Cleansing Fire

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Forging ahead to a new tomorrow

October 17th, 2011, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

The following is an email I received from a reader today. I thought it was honest, balanced, and worth sharing here as a post. We’re hoping to publish more of the St. Andrew story in the future, so stay tuned.


Dear Cleaningfiredor Leaders,
Before this morning’s last Mass was celebrated at Saint Andrew on Portland Avenue, it was announced that copies of the October issue of the CATHOLIC COURIER were available for those of us who were by-passed this month.

Yes, I had not received a copy in the mail so I made a point of securing a copy of the diocesan newspaper.

Bishop Clark’s FORGING AHEAD TO A NEW TOMORROW is an excellent article.

Yet, something sticks in my throat. Am I experiencing diocesan hypocrisy? Did no one on Buffalo Road not know that Saint Andrew Catholic Church (once clustered with Saint Philip Neri and more recently incorporated with Annunciation to form LIGHT OF CHRIST CATHOLIC CHURCH) was “an ideal parish” with all four of the “necessary elements of vibrant parish life”?

As Chris Carter of ESPN is apt to say COME ON MAN.

Saint Andrew, the beacon of hope on Portland Avenue and much of NorthEast Rochester, consistently exemplified the “four pillars of excellence” written about by the Bishop in his ALONG THE WAY column in the October issue of the CATHOLIC COURIER.

I challenge anyone to deny that Saint Andrew for years consistently and faithfully promoted
* the evangelization and ongoing teaching of adults and children
* the centrality of our worship in our lives as Christians
* a sense of mission
* our fulfillment of that mission through service to others, especially the poor

Early in the first decade of the 21st century, the Saint Andrew pastor, Father Mike Mayer, encouraged and instructed every parish ministry to reflect and report how each ministry actively participated in the New Evangelization. Many of the same questions that Bishop Clark quotes in his article are the same questions we at Saint Andrew regularly asked, answered and strove to implement.

Look, I can’t impugn anyone’s motives about any actions taken or not taken. We have to assume good faith on the part of others. But how can I not assert that the Diocese struck the shepherd (Father Mike was told he could not come back to Saint Andrew) and scattered the sheep by accepting a plan that closed and sold Saint Andrew?

I go to sleep at night convinced that the real estate market value of Saint Andrew was the priority for the Diocese, not those four pillars of excellence of what the diocese claims to be an ideal parish. Saint Andrew was vibrant with all four necessary elements of vibrancy manifest in the parish’s life.

Something sticks in my throat. Am I experiencing hypocrisy?

I am your brother and we are family.
Brother of Penance

PS By no means does this email or any other I send indicate dissatisfaction with the new pastoral staff of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish. Those men exemplify love for Jesus Christ and the People of God entrusted to their pastoral care. In effect, they are trying to make the most of what they have been given. For weeks they go without a day off. May God provide each with some rest.

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20 Responses to “Forging ahead to a new tomorrow”

  1. avatar christian says:

    I agree whole-heartedly with the post above.

    Sunday, October 16th, 2011 was very difficult for all parishioners as well as all those who have a special place in their heart for St. Andrew Church and graced us with their presence. When we arrived for our last mass on Sunday, the statues of Mary and St. Bernadette were gone from the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, the statue of St. Andrew was gone from his pedestal, the statue of St. Jude was gone from near the doorway on the left, the statue of Mary and the infant Jesus was missing from the left side altar, the statue of St. Anthony with the infant Jesus was gone from near the doorway on the right, the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was gone from the shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the statue of St. Theresa was gone from the right side of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine, and the statue of St. Joseph with the infant Jesus was gone from his pedestal.
    The sacramental oils were gone from their special cabinet. The library in the back room was gone.
    The large crucifix was still on the wall in the sanctuary and the marble altar was still there. The tabernacle was still present.

    Having mass in a stripped church cast a somber tone to the sad, solemn day. What wasn’t affixed to the walls and still remaining was being cleared out after the mass. (The final papers for the sale of the church building were being signed within a few days and the church needed to be cleared out. Mass was celebrated at St. Andrew Church until the end).
    The Pentecostal Church which is buying the building has stated that they treasure the stained glass windows of the saints and the other affixed artwork of a Catholic nature and will “reverence them.” They will not remove them but will take good care of them).

    Fr. Bob Werth gave a beautiful, unique, and meaningful homily composed of honoring all the saints which had been represented by statues and all those represented in the stained glass windows, giving background on them and asking us to repeat after him a prayer for each of those saints to help us and walk with us. He also used the “1914 version” of Eucharistic Prayers which included names of the saints. Fr. Robert Werth wore the alb and vestments he was ordained in at St. Andrew in 1979.
    Deacon David Palma remarked that when Msgr. Eckl baptized him at St.Andrew in 1950, he probably didn’t forsee him closing St. Andrew Church on “this day.”
    The day was full of nostalgia and many memories; for many of us, lifetime memories. There were tears, lumps in throats, and voices that broke before and during the mass, but the pinnacle of emotion occurred when the purple ribbon was tied between the handles of the front door signaling the end of 98 years of St. Andrew Church.
    It is difficult to say good-bye to our spiritual home. Please pray for us

  2. avatar brother of penance says:

    Thank you so much, CHRISTIAN, for the precious memory that your posted comment gives us.
    Old man that I am, I can’t read your words without tears welling up.

