WGXC-90.7 FM

A parish prays to get its church restored

Dec 13, 2010 10:22 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="St. Patrick's Parish Church in Catskill, seen when its steeple was repaired a decade ago."][/caption]A group of about 70 Catholic congregants, their families and friends stood in the rain Sunday morning at the footsteps of Catskill's shuttered parish church, St. Patrick's, chanting Hail Marys and praying for a swift resolution to a long-awaited renovation project that would see their church's doors reopen in the coming year. The church on the corner of Bridge and Spring Streets was closed in spring, 2008 for needed repairs to its plaster ceiling, its roof and the parking area due to decades of water damage and mold problems, resulting in many of its congregants joining other congregations around the region. According to a story in today's Daily Mail, Kerns Group Architects of Arlington, Va. have estimated the total project cost would be $2.5 million. The first priority phase, which included parking lot drainage, mold remediation, and roof flashings replacement, was estimated to cost about $600,000. The consensus among the dozens huddled under dripping umbrellas on Sunday was that the work on the church, consecrated in 1884 after replacing a first church built in the 1850s on nearby Williams Street, was not happening fast enough.

Deborah Johnson, one of the event organizers, said the priority for the Albany diocese should be to re-open the church before working on the parking lot.

“We’re hearing from them it’s about money, it’s the parking lot,” she said. “We just don’t feel there’s good reason for the church to be closed.”

Kenneth Goldfarb, communications director of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, said Sunday that the goal of the work was to prevent seepage into the church building, which entailed repairing the parking area’s drainage issues.

“Before you can make any interior repairs — painting and conditioning — you have to seal the building,” he said.

Some parishoners are not convinced.

“They want to start with the parking lot, we want to get in the building,” said Anthony Vespucci, a lifelong member of the St. Patrick’s Church.

Vespucci, with his wife Tonilee, have been attending services in Cairo and Palenville since the church was closed.

“It’s such an old church. We need it. It’s such a part of this community,” he said, adding that his children were baptized in St. Patrick’s.

Like the Vespuccis, many of the church’s parishioners have found communities outside of the parish. Some would rather go to Cairo or Hudson than attend services in the parish center behind the St. Patrick’s Church.

Johnson, who attends services in Hudson, said she would prefer attending services in a church — something she hopes the gathering Sunday would convey to the diocese.

“It’s been a staple of the community for so long,” she said. “We have to get it back.”

After the church was closed in spring 2008, Goldfarb said, the parishes of Athens and Catskill were combined and Saturday mass was alternated between the Catskill parish center and St. Patrick’s Church in Athens. Sunday masses are still held at both locations every week.

The reorganization, Goldfarb said Sunday, was additionally an example of broader impacts occurring in the Catholic church across the Northeast.

“With a dwindling number of priests available, what we ended up doing was merge administration from Athens and Catskill,” he said. “We don’t have enough priests to go around to administer parishes. The diocese has been at the forefront of developing these parish life directors and sacrimental ministeries.”

Parish Life Director Sr. Mary Mazza is the current administer of the Athens and Catskill parishes.

“You have to look at the resources, both personnel as well as financial,” Goldfarb said. “Catskill has not really grown in recent years and the number of Catholics have dropped, probably, as well.”

Goldfarb said the Albany diocese has developed several programs to revitalize Catholicism in the region and preserve the current congregations, including a program to renew Catholic schools around the state.

In an e-mail sent by Goldfarb Sunday, there are plans for the Catskill parish financial council to launch a capital campaign for St. Patrick’s starting in early 2011.

“The campaign brochure will outline details of the repairs needed to promote, preserve and restore the church and to ensure the safety of the parishioners now and for many years to come,” he said in the e-mail.

Parishioners can review the reconstruction and remediation plans by appointment at the parish center, Goldfarb said.

The greater impact, locally, Goldfarb said, was that the congregation was not as unified as in the past.

“It’s unfortunate that people have left the parish,” he said. “It’d be better if people were there to help solve the problem. If everyone united, this could get done quicker.”
Wave Farm / WGXC Acra Contact Info
Mailing: PO Box 13 Acra, NY 12405
Main Office / Acra Studio
(518) 622-2598
WGXC Office
(518) 697-7400
WGXC Hudson Studio
(518) 828-0290
WGXC Feedback
(518) 212-7509 feedback@wgxc.org
Wave Farm / WGXC Acra Studio: 5662 Route 23 Acra, NY 12405
WGXC Hudson Studio: 369 Warren St. Hudson, NY 12534