Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Northeast Rochester Cluster’

The Windows Of St. Thomas The Apostle

July 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

The content of this post has been moved here. This post is being preserved so as not to lose the original comments.

From Five to Two?

May 23rd, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

The following comes from a reader. We will let you know if we hear anything more about this proposal:

“This evening at Annunciation (Hall),at 7 P.M., there is a meeting regarding the future of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish at Annunciation.We have heard that the D.o.R. is entertaining the thought of not renovating Annunciation and just shutting down both St. Andrew Church and Annunciation.”

I don’t think anyone viewed Annunciation as a long-term solution given the small size of the church and the several costly upgrades required to make it serviceable. In addition to the congregation numbering only ~150 persons, there are few young people who attend Masses at this church. The only reason the diocese might choose to keep it open and renovate the building would be to increase its value for sale.

Why not shut down Annunciation and keep St. Andrew open? That’s right, there are groups interested in purchasing St. Andrew.

Money, money, money…

A Curious Comment

January 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

This morning the Democrat and Chronicle ran an article about yesterday’s closing Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the city northeast. In the article, the D&C printed the comments of Fr. Tracy, one of the temporary “assisting priests” for the new parish. In his comments, Fr. Tracy speaks about where OLPH worshipers will be heading next:

“”I want to see you again. We all want to see you again. We all want to be together again and we can and we will,” said Father Laurence Tracy, who was ordained in the church in 1966.

“So next Sunday at 9 o’clock, and every Sunday, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church congregation will be together at the corner of Prince Street and East Main Street, which, for us will be Our Lady of Perpetual Help II,” Tracy said, referring to Our Lady of the Americans [sic] Church [Corpus Christi].”

I find it very interesting that Fr. Tracy is suggesting that OLPH parishioners continue their weekly worship at Corpus Christi church when OLPH has been clustered with St. Michael church for some time. St. Michael also happens to be geographically closer than Corpus Christi. So why is St. Michael not being viewed as “Our Lady of Perpetual Help II” by this priest?

Creative Liturgical Abuse

January 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by Abaccio

Every so often, I attend Mass somewhere and see a rather creative liturgical abuse.  Most of the time, the geriatric liberals that run these parishes choose tried and true methods of dissent–lay homilies, (il)liturgical prancing, improper vestments, ad-libbing the Eucharistic Prayer, and the other old stand-bys.

It is utterly confusing when I see or hear an abuse of the liturgy that I’ve never even HEARD of before.  Such was the case Sunday at St. Michael Church in Rochester.  I will preface by describing the usual situation there, first.

Whenever I assist at Mass at St. Michael, I hope beforehand that Fr. Larry Tracy is not the priest who will be saying Mass.  He’s a rather notorious abuser of the liturgy, you see.  When he speaks the words of consecration over the chalice, he replaces the phrase “so that sins may be forgiven,” with “so that there may be forgiveness and peace.”  He likes to give a pre-reading (and pre-Gospel) summary of its contents, and blather on at the outset of Mass with some explanation of the day’s feast.  He also, due to arthritis, sits when he ought to stand–when giving his homily, when distributing  Holy Communion, and (most egregiously) for the entire Eucharistic Prayer (including the consecration).  This leads to a miniature bow of the head at the moment of consecration, rather than a genuflection or even a deep bow.  In fact, it’s downright disrespectful.

The people at St. Michael are also rather infamous for creating one giant chain of hand-holding (across the main aisle, etc.) for the Our Father, and featuring an incredibly extended time period in which to offer your fellow congregants the sign of peace.

That’s not to say that everything there is bad–it is perhaps the most beautiful church in the diocese, and the music (though not chant or polyphony) is generally both sacred and astoundingly beautiful.  The music is generally the high point of the liturgy there.

Therefore, I was shocked on Sunday to hear the cantor announce, “Today’s Gloria can be found on page x in your red hymnals, “Angels We Have Heard on High.””

Now, this is just plain absurd!  There’s no possible reason anyone can come up with that justifies this.  Sure, it’s beautiful.  Certainly, it contains the word Gloria.  It’s not the Gloria anymore than “I believe I can fly”  is the Credo.

So, kudos to the folks at St. Michael.  They’ve surprised me with a whole new, fascinating abuse of the Liturgy.  I look forward to Jingle Bells instead of the Sanctus next weekend.

Just because something is objectively beautiful does not make it liturgically appropriate.

Final Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help

December 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Confirming earlier reports, Our Lady of Perpetual Help will be having the final regularly scheduled Mass in their church within a couple weeks. The Mass is scheduled for Sunday, January 9th at 9:30 AM.

