So, this is kind of a first for the blog. Typically we have told you the story of places we’ve visited, but this one seemed too fun to not share despite us not having actually been in the building. Back when we were visiting the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, our friend Bill Lattin walked with us outside and pointed across the street and told us a story that we thought was pretty intriguing. After we parted ways with Bill that day, we drove around the two churches across the street to get better a look at what transpired.
One of the things that has made this blog interesting for Luke and I is meeting so many different people, and making so many connections. Without the many folks we’ve had the opportunity to connect with so far, we wouldn’t have gotten to learn or do or see as much as we have. We’re very grateful for all the personal time, and sharing of personal stories and knowledge that you folks have passed on to us.
In December 2011, Luke and I created the initial list of places we wanted to see and made a plan to begin checking them off. We planned to spend every weekend thereafter tirelessly clamoring around Upstate NY knocking on the doors of sacred grounds in hopes to experience them first hand. Our first day out was the first Saturday in January and was a bust–every place we went was locked. We sat in our car and began calling places to see who might be open and received only recorded messages. We realized that we were gonna have to plan a bit better and not just wing it by showing up on a church doorstep uninvited. We sat down at the South Wedge Diner and made a plan, and that’s when things got really serious.
As Chris explained back on August 5, this October two women from Upstate, NY are being canonized, one of which Chris already shared with you, being Saint Marianne Cope. The other woman who he shared shared very little about will additionally be the first Native American to ever be canonized as well. We had the pleasure of visiting the site where Tekakwitha took the name Kateri, and on October 21, 2012 will forever be now known as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Before this time, Kateri Tekakwith was simply known by her Native American name of Tekakwitha, but gained the name Kateri, which derives from the French Catherine, when she was formally baptized into the Catholic faith.
This site of Kateri’s baptism (and another site that Chris and I visited the same which Chris will soon write about) is easily the farthest Chris and I have ever traveled for the purposes of this blog. Kateri Tekakwitha is venerated in a shrine off of Rt.5 in Fonda, New York, which is only approximately 45 minutes west of Albany. Fonda is in the Mohawk River Valley, and the River itself is named after the Native American tribe which once inhabited the lands and tribe which Kateri was a member of. One must realize that during the lifetime of Kateri, America was not yet a country and the Mohawk River Valley was completely wilderness, with the river as the sole means of transportation. Increasing competition between the British and the French in Canada for the lands in the Great Lakes area was at its peak. As a means of slowly winning the “hearts and minds” of the Native Americans to their side (which actually did end up working), the French began to send Jesuit missionaries down through Lake Champlain to the Hudson River, and ultimately to the Mohawk River Valley, where the Jesuits began to slowly acculturate themselves with the Native Americans, and eventually the Native Americans to Catholicism.
Also at the time of Kateri, the Mohawk Indian tribe was now a founding member of the Iroquois Nation, also known as the Haudenosaunee or “People of the Longhouse,” which encompassed four other tribes (Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca… the Tuscarora would join later) within it at the time. While part of a greater body, each tribe also remained semi-autonomous; which was very evident in the dealings with Jesuit missionaries. While The Onondagas and Senecas welcomed the Jesuits or “black-robes,” the Mohawks not only were unwelcoming, but at times are reported to have indiscriminately killed and even tortured small parties of Jesuits who they randomly encountered. The Jesuits eventually stopped sending missionaries, but after the Iroquois tribal council intervened and basically ordered the Mohawks to relent, the Jesuits eventually returned. Read more
From 1880 – 1920, more than 20 million “new immigrants” came to the United States of America, which meant that unlike the previous decades of immigration by Western Europeans to America, these new immigrants were primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe. Due to the ease of travel on the Erie Canal, Upstate, NY experienced a large influx of immigration as well, with Polish immigrants seeming to be especially attracted to the Upstate area. Even today one can continue to see remnants of the once thriving Polish communities in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. One of the things that especially attracted the Polish immigrants to Syracuse, NY was the city’s prosperous salt industry, which many Poles were familiar with since Poland itself is known for its own worldwide salt production.
With the large influx of Polish immigrants to Syracuse, NY came new customs and belief systems, as well as the establishment of their own church. The parish of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was founded on June 12, 1892. Today, when you drive on 690 South towards downtown Syracuse, if you look out the window on the right, you can see the two spires of the modern day Basilica. However, the original church was actually a simply two-story building on the opposite side of the street from where the modern day Basilica is located. As more and more Polish immigrants came to Syracuse, the community quickly realized they needed a bigger structure. Through donations and hard work from the Polish community, ground was broken in 1907 and the current structure located at 927 Park Avenue was finished and dedicated on June 5, 1910. Read more
As one researches and explores the burned over district of Upstate, NY, outside of the big two faith systems developed here, being Mormonism, and Spiritualism, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, more commonly known as Shakers, are also typically referenced. However, unlike the other two faiths, Shakers do not have a “place” to go to. In New York, technically there are three Shaker sites and I say technically because one of these sites is not recognized like the other two. Chris and I visited two of these three sites together, one in Sodus Bay, New York and the other in Groveland, New York. I also had the opportunity to visit the third Shaker site in Watervliet, aka. modern day Albany, NY, because I had a few days off from work to travel and Chris did not. Chris fortunately gave me “permission” to see this site without him since we have yet to drive as far as Albany on our journey and probably never will. I will write about these three sites in the order which we (I) visited them.
