CENTRAL SQUARE — A few inches of snow couldn’t stop an event long in the making for Divine Mercy Parish.
Bishop Robert J. Cunningham and hundreds of members of the Divine Mercy community braved the elements April 3 to bless and break ground for the parish’s new church.
Divine Mercy Parish was formed in 2013 through the joining of the former St. Michael’s Church in Central Square and St. Agnes Church in Brewerton. But the model of one parish on two campuses — homes to five buildings in need of repairs and separated by four miles — “wasn’t good for survival,” explained pastor Father Christopher Celentano. “And we wanted to not just survive, but we wanted to thrive.”
After demographic and feasibility studies, surveys, and much discussion, the parish ultimately decided to build a new church for their faith community. The proposal was received “certainly with sadness and grief, but also hope and joy,” Father Celentano said in a phone interview with the Sun following the groundbreaking. “We were grieving the past and reverencing the past, [and] at the same time looking forward to the future.”
The new church will connect to the existing parish center on the former St. Michael’s campus. Four stained glass windows will honor the patron saints of the areas served by the parish: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Agnes, St. Bernadette and St. Mary of the Assumption. Four additional windows will honor representatives of mercy: St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, soon-to-be-saint Mother Teresa and St. Marianne Cope.
The project will cost an estimated $1.4 million and will be funded through the sale of parish properties, parish savings, and the nearly $1 million already pledged by parishioners, according to Father Celentano.
A mid-September completion date is estimated and “we’re hoping and praying that we can have the dedication Mass on the feast of St. Faustina on October 5,” Father Celentano said.
“I’m humbled by the people’s ability to sacrifice the traditional places of worship in order to embrace the future so that we can more effectively spread the Gospel and worship together as a community in one location,” he noted.
And as for the snowy groundbreaking, Father Celentano said they never considered cancelling. With Bishop Cunningham already coming to the parish to celebrate Confirmation, and considering the obstacles overcome by the parish to bring the project to fruition, “the weather was just small peanuts,” he said.
See photos from the ceremony below. All photos for the Sun by Dave Garrett.