Also of note: Deacon Dan Hurley is no longer a part of the N.E. Rochester parish.

It appears that St. Andrew church will remain open, at least for another week. Stay tuned for more information about the Northeast Rochester mergers.

Why the Rush?

December 11th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

From the Our Lady of Perpetual Help website:

“Anyone wishing to see the Church before it’s imminent closing, should probably plan to come to the only Mass for Christmas, which is the Midnight Mass (yes, Midnight). Rumor has it that the change in Mass schedule for the newly created St. Francis Xavier Parish (Corpus Christi, St. Michael’s, and Annunciation) will take effect the middle of January.(see here)

So much for the June 2011 date that had been flying around. I wonder if the DoR is going to pull the same stunt as they did with St. Thomas, and claim that the churches have just suspended Masses and aren’t really “closed.”

How come the closing of St. Andrew and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches is coming so rapidly for this cluster? The five Northeast Rochester churches have been clustered for less than a year. Why the rush? Are even more closings in store for 2011 that there is no time to waste?

Tip: Interstate Catholic

Cesar Chavez Catholic Parish?

November 16th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Yes… “Cesar Chavez” is one of the names being considered by the Northeast Rochester planning team of Deb Housel and Fr. Paul Gitau to become the name for the new three-church parish in that part of the city. Were the names “Susan B. Anthony Catholic community” or “Rev. Jesse Jackson parish” not available?

Below is the voting form handed out to parishioners:

N.E. Rochester parish name ballot


In related news, it appears that the N.E. Rochester cluster is one step closer to moving forward with the plan to consolidate using three sites: St. Michael, Corpus Christi, and Church of the Annunciation. The following is a comment from a N.E. Rochester parishioner:

“This Sunday, 9-14-2010, we received word via Fr.Paul Gitau that the recommendation that St. Andrew’s Church close was approved by the council of priests and now, only needed to be approved by Bishop Clark.”

Did the Planning Team Make the Right Decision?

October 25th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

After discussing this with some people, and looking at the details once again, I am beginning to wonder whether the planning team for the Northeast Rochester cluster has truly selected the three best churches to be a part of the new parish. Their recommendation was to keep open St. Michael, Corpus Christi, and Annunciation. I think the better option would have been to keep St. Andrew in place of Annunciation, though I can somewhat understand their reasoning if it was based largely on the cost of operating a smaller church structure versus a large one. I’ll be doing a post on this in the coming days.

Well readers, I would like to hear your opinion. Which three churches should be a part of the new N.E. Rochester parish? In this poll, you must choose one of the options. “All should stay open” is not a possible answer when the DoR is planning to eliminate two churches.

–> Click here to vote <–

St. Andrew and Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Close

October 24th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The Northeast Rochester planning team, lead by co-administrators Deb Housel and Fr. Paul Gitau, have made their decision about which churches should be a part of the new parish. It is their recommendation, according to the Catholic Courier, that the new N.E. Rochester parish will be comprised of three churches which include: Corpus Christi (Our Lady of the Americas), St. Michael (Our Lady of the Angels), and Church of the Annunciation (Light of Christ). If the bishop chooses to proceed with the plan, St. Andrew (Light of Christ) and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Our Lady of the Angels) would close.

As we here at Cleansing Fire have been predicting for some time, St. Michael and Corpus Christi will be included in the new parish. This part was really a no-brainer. Corpus Christi and St. Michael have the largest congregations and worship spaces, plus a booming Hispanic population. The Annunciation announcement, though not a complete shock given that it had been tossed about as a possibility in recent meetings, could come as a surprise to some because of the small size of the congregation and the church facilities.

It is my belief that the reasons for selecting Annunciation are twofold: finances and geography. Since Annunciation is the smallest church, it would be reasonable to conclude that they likely have the lowest operating cost of the five churches in the cluster. The geography benefit of keeping Annunciation is obvious as seen in the graphics below:

N.E. Rochester map. Blue- N.E. Rochester cluster, Black- closed churches, Gray- other churches

Proposed configuration: Corpus (E), St. Michael (A), Annunciation (D)

All churches in black are closed, all in blue are the N.E. Rochester cluster sites, and all in gray are other parishes/clusters. Annunciation is the church labeled ‘D.’ As can be seen, to close Annunciation would mean the diocese would abandon a good chunk of the city. By keeping Annunciation open, the church would be able to serve the area around Norton St. from Portland to 590. St. Andrew (‘C’) is a little too close to St. Stanislaus (‘F’).