    Honestly, though, I am really grateful with all of my heart for the grace, mercy, joy
    and great thanksgiving that God gave us through Jesus Christ at SAINT ANDREW CATHOLIC CHURCH.

    MAY JESUS CHRIST BE PRAISED, NOW AND FOREVER

  3. avatar brother of penance says:

    The pain of closure of Saint Andrew Church is real.
    Healing can be found in God alone.

    May we find the grace to always BLESS HIS HOLY NAME…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du0il6d-DAk&feature=related

  4. avatar Kevin says:

    I don’t really know the background to this story because I didn’t pay much attention or was too young, but what exactly happened with St. Andrew Parish? And how did the article prompt this response? Once again, I just don’t know what happened, but with a little background information, I’ll understand a lot better.

  5. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Kevin,
    St. Andrew celebrated their final mass this past Sunday. See Christian’s comment above. Sorry – sometimes I forget to include basic details.

  6. avatar Kevin says:

    Why was it sold? So that Clark can support his own goons on as many things as possible before he is forced to retire? I found out recently that my own grandmother, who was really good friends with Clark, is not that big of a fan of his anymore, apparently the many school and church closings have a lot to do with it.

  7. avatar Dr. K says:

    St. Andrew was sold because Corpus Christi is in massive debt (no thanks to the alleged thievery of their former pastor) and the St. Andrew property was valued at over $1 million. Bishop Clark will not close his former model parish (Corpus) and run the risk of Callan scooping it up.

  8. avatar Kevin says:

    Figures. I could only assume CC won’t ever be closed so that SC doesn’t grab it. And of course it had to go to Pentacostals as well. I’m surprised they’re keeping the stained glass.

  9. avatar christian says:

    I just wanted to give an example of how our gracious sister parish of Transfiguration in Pittsford helped us to carry out the “four pillars of excellence.” Please click on the following link and read:

    http://www.transfigurationpittsford.org/Peace-Justice/St-Andrews-Project.htm

    Please note St. Andrew Food Cupboard (Pantry) on the right side of their page. St. Andrew Food Cupboard will remain and retain the name St. Andrew. They are in desperate need of food, money, and volunteers. This ministry is headed by Margaret Oberst. Please look for the contact information and help out if you can. Thank you.

  10. avatar brother of penance says:

    Christian, you have done it again!

    Your comments warm my heart and refresh my memory of the wonderfully graced ministries
    that thrived for years with so much fruitfulness at the now defunct Saint Andrew Catholic Church.

    Thanks, Christian, for the link to the Transfiguration/Saint Andrew Project. Those sisters and brothers from Church of the Transfiguration [who worshipped and served with us] are genuinely faithful believers, dedicated to our Lord Jesus and God’s Holy People.

    Every first Sunday of the month, Transfiguration Brothers and Sisters worshipped with us at Saint Andrew on Portland Avenue. For years we would see them gathered in our midst for Holy Mass. For years week in week out, these suburbanites would come all the way into the City to serve the poor and help maintain God’s ministries on Portland Avenue and North East Rochester.

    What these more financially endowed Catholics accomplished at Saint Andrew reminds me of
    the great possibilites we have if we live what we preach.

    Late in the 1990’s when the Strategic Planning Teams were in full force….planning clusters and consolidations with an eye to the not too distant closures, I would not mince words. I called upon Diocesan Officials to call forth from the more wealthy suburban parishes missionaries to the city. I contended that City Parishes could be maintained and actually thrive with 5 to 10 suburban families committed to each parish for 3 years of offering time, talent and treasure.

    It worked well at Saint Andrew after Father Mike Mayer made contact with Bob Fein and Karen Knowland of Church of the Transifguration. It worked well until Buffalo Road planned Saint Andrew’s Closure and Sale.

    Yes, as Christian mentioned, CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURAION HELPED SAINT ANDREW CARRY OUT THE FOUR PILLARS OF EXCELLENCE. Alas, to no avail, given the more important Diocesan value: real estate profit at the expense of every thing dear to our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    May God forgive me my unwillingness to relent in calling attention to Diocesan hypocrisy and manipulation.

  11. avatar Nerina says:

    BOP,

    I called upon Diocesan Officials to call forth from the more wealthy suburban parishes missionaries to the city. I contended that City Parishes could be maintained and actually thrive with 5 to 10 suburban families committed to each parish for 3 years of offering time, talent and treasure.

    What an original and excellent suggestion. Do you know if this is being done with any other churches?

