 1998 the church experienced enormous damage in the famous Labor Day Storm. The storm took down the steeple and bell tower, but the statue of St. Tekakwitha was unharmed despite being a few feet from total devastation. In the basement of the church the huge bell was found in the midst of the debris with the prophetic description “Resurrexit Alleluia.” The motto of the parish became “Our steeple is broken but our spirit is strong.”

It was under the leadership of Fr. Jim Mathews, who became pastor in 1991, that the entire Syracuse community came together to rebuild the church with exciting changes in bringing the altar out into the body of the church.

Fr. Mathews also served as pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle parish from 2002 to 2009. In January 2009, St. Andrew’s was closed by the diocese and was merged with St. Lucy’s. Several of St. Andrew’s ministries continue on at St. Lucy’s, for example, the Dorothy Day Award Dinner; the Villanueva Nicaragua Maternal & Child Health Program (aka Our Sister Community); and the St. Andrew’s Justice & Peace Committee. At the time of the merger All Saints Parish joined in support of Our Sister Community in Nicaragua.

The history of St Lucy’s would not be complete without acknowledging the many vocations of sisters and priests who came from the parish and who are too numerous to mention.

St. Lucy’s has been particularly blessed with religious sisters who have given outstanding witness to the Gospel. Who could forget Sr. Lenore and Sr. Rose who faithfully ministered to neighborhood people through the Food Pantry. Our beloved Sr. Margaret, Sr. Eileen and Sr. Patricia who have walked so faithfully with the poor, the homeless, those struggling with addictions, and especially with our youth. You are truly blessed among women.

So Happy Anniversary, St. Lucy. May you continue to be a light for your people.

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