The recommendation to close Our Lady of Perpetual Help (‘B’) could be because OLPH is too close to St. Michael (‘A’) and St. Stanislaus (‘F’). Their low attendance compared to St. Michael may have played a role.

Here is the Mass plan as detailed in the Courier:

“The cluster planners have proposed a schedule of six Masses, including several in English and several in Spanish, and a seventh Mass that would be geared for youths of the parish.”

It’s still too soon to guess which church will have an extra Mass, but having the youth Mass at Annunciation would make sense since there is currently a Life Teen Mass at St. Andrew (the other church with Annunciation in the Light of Christ parish).

Please pray for the people of St. Andrew and OLPH. I hope that these good people, and I mean good people (they spend a lot of time on charitable efforts!), will find the Lord’s comfort in the days and months ahead. The planning team had to make a tough decision, but they made one which is cost-effective, geographically reasonable, and manages to incorporate a church from each of the three clusters/parishes (Our Lady of the Americas, Light of Christ, Our Lady of the Angels).

D-Day Approaches for Northeast Rochester Cluster

October 21st, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

As was previously reported here, a decision is expected on the N.E. Rochester plan from co-administrators Deb Housel and Fr. Paul Gitau next week. Since the Diocese of Rochester uses the October Mass counts as the “official” yearly attendance numbers for each parish, it seems worthwhile to take a look at the October numbers so far for the N.E. Rochester cluster.

In order from highest to lowest, average in parenthesis:
Corpus Christi (“Our Lady of the Americas”): 332, 372 (352)
St. Michael (“Our Lady of the Angels”): 326, 369 (348)

St. Andrew (“Light of Christ”): 222, 212 (217)
Our Lady of Perpetual Help (“Our Lady of the Angels”): 218, 141 (180)

Annunciation (“Light of Christ”): 132, 145 (139)

I think the decision is pretty clear when it comes to selecting the top two sites, since Corpus Christi and St. Michael are so far ahead of the other sites in attendance, have the largest worship spaces, and seem to offer the greatest potential for future growth (at least St. Michael does). The tough part comes with choosing a third site, assuming there will be three and not two.

St. Andrew/OLPH/Annunciation… who will it be? I think it could be St. Andrew, but you never know what the diocese might be thinking. Annunciation is a name that has surfaced recently, but that church appears to be the least desirable to accommodate any additional parishioners from closed churches. Feel free to post comments.

Update 10/22:

Here is a look at attendance from 2003 (last available year from the DoR) and the October 2010 numbers to this point.

Church 2003 2010 Change
Corpus 292 352 +60*
St. Michael 434 348 -86
St. Andrew 312 217 -95
OLPH 429 180 -249
Annun. 429 139 -290

*= CC merged with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Francis Xavier, who averaged 389 and 232 respectively in 2003.

The Numbers Are In

October 4th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The Northeast Rochester cluster of parishes, which includes Our Lady of the Americas (Corpus Christi), Our Lady of the Angels (St. Michael and Our Lady of Perpetual Help), and Light of Christ (St. Andrew and Annunciation), has released their 2009-10 financial and attendance figures. These numbers could play a significant role in deciding which churches will remain open in the upcoming consolidation of churches into a single parish.

Below is a handout that was sent to us by a Light of Christ parishioner. All relevant financial figures are included in these charts:

First, here are the official attendance numbers by site:

+Corpus Christi- 382

+St. Michael- 316

+St. Andrew (approximation)- 246

+Our Lady of Perpetual Help- 246

+Annunciation (approximation)- 150

Given these figures, one can see that Corpus Christi and St. Michael churches are in the upper tier for attendance, followed by St. Andrew and OLPH. Annunciation is far behind, averaging approximately 150 people per weekend. This is somewhat due to their using the smallest church building and having only one weekend Mass.

Next, we will look at some significant financial figures. Below are the total net revenue/loss figures for each site (note: Light of Christ is combined, so I am not certain what the figures are for St. Andrew vs. Annunciation):

+Corpus Christi: +$37,325

+Our Lady of Perpetual Help: -$54,106

+St. Michael: -$90,801

+Light of Christ: -$223,035 (or roughly -$115,517 per church)

Below are past due debt numbers for each parish:

+Light of Christ- $32,393

+Our Lady of Perpetual Help- $103,373

+St. Michael- $315,179

+Corpus Christi- $528,154 (note: The number has risen from $450,000 in 2008. This rising debt, even after closing Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and closing/selling St. Francis Xavier, could present some serious concerns for the planning group.)

