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Some Oswego Catholics upset with church selected for merger

Payne Horning
St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Oswego, which was built in 1925, was not selected as the site of the newly merged Catholic community.

Starting July 1, Catholics in Oswego will merge their four churches into one because of the dwindling number of worshipers and limited resources in the community. Although many parishioners understand the need for the consolidation, several are unhappy with where the new faith community will celebrate mass.

The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has decided to move forward with St. Paul's Church as the home of the newly named Christ the Good Shepherd Parish. It's a newer building than many of the other churches in Oswego and of modern design. Bishop Robert Cunningham said that was the consensus-based recommendation he received from the Oswego community. But some from St. Mary's say that's disingenuous.

"I didn't like the process went down," said one congregant from St. Mary of the Assumption Church, who did not wish to be named. "I think more people should have been involved in the final decision."

Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News
WRVO News (file photo)

St. Mary's is a tall, ornate church that was completed in 1925. It's of early European Gothic design and was made with stones from the local community, making it that much more difficult for congregants like Margaret Waters-Poor to say goodbye.

"This is such a beautiful structure, I’ll miss it," Waters-Poor said. "I feel that this is such a holy place and so I’m saddened."

Other members of the Oswego Catholic community are disappointed too. Parishioners have written letters to the editorsaying it's a mistake to close an historic part of Oswego's past such ornate architecture. Nearly 1,000 people have signed their names to a petitionto save saint Mary's.

In a statement, the diocese said the decision was the result of a vote and trustees from all four parishes participated. Other Oswego Catholics say they made the right call.

"It’s a larger church, so I think that’s very helpful," said Pam Wincheck, who attends St. Stephen's Church in Oswego. " I think it’s also one of the more updated churches, so it’s probably more cost effective. So, I’m OK with it."

St. Paul's is located right across the street from Oswego's only Catholic school, which is important for parishioners like Judy Coniski from St. Stephen's.

"Our future in our country and our church is with children and we have to invest as much as we can in their development, their growth, their spirituality," Coniski said.

Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News
St. Paul's Church in Oswego will house the newly consolidated Catholic community in Oswego.

Despite the disagreement, many Oswego parishioners like George Hoffman, who attends St. Mary's, say these churches are only buildings.

"The main thing is the house of the Lord, we gotta go where the word of the Lord is spoken," Hoffman said.

The unification of the four churches is official as of July 1, with masses celebrated on July 6 and 7. Terrance Smith from St. Paul's says that's ultimately what matters most.

"It’s no longer St. Paul’s as of July 1, no longer St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s, or St. Stephens," Smith said. "It’