Shaker Site(s) in Sodus Bay, New York
Chris and I were actually bored one day (imagine that!) and texting back and forth about where we could go. This was around the time that I had recently returned from an extended weekend up in the 1,000 Islands and was on a kick to visit the lighthouses of Lake Ontario (a quest I am still on by the way!). Chris suggested we go check out the lighthouses in Sodus Bay, so he picked me up and we headed east. This particular mini-adventure turned into seeing three separate sites. Keep in mind that Chris and I also visit many secular sites as we explore places, so we started this day exploring the ruins and abandoned buildings of Beechwood State Park, which is an old Girl Scouts of America camp just West of Sodus. This place is highly recommended for any urban explorers out there! From Beechwood we then drove into Sodus Bay to the old lighthouse and realized there was a wedding ceremony just coming to an end. We were able to walk around a little bit and tried not to be too voyeuristic, but we eventually left and went down to the pier to see the breakwater lighthouse. After walking around aimlessly, we got back in the car and started to drive towards where the Sodus Bay Shaker site used to be. Read more
Canon Law requires that a Bishop submit a retirement letter on his 75th birthday. On July 15, 2012, Bishop Matthew H. Clark will turn 75-years-old and be required to submit such a letter, meaning that the Catholic Diocese of Rochester will be receiving a new Bishop. Pope John Paul II ordained Reverend Matthew H. Clark a bishop on May 27, 1979, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, making Bishop Clark the eighth Bishop of Rochester, succeeding the late Bishop Hogan. As Bishop, Matthew Clark is the spiritual leader for more than 300,000 Catholics in a Diocese that spans 12 counties (Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Cayuga, Livingston, Steuben, Tioga, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Tompkins and Yates), has 130 parishes, 24 Catholic Schools, a wide network of Catholic Charity agencies, more than 260 active and retired diocesan, religious order and international priests, and over 100 deacons. The Sacred Heart Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, NY and the seat of Bishop. Chris and I started our journey today at the Cathedral and ended at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, which was consecrated in 1871 by the first Bishop of Rochester, Bernard McQuaid, who saw the need for a single burial ground for all of Rochester’s Catholics. Read more
When Chris and I visited Christ Church a few weeks ago, we became a bit more familiar with the Episcopalian history of Rochester. Because of the Christ Church visit, we knew that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church needed to be on our list of places to go and see, so when I returned home from Christ Church, I emailed St. Paul’s. I think it may have literally been the next day that I received a response from Gwen and she invited us to tour St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Father’s Day.
Gwen had informed us that if we arrived early, to sit in the back and listen to the organ that she knew would be playing at the end of the service. Sure enough, as we approached the church’s entrance, we definitely heard the organ playing and it was very beautiful. We came to learn that this organ is a Skinner organ, and was actually built for the Church. At this point in our travels, as our more loyal followers will know, by this point Chris and I are becoming quite educated in organs, and the one commonality between all of the organs we have seen lately is actually the University of Rochester, who seems to have their finger on the pulse of every organ in Rochester. This basically means that in the organ hierarchy of Rochester, NY there is the U of R, and then us!!! Read more
Chris and I originally had different plans this weekend, but something we have come to expect while exploring the burned over district is to have no expectations. Despite our plans being cancelled, Chris and I quickly devised a back-up plan and decided to drive south through Geneseo to the Abbey of the Genesee…you know, that place where they make Monk’s Bread…hence the name.
Despite the weather being pretty crummy, Chris, my wife and I made it to the monastery quite quickly. We had anticipated arriving in time for one of the five daily liturgical services the monks do Monday through Saturday (on Sundays and holidays the monks actually have six services). At the Abbey of the Genesee, the five liturgical services are as follows:
2:25 am – Vigils
6:00 am – Lauds (& Mass)
11:15 am – Sext
4:30 pm – Vespers (or 4:00 pm – Vespers & Mass)
6:40 pm – Compline
The three of us arrived early for Sext, so we explored the small sitting area, and also the bread store where not only was there every kind of Monk’s Bread being sold, but also coffee, cookies, dessert breads and lots of books. There was a monk delivering bread from the factory on site to the store, and he was actually talking to several different customers. Apparently, each monk takes turns every day as to who is allowed to communicate with the public. This monk was dressed up in stereotypical monk’s clothing and could not have been any younger than 60-years-old.