St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church of Auburn, New York

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A History of St. Mary's Parish

    In the year 1868, the Rt. Rev. B.J. McQuaid, D.D., found it necessary to make a division of the Holy Family parish in order to meet the demands of the Catholic population of the City of Auburn.

    On the 15th of August, in accordance with the Rt. Rev. Bishop’s plans, a new parish was organized under the title of "St. Mary’s of the Assumption" with the Rev. Thomas Meagher as pastor. A temporary location at 34 State Street was secured and there services were held for a short time. But in a few weeks more room was needed and "Tallman’s Hall" was used. Shortly after the lot on which St. Mary’s church now stands was purchased and thereon a small wooden building was erected, 70 x 50 feet, known as the "Shanty Church."

    Little by little the parish increased until at the advent of the Rev. Myles J. Loughlin, D.D., as pastor in September, 1869, a new and larger church was deemed necessary.

    Dr. Loughlin came, not a stranger, to his new appointment formerly having been an assistant at the Holy Family church and at one time a resident of the city—cultured and enthusiastic, he was impressed with the needs of his people and after considerable difficulty and disappointment he entered upon the erection of the present beautiful edifice at the corner of Clark and Green Streets. At first it was determined to erect a brick structure; other counsels, however, prevailed. A stone building was deemed more fitting and finally agreed upon. This was in 1871.

    Another lot adjoining the one purchased by Father Meagher was bought and the work of erecting the new church began at once. During its constructions, Dr. Loughlin toiled and labored as arduously as any workman upon it. For over six years he acted the part of superintendent, architect, building and pastor, and scarcely a day during this period ever saw him absent from his labors. So intimately was he connected with it and so untiring did he work that it was said there was not one stone of the entire structure which he did not select for its place.

    As soon as available the basement was used for church purposes. Here for five years the young congregation assembled to attend mass, and to hear the word of God.  Finally in April, 1877, the church proper was dedicated by the Right Reverend Bishop with imposing ceremonies and into it the delighted people went with gratitude to God, and proud of their fine church building and beloved pastor. The accomplishment of such a work is a strong proof of the greatness of the sacrifice and the power of united action in the work of God.

    But too arduous and exhausting had been the labors of  Dr. Loughlin. The strain had been too much and was more than he could stand. Almost worn out he was transferred, at his own request, to the quiet mission of St. Rose of Lima and in the following spring he died, after a brief illness, in St. Mary’s Hospital at Rochester.

    The present pastor, Rev. Wm. Mulheron, was appointed by the Bishop to carry on the noble undertaking of his predecessor, to complete the work for which Dr. Loughlin laid down his life. On the 7th of September, 1877, Father Mulheron assumed charge of St. Mary’s and a better choice cold not have been made.

    Coming under most adverse circumstances with an enormous debt of $60,000.00 upon the people, and a financial depression then passing over the country, ordinarily a man would hesitate undertaking such a task. True the church was built, but the furnishings were inadequate and not in keeping with the beautiful edifice; an unsanitary school building, a poor dilapidated convent for the sisters, a parsonage hemmed in on all sides—these were the conditions under which Father Mulheron commenced his labors at St. Mary’s. With a loyal and faithful people, and with implicit trust and confidence in God, he set about to lift the debt and improve the church property. And now after thirty-one years of persistent effort, St. Mary’s church and surrounding auxiliaries are regarded as a credit to pastor and people, and ornament to the city and an honor to religion.

    The church is built entirely of gray limestone. Its style is a modification of Gothic architecture in the form of a Latin cross, with nave, side aisle, transepts and apse. The ceilings are groined and enriched with foliated bosses, and the capitals and corbels are finely ornamented. St. Mary’s people are to be congratulated upon the possession of such a magnificent church. It would, indeed, be hard to find a more beautiful structure. Its interior is art crystallized, its architecture is devotion idealized, its symmetry is art immortalized. Outside it hangs together like a picture, inside it pours down on you all the grandeur, devotion and magnificence of a cathedral. Some one has said that art is frozen music, but art and architecture such as St. Mary’s are religion, not frozen, asleep, perhaps, but with open eyes. Look at it; go into the church, and everything there, the walls, the pillars, the triple arch, the altars, the ceilings, furnishings, all speak mutely but eloquently of God, of Jesus, of heaven and its inhabitants.

