To the editor,
In trying to save St. Mary’s, I have been called names by some fellow Catholics.
They say I care more about buildings, architecture, than I do faith. I forgive them for their hurtful and callous accusations. I have been disheartened by so much rudeness towards those who desire to save Our Lady on the Hill from being turned into a gym or, worse, torn down. So much anger. So much distrust. It really became hard to bear.
However, there was one uplifting thing I noticed: Those wishing to save St. Mary’s came from all kinds of backgrounds, from the oldest families in Oswego to recent settlers, from senior citizens to college students, even children, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat. Some have attacked us, but the people defending Our Lady on the Hill are strong, united, rosaries in hand, and will stand up for her till the end — because she stands tall for us.
When St. Mary’s first closed in July, I saw a record of St. Mary’s from the 1860s that listed her then congregants. Among them were Felix and Matilda Robillard (Rebeor), who are my 4th greatgrandparents and the first of my family to settle in Oswego, from Quebec. I felt different after I saw their names, more connected to St. Mary’s than ever before. I felt their voices, the voices of all the great families of Oswego, the Irish, French-Canadian, and Italian names that are so engrained in this town — I could almost hear all of them joining in during Mass at St. Mary’s, singing with us, praying with us, encouraging us. I could see Rosemary Nesbitt, with her iconic hair, with old Fr. Hopkins, leading the way of the spirits of Oswego, forming a shield around St. Mary’s — and then came the miracle. She was reopened for us! We had several more months to honor Our Lord within her. I even touched my Rosary —which was blessed by Fulton Sheen — to the statue of Mary inside the church, to bring the Venerable Bishop’s aid to our cause.
Some will say St. Mary’s is unsustainable. Like all buildings, she is susceptible to disrepair, but believe me, we will take care of her if given the chance. We’ve done so before, we will do so again. Every consecrated stone in that building is so precious. I dare you to say St. Peter’s Basilica is “just a building.” Why not paint over the Sistine Chapel? It’s just old, cracked paint, isn’t it? Let’s just knock down Notre Dame, it’s just a fire-damaged building. Why were these buildings built so magnificently? It’s scripture in stone. They’re majestic because our religion is majestic.
In June, I pleaded with the former bishop to save Oswego’s Notre Dame from burning down. Our new bishop has done so, and we, those of us trying to save the robe of stone which clothes our savior in the majesty He deserves, thank our new Bishop for what he has done. My new plea to him is this: please, give us a chance, and let us keep Our Lady on the Hill.
Benjamin J. Rebeor