To the editor:
As a parishioner of St. Mary’s Church in Oswego, New York, I felt compelled to respond to Bishop Cunningham’s recent press release in which stated: “Following an extensive locally-based process, I received a consensus based on recommendations from the Oswego community that St. Paul’s Church should be the home of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish”, and that you were affirming the “consensus recommendation.”
I later received the letter of May 11, 2019 that was referred to in the press release.
Neither I nor any resident of the city of Oswego with whom I have spoken was asked or even given an opportunity to express an opinion as to which church would be selected as the sole remaining active parish in the city. For that reason, I found the statement in the press release that the decision was based on a “consensus” of the Oswego community to be entirely disingenuous.
St. Mary’s Church, which was completed in 1917 and consecrated in September 1925, is a spiritual and architectural treasure to the people of Oswego. The design of the Church was based on Gothic European churches of the 13th century, and the stones used to construct the Church were gathered by parishioners from the local fields. The natural wood altars and statuary were all hand-carved in the Black Forest of Germany, and the stained glass windows are absolutely exquisite.
Upon its completion in January 1924, the Oswego Daily Palladium reported that “No more beautiful structure exists in Central New York than St. Mary’s Church,” and that architects and other experts had pronounced St. Mary’s Church “to be the finest church of moderate size in the state.” In short, St. Mary’s is, without question, one of the most beautiful, architecturally significant, and spiritual places of worship in the Diocese — and possibly in the State of New York.
Contrary to the statement made in the diocese’s press release, the “consensus” among the people in Oswego is that it would be inconceivable for the diocese (or anyone else) to prefer St. Paul’s Church (a nondescript, outdated 1970s-style building with limited off-street parking) to St. Mary’s Church. Since we do not know precisely what factors the appointed committee took into account in rendering its decision, we can only speculate that the decision was based on projected maintenance and operating costs and/or the sentiments of a small, but vocal, minority whose children are currently attending the Catholic school associated with St. Paul’s Parish.
Anyone who is familiar with St. Mary’s Church would agree that the Syracuse diocese is extremely blessed to have in St. Mary’s Church a magnificent place of worship unlike any other, and that the diocese has a corresponding duty to preserve and maintain this treasure for future generations. Changing demographics and a school that is here today, but could be gone tomorrow, are no excuse for disclaiming that responsibility. The suggestion made in the bishop’s May 11, 2019 letter that items might be moved from St. Mary’s Church to St. Paul’s Church as a result of the consolidation is simply unthinkable.
Although common sense would dictate that the most effective way to ensure the preservation of the structure would have been to continue operating St. Mary’s Church as the combined single parish in the city of Oswego, the appointed committee rejected that option.
I, like so many other Catholics in Oswego am absolutely appalled by the misguided decision, and I can only hope that, despite selecting St. Paul’s Church as the sole remaining active parish, the diocese will continue to promote the use of St. Mary’s Church for Catholic worship, and will make a public commitment to preserve it in perpetuity for future generations. If the diocese decides to raise funds to be used exclusively for preservation of St. Mary’s Church. I would be honored to be the first contributor.
Finally, if any church leaders find this letter to be disrespectful or offensive in any way, I apologize. That was certainly not my intention. I have a great deal of respect for them and other members of the Catholic clergy, and I am well aware of the difficulties the diocese faces. However, I am nearly 97 years old and I am extremely passionate about St. Mary’s Church. My stepmother was an Irish immigrant who, as a parishioner of St. Mary’s, volunteered to help feed the workers during the construction of the Church and made other personal sacrifices to contribute to the effort.
Very truly yours,
Patricia O. Hanley