    It will not be amiss to enumerate some of the work performed under Father Mulheron’s administration. The present school building was erected at a cost of $8,000.00, the mortgage on the lot of $6,000.00, paid off. The Francisco property, between church and school, was bought for $10,000.00. New pews were placed in the church, altars remodeled, the interior decorated at a cost of $4,000.00, new and modern heating apparatus were installed in church parsonage and school, a new church organ, one of the finest in the city was procured for the sum of $6,000.00. The new parochial residence cost $10,000.00. The Shimer property on State Street, which enhances the beauty and appearance of St. Mary’s, was purchased for $5,000.00. These times, and many others that might be given, together with the annual running expenses of church and school for the past thirty-one years make a grand total of over $400,000.00 which have been received and disbursed during Father Mulheron’s pastorate. The debt on the church property is now reduced to $12,000.00, which by the generosity of St. Mary’s people will  in a few years, be entirely liquidated. A tower upon the church with its chime of bells is only lacking. It is the fond hope of pastor and people that the completion of the tower and the acquisition of the chimes will in the near future be accomplished and acquired.

    And notwithstanding all this, although deeply involved in temporal affairs, Father Mulheron, during all these years, never lost sight of the spiritual welfare of his flock. He has been every ready day and night to attend to their many wants. Nowhere, it can be safely said, have better opportunities been presented for the practice of religion than those held out by Father Mulheron for his people both young and old. Under his supervision various societies were organized. He has always taken a deep interest in the welfare of these societies and his efforts in their behalf are recognized and appreciated by all. His religious zeal and activity for the welfare of his parishioners have resulted in the following organizations—The Yong Ladies’ Sodality, which, by the way, bears the reputation of the largest in the diocese, if not in the state or nation; the Children of Mary, the Holy Name Society, the Rosary and Scapular, and the Boy’s Sodality of the Holy Name of Jesus.

    Father Mulheron has always had the interest of Catholicity at heart. He was instrumental in establishing the Auburn Orphan Asylum, fully recognized the necessity of such an institution in our city, where the fatherless and motherless little ones might receive proper religious training under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph. He threw his whole soul and energy into the work, and ever since its establishment has been its loyal and devoted friend.

    About four years ago, under his direction and supervision, St. Edward’s, a combination church and school, was erected in the southwestern part of the city, at a cost of over $14,000.00, for the accommodation of his parishioners in that vicinity. At present it is attended from St. Mary’s but in course of time will have its own pastor. He is now busily engaged in looking after the interest of the Italian population of the city. A site has been purchased in lower Clark Street, in the center of the Italian colony, on which has already been built a parochial residence, costing nearly $3,000.00. It is expected that in a very short time the work on the new church, to be known as "St. Francis of Assisi," will be commenced. To both these enterprises St. Mary’s people, although taxed heavily to meet their own demands, have contributed generously and in the same kindly and charitable spirit that has been so characteristic of them in the past.

    The following priests have been assistants at St. Mary’s for period ranging from a few months to five years, and have ably assisted both Dr. Loughlin and Father Mulheron in all their undertakings: -- Rev. Dr. Massino, once president of Allegheny College; Rev. Dr. Lynch, afterwards pastor of Ithaca; Rev. Eugene Pagani; Rev. Father Connelly; Rev. W. Morris, now of Denver, Col.; Rev Father Sturton; Rev. Father Russell; Rev. Joseph Hendrick, the present pastor of Ovid; Rev. James Day, now of Mount Morris; Rev. James Hickey, at present pastor of Holy Apostles’ Church, Rochester; Rev. Father Donnelly, of Victor; Rev. James J. Dougherty, now of Canandaigua; Rev. John J. McGrath, pastor of St. Aloysius’, this city; Rev. Jon Quinn, now of Mount Reid; Rev. James J. Gibbons, at present pastor of Newark; Rev. J. Francis O’Hern, of the Cathedral, Rochester; Rev. John B. Doran, of Groton; Rev. E.J. Dwyer, now assistant at the Holy Family this city, and the present assistant, Revs. John R. Fitzsimons and P.J. Smyth. – by P.J.S.



Published by Cayuga County Historical Society

Printed by John P. Smith Company, Rochester, N.Y.

Published 1908 Pages 225-229

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