So what do all these numbers tell us? For starters, the N.E. Rochester parishes are in significant financial troubles. This is especially the case for Corpus Christi, which is in massive debt despite the sale of St. Francis Xavier to a local Moslem group.The most financially stable is probably Church of the Annunciation, but if you take into account all the factors (small size, poor seating situation, lowest attendance by far), it is clear that the DoR shouldn’t make the determination solely on finances.

I am still sticking to my belief that Corpus Christi and St. Michael are the two best churches to keep open. Should a third remain, then either St. Andrew or Annunciation could be included.

Here is a possible Mass schedule (assumes two billingual priests):

Two site option (Corpus Christi/St. Michael)


Corpus- 4:00 PM

St. Michael- 5:00 PM


Corpus- 9:30 AM

St. Michael- 10:00 AM (Spanish)

Corpus-  11:00 AM (Spanish)

St. Michael- 4:00 PM

Three site option (Corpus Christi/St. Michael/St. Andrew or Annunciation)


Corpus- 4:00 PM

Annunciation/St. Andrew- 5:00 PM (just one Mass at site three with two at St. Michael due to large size of church being able to handle fewer Masses)


Corpus- 9:30 AM

St. Michael- 10:00 AM (Spanish)

Corpus-  11:00 AM (Spanish)

St. Michael- 4:00 PM

Three site option w/ even distribution of Masses


Corpus- 4:00 PM (Spanish)

St. Andrew/Annunciation- 5:00 PM


St. Andrew/Annunciation- 9:30 AM

Corpus- 10:00 AM

St. Michael- 11:00 AM (Spanish)

St. Michael- 4:00 PM

I just don’t believe that Our Lady of Perpetual Help should be included in the new N.E. Rochester parish due to the following: 1) It’s very close proximity to other parishes, 2) Low attendance, and 3) The growing and young Spanish-speaking population @ St. Michael. I don’t think Annunciation should be included for the obvious reasons that we’ve looked at already, but if cost is a prime motivator, then Annunciation could find its way into the final plan as the third church with a single weekend Mass.

Anyway, let me know what you think about all this. The decisions will be made by the end of this month, so we’ll learn soon enough what the planning group recommends (around October 25th) and what Bishop Clark will ultimately decide to do.

D-Day in Northeast Rochester: October 31st

July 15th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

A decision on which churches should be retained and which should close in Northeast Rochester will need to be submitted to Bishop Clark by October 31st of this year. According to the upcoming Light of Christ bulletin, a “Pastoral Planning Team” will be assembled to assist Deb Housel in making this difficult decision. This team will be comprised of four members from each of the five parishes (hopefully selected by the parishioners and not hand-picked from above).

The decision from the bishop will likely come shortly after the proposal is submitted, with the implementation process to be completed by June of 2011. Please keep the people of this cluster in your prayers.

Not helping matters for the good people of Light of Christ is this past weekend’s Mass attendance totals. I pray that the number given for St. Andrew’s 9:30 Mass (their only non-Lifeteen Mass) is just a typo. 85 people does not sound right.


Our Priests Deserve Better

July 13th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Here’s a crazy hypothetical for you – suppose there’s an able-bodied priest, solid in terms of liturgy and theology, who has a love and zeal for the Church. Suppose, also, that he wants to serve in your diocese, helping at a parish, or maybe even a cluster in some sacerdotal role. Now suppose, also, that this priest is from a foreign country, and he has come here of his own will to help your diocese.

Now what’s your reaction if you’re a bishop or a diocesan official? Do you . . .

  1. Say yes, and make him a pastor or an administrator?
  2. Say no, and tell him to go help with inner-city youth groups?
  3. Say no, and send him to a cluster he didn’t ask for and which he wasn’t notified?
  4. Say no, and give him a made-up role?

Well, if you’re working for the Diocese of Rochester, you would have done all but the first one. To whom, you ask? To Fr. Peter Abas.

Here is the series of events, as relayed to us by two very reliable sources:

  • Fr. Peter’s recent return from Borneo was supposed to be greeted with a role in the new Irondequoit parish, even if only for a little while. However, when he got back, his role as “parochial vicar” had been terminated without his knowing it.
  • Upon investigation, it was discovered that Fr. Peter was assigned to be a “permanent sacramental minister” for the Diocese, meaning that he could be sent pretty much anywhere to fill in for any priest in any parish or worship site.
  • His first assignment was to be at the cluster of churches in the Northeast part of the city, i.e. Corpus Christi, Annunciation, St. Andrew, St. Michael, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In addition to this, he would maintain duties at St. Cecilia, and take on the occasional Mass at Immaculate Conception.
  • When there was a certain amount of confusion as to his duties, it was discovered that he was never even officially a “parochial vicar.” Some secretary in some office didn’t know what to do with him, so she just made up a title.
  • When the DoR was asked for clarification (again) they responded that Fr. Peter should, in the words of our sources, “hang out downtown and help in the slums with the youth groups.” What is more important – slum youth groups or the Holy Mass?

