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Archives Pilgrims mark Massena's transistion to St. Peter's

July 4, 2018

Massena St. Peter

MASSENA – Despite temperatures in excess of 85 degrees, 25 pilgrims trekked over 13 miles on foot to mark the official transition of two separate Massena-area parishes into the unified St. Peter’s Parish on June 29, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.

The foot pilgrimage started at 7:30 a.m. at St. Lawrence Church in Louisville. The journey included stops at Calvary Cemetery, St. Peter’s Cemetery, St. Mary’s Church, St. Joseph’s Oratory and concluded at Sacred Heart Church with a Mass marking the feast day, celebrated by Bishop Terry R. LaValley.

“Pilgrimages have pretty deep roots in the church,” said Father Mark R. Reilly, pastor of St. Peter’s Parish. “A pilgrimage serves an outward sign of what’s happening spiritually; we are pilgrims on our way to the great destination of kingdom of heaven. It’s a custom going back as far as the medieval church to make pilgrimages with other pilgrims – those you can see and those you can’t see, the saints and angels.”

Father Reilly noted that the parish went through a lengthy process to prepare to transition from two separate parishes into the combined St. Peter’s, and the pilgrimage and feast day Mass were the culmination of that effort. The parish chose the name St. Peter’s partly because it was the name of the first parish to serve the community.

“This is a big change,” he said. “It made sense that on the feast day of St. Peter, we’d make a pilgrimage to link all the principle sites of worship and burial. It seemed as though St. Peter’s Cemetery has been long forgotten to many people. I think this helped us open our eyes and recover our roots, both as a church and as a faith community in Massena.”

The pilgrims echoed Father Reilly’s sentiments.

“I think father’s idea of walking to unite all the parishes is a beautiful idea,” said Holly Gagnon, a St. Peter’s parishioner. “I think front-loading our transition with all the graces that come from a pilgrimage will benefit the parish. And it’s been a great opportunity for me to pray for the parish and community, and for my own intentions.”

“Since we went from four parishes to two, and now to one, it’s taken some work to develop unity,” added St. Peter’s parishioner Paul Haggett. “I think this is a good way to propel us from separate churches into one church community. My feet hurt, but it was a beautiful walk on a beautiful day. The stops were well planned, with all of us joining in prayer at each stop, and it was a nice way to experience the whole parish as a united parish.”
At the concluding Mass, which included parishioners from all four Massena-area parishes serving as lectors, extraordinary ministers and altar servers, Bishop LaValley lauded the parish for choosing St. Peter as its patron saint.

“One of our diocesan priorities is to Build Parishes with Living Stones,” Bishop LaValley said. “And so, how appropriate it is that this local community of Massena has reflected upon your spiritual lineage.  You have chosen to reclaim the patron saint of the first Catholic Church in Massena, Peter, as the patron for the newly configured Catholic parish in this area. I was so pleased when Fr. Reilly told me of the decision to name the living stones Family of Faith here in Massena, St. Peter’s. After reflecting on your faith story, the proud legacy of Catholicism in Massena, it was right to look to St. Peter.” 

Bishop LaValley called on the parishioners to continue to look to grow and develop as a parish and as children of God.

“These days call for you and me to have a fresh outlook, a creative spirit, and energy borne of hope founded on the love our God has lavished upon us” he said. “It is in remembering the love shared that we are able to look forward and take in all that the Lord places before us. We cannot keep doing things the way we always have.”
Bishop LaValley encouraged the parishioners to continue to grow as a community.

“As we move into the future, Christ-fed, Christ-led, and Hope-filled, let us pray for each other and support one another in our common journey to the Father,” he said.

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