EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an updated version of the story that appeared online Thursday, May 21.
OSWEGO — Local Catholic leaders say their parish can now move forward with “a lot of hope” after a declaration this week reorganizing the city’s churches into one parish — with a few unique components long sought after by Port City faithful.
On Thursday, Diocese of Syracuse Bishop Douglas Lucia announced the completion of a review of the 2019 decision to consolidate Oswego’s Catholic churches under the newly created parish of Christ the Good Shepherd.
“A parish is a community of believers, and all should be done to build up and sustain its mission of caring for Christ’s flock,” said Lucia in a letter to parishioners dated May 20.
The review confirmed the decision to place the physical parish location (for offices and meeting space) at St. Paul’s, located on the east side of Oswego. Christ the Good Shepherd will still incorporate all of the area’s Catholic churches — St. Paul’s, St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Stephen the King, St. Peter’s, St. Joseph's and Sacred Heart of Scriba — but the houses of worship will be available on a by-request basis for special masses such as funerary and nuptial.
Under Christ the Good Shepherd, St. Mary’s will take on a new role that will allow congregants to “appreciate the beauty” of the centuries-old Extraordinary Mass, commonly known as the Latin Mass or the old rite.
Traditional Latin Mass is the observance of worship celebrated before the Second Vatican Council enacted in 1970, and using the Missal of 1962. The old rite performs portions of Mass in Latin, among other protocol differences.
“Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI both said it’s something that should be out there, and we want to have that as an option for people,” Father John Canorro told The Palladium-Times Friday. “As we move forward, there’s a lot of hope that we’re in a good spot to be back together as a community of faith.”
St. Mary’s will serve Catholics diocese-wide, Canorro said, and despite its new designation as a “personal parish” by Lucia, it will still fall under the purview of Christ the Good Shepherd.
“We’re happy a decision has been made and we know where we’re going,” Canorro said. “We’ve been sitting in limbo for a few months, so knowing where we’re going is the best thing.”
Lucia’s Friday letter pointed to “concerns… that (St. Mary’s) upkeep would impact the finances of the new parish” as the rationale for not selecting it as Christ the Good Shepherd headquarters.
The St. Mary’s “personal parish” will be supported “by its current assets and by freewill donations,” the diocese said. Christ the Good Shepherd will not maintain St. Mary’s nor will St. Mary’s funds be used to sustain Christ the Good Shepherd, according to officials. Fr. Guy Baccaro will remain at St. Mary’s rectory, and the church will have its own bookkeeper, trustees and a finance council. Lucia also said it was his “intention to bring a Society of Apostolic Life” to St. Mary’s to conduct the Latin Mass. Father George Wurz will also be a member of the clergy of Christ the Good Shepherd, Canorro said.
With St. Paul’s designated the “parish church” and St. Mary’s a “personal parish” to draw Catholics from all over the diocese seeking the Latin Mass, St. Steven’s, St. Peter’s, St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart of Scriba will all be designated “secondary parishes.” They will still be part of Christ the Good Shepherd parish, but available for specific use.
There remains a significant amount of planning — and waiting — to be done before any masses can be held anywhere, officials cautioned. In New York, gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited by order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo due to the coronavirus pandemic. When services can begin again, Canorro said, St. Mary’s plans to set the Extraordinary Mass as its regular worship program.