  12. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Nerina,
    I got excited about that as well – seems like a great idea. Suburbanites (being one myself) might have (on average) more material resources, but are so often spiritually bankrupt. The gifts that each could share with each other could work out so well (as BOP and Christian witnessed). It’s interesting that Fr. Mayer is in the suburbs now and commented just that (if you’ve heard him on the radio) – about the spiritual poverty he’s seeing. It also would connect suburbanites with nicer church buildings. The suburban churches are all so bland. It might even help us to preserve those buildings.

  13. avatar christian says:

    When Suburbanites help out Urbanites in helping them help the poor and maintain their church buildings its a win-win situation — Everyone, The Suburbanites, Urbanites, and the
    poor, are blessed and grateful.

  14. avatar ROBERT says:

    VERY UNFORTUNATE…I WAS BAPTIZED THERE AND ATTENDED GRADES 7 & 8 THERE. ST. ANDREW’S WAS A BEACON FOR THE NEIGHBORHOOD. MSGR. ECKEL WAS A TRUE PRIEST AND EVANGELIZED AND PRODUCED 38 VOCATIONS FROM THE PARISH – SOME WHO HEALD HIGH RANK IN THE DIOCESE! [PROBABLY MORE THAN ANY IN THE ENTIRE DIOCESE.] SO MUCH FOR JOE HART’S CRITICAL ANALYSIS THAT A NEIGHBORING PARISH, ST. PHILIP NERI WAS DOOMED TO CLOSE WITH ZERO VOCATIONS WHEN HE CLOSED IT. I AGREE WITH DR. K… MONEY IS GREED AND WHERE DO THE PROCEEDS OF THIS SALE GO? THANK YOU FOR THE POST.

  15. avatar ROBERT says:

    CORRECTION: HELD. THANKS FOR MY 2 FINGERS!

  16. avatar Dr. K says:

    How many vocations have come out of Our Lady, Queen of Peace during his tenure?

  17. avatar Nerina says:

    Well, Ben. I love the idea of partnering churches together. I have been involved with a non-profit group that partners urban and suburban schools together which has reaped many benefits for all involved. I wonder how this idea could be implemented? I wonder if BOP can give us some guidance?

  18. avatar brother of penance says:

    Nerina, the only other City Church that I know is partnering with Suburban Churches is Joy Community on North Goodman Street near Bay. As a matter of fact, this group of Christians (some of them ex-Catholics now rooted in a different ecclesial tradition) might have as many as five (5) different Suburban denominations or non-denominations supporting them in the City. Joy Community,which turned a funeral home into a house of worship, has purchased a number of buildings on North Goodman.

    Regarding partnerning options for Catholic Parishes goes I first mention the obvious. Stay away from the movers and shakers on Buffalo Road. That being said, Father Mayer introduced me to a wonderful woman religious who has an office at the Pastoral Center named Sr. Janet Korn. Her email address is skorn@dor.org.

    The good sister first hooked us up with Saint Thomas Moore Parish and then the Social Justice Committee at Church of the Transfiguration.

    But even if you choose not to go through the Diocese, how could it hurt for individual parishioners to visit City Parishes, become familiar with the community, get to know the people and ministries and then offer oneself to the Pastor for this missionary work?

    Missionary work is what I have always suggested. Come out of the Suburbs. Bring your Time, Talent and Treasure. Commit yourself to worship, serve, and live out God’s gift of salvation in a City Parish desperate for your gifts. Bring your family and invite your friends to do the same.

    Or, go to your Suburban Parish Pastor and tell him of your dream. Tell the priest that you and others in your Parish can make a difference in the City. Tell him to preach and then prophetically call for the missionaries that are still sitting in Suburban pews. What City Pastor would refuse that kind of solidarity, fellowship and co-laboring in the Gospel?

    Thank you, Nerina, for asking for my comments. It really doesn’t seem like anything more than the obvious to me. But thank you for your interest. Maybe I will have the pleasure of meeting you and Ben in the City.

    I am your brother and we are family.
    MAY JESUS CHRIST BE PRAISED, NOW AND FOREVER.

  19. avatar christian says:

    ROBERT: Regarding the Closing of St. Andrew Church – My father commented “Msgr. Eckl must be rolling in his grave.”
    THANK YOU GOD
    I would like to thank God for all the wonderful priests who served St.Andrew Church from its beginning to the end.
    I would like to thank God for all the wonderful deacons who served St. Andrew Church through the years.
    I would like to thank God for all the wonderful staff persons and parishioners, and all the ministries throughout the time of St. Andrew Church.
    I would like to thank God for all blessings and memories I received at St. Andrew Church.

  20. avatar christian says:

    I WOULD LIKE TO ASK EVERYONE AT CLEANSING FIRE – STAFF AND READERS – TO PLEASE REMEMBER US FROM ST. ANDREW CHURCH ON THE FEAST DAY OF ST. ANDREW – NOVEMBER 30th – IN ADDITION OF HONORING THAT SAINT IN HOW HE SERVED HIS LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. THANK YOU.


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