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Archives St. Paul’s in Pyrites celebrates 100 years

November 11, 2020

By Amanda Conklin
Contributing Writer

PYRITES – On October 25, a special outdoor Mass was held at St. Paul’s Oratory in Pyrites to celebrate the church’s 100th anniversary. The main celebrant for the Mass was Bishop Douglas J. Lucia of the Diocese of Syracuse, former pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Canton. Father Bernard D. Menard and Father Todd E. Thibault, former pastoral associates were also present concelebrating alongside Father Bryan D. Stitt, current pastor of St. Mary’s Church.

Cars lined the small country back road and over 100 were in attendance. Many sat in lawn chairs in the chilly autumn air. For those who chose to remain in their cars, the Mass could be heard via FM radio.

Though a celebration of 100 years since the building of the church structure, the event also had a somber tone, as it will likely be the last Mass to be celebrated at St. Paul’s. The church recently sustained significant damage, and it will soon be put on the market to be sold.

Before a potential sale to a good buyer, all the religious items such as the altar, pews, stained glass windows, and bell will be removed. St. Paul’s was built in 1920. The land was deeded to the church in 1922 by the De Grasse Paper Company at the cost of one dollar. The Church was declared an oratory in April 25th, 1990 and is a facility of St. Mary’s Church in Canton.

Despite this underlying sadness, Bishop Lucia’s homily centered on the reminder that we are all called to be church.

“As beautiful as they (the buildings) are, what is most important is what happens when we go forth from these places,” Bishop Lucia said. “You and I are called to be the building blocks of the Church today. Go out and live the Mass.”

Edd White, long-time parishioner and caretaker of St. Paul’s read the first and second readings. At the end of Mass, a special plaque was presented to White to honor his commitment to and love of St. Paul’s.

“My father was the caretaker for years,” White said. “He spent a lot of his own money there. When he passed, I stepped in and took over. Someone needed to watch over it.”

White made the altar and lectern at St. Paul’s as well as a large five-foot wooden cross.

“It always seemed like home,” White shared.

Many other long-time parishioners of St. Paul’s were in attendance, including several from the Bessette/Warren family.

Susanne Bessette Smith’s brother was married at St. Paul’s along with aunts and uncles. Her family helped to build St. Paul’s after they emigrated to Pyrites from Ireland.

“Our family, for generations through the years, went to St. Paul’s every Sunday,” she said. “It means so much because it has been our family church for so long.”

Smith’s aunt still lives on the family homestead that is directly through the woods behind St. Paul’s. “

My cousins used to walk that path through the woods to get to church in the summer and I remember playing on the lawn after Mass as a child,” she said.

The event was a beautiful way to end the long tradition of St. Paul’s Church in Pyrites, Smith said.

“I teared up several times,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

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