Why is the diocese playing these juvenile games with Fr. Abas? Nancy DeRycke gets a smooth transition to a normal parish, but a priest, an ordained minister, gets assigned a total of at least 6 worship sites to which he will minister. That is not fair. There are more than enough priests available to cover that number of parishes. We may not have the numbers we did in the 50’s and 60’s, but we have enough. Why can’t the diocese do the smart thing and offer him a parish, especially one threatened with closure, like St. Salome or St. Thomas the Apostle? If the diocese really cared about saving souls, it wouldn’t treat its priests like lifeless pawns. It’s a simple equation – one priest, one parish. If there isn’t a priest available, pull a retired priest or two for some fill-in Masses. If there aren’t any retired priests available, then (and only then) should lay assistance be thought of.

Pray for Fr. Peter and other priests in his position. There are several. Thank God Fr. Peter isn’t one to put up with this treatment – indications are that he will be returning to Borneo, his homeland, in October . . . to start a new parish.

A Couple Corrections

July 4th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

In a recent post, Cleansing Fire took a look at the five Northeast Rochester churches in an attempt to rate them from most desirable (to be retained) down to least desirable. The two I ended up rating as the best candidates were Corpus Christi and St. Michael.

A reader has sent us an e-mail making a couple of corrections to two pieces of information in the post. After making the corrections, the ratings were largely unchanged. Corpus Christi and St. Michael still appear to be the best two candidates to remain open. However, it appears I may have underrated St. Michael a bit. Thus, with the updated attendance information, I would have to rate St. Michael as the most desirable, followed closely by Corpus Christi.  The attendance listed in the previous post for St. Michael was “300s”, and that was just an eyeball guesstimate. A reader has sent along a copy of the latest bulletin which shows that St. Michael drew 411 people this past weekend. That’s pretty good for a city parish at the end of June. Based on attendance information I have for Corpus, it’s also higher than what they draw. This would mean that St. Michael has the largest capacity church of the five, as well as the most people.

Additionally, an error was made in the map. I accidentally misplaced St. Michael and OLPH with regard to their north/south position. This has been corrected in the map below. OLPH should be closer to Norton, while St. Michael is on the corner of Clifford and Clinton. This correct placement gives St. Michael a more “central” location, and increases its desirability over OLPH (which is very close to St. Stanislaus).

Thus, the churches should be ranked, from best candidate to remain open to worst:

1. St. Michael
2. Corpus Christi

3. Our Lady of Perpetual Help
4. St. Andrew
5. Church of the Annunciation

In the scenario that St. Michael and Corpus Christi are selected, OLPH’s parishioners would probably worship at both St. Stanislaus and St. Michael (the Spanish Mass moving to St. Michael), St. Andrew’s parishioners would probably go to St. Stanislaus, and Annunciation would likely be split among St. Stanislaus, St. Ambrose, and possibly St. Cecilia in Irondequoit.

I apologize for the errors.

It’s Official

June 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Below is a greeting from the new co-administrators of the Northeast Rochester Cluster, Deb Housel and Fr. Paul Gitau. This confirms our report from a few days ago.

Three churches chosen from St. Michael, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Corpus Christi, St. Andrew, and Church of the Annunciation are said to be closing by June of 2011. Read our analysis of the situation here. Fr. Michael Mayer has begun his sabbatical, though we are uncertain as of now whether or not he will be returning to lead St. Andrew/Annunciation when it is finished. The decision on which churches to close should occur before he returns from sabbatical. Fr. Mayer will soon be blogging at:

Northeast Rochester Parishes Have Clustered

June 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

We have been following the story since May that the Northeast Rochester parishes of St. Michael, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Corpus Christi, St. Andrew, and Church of the Annunciation were to cluster by the end of June. Well, here we are. Word has come in to us that the parishes have clustered, and are now under the leadership of Deb Housel and Fr. Paul Gitau (we could use confirmation on the Fr. Gitau part). According to our sources, the five churches will be cut down to two, and these two will form a single parish under the leadership of a priest pastor and Parochial Vicar.  This change will take effect by June of 2011, so the decision on which will be closed is likely to be made by the end of this year.

We will post updates as information becomes available. Stay tuned folks. It’s going to be a wild ride during Bishop Clark’s final two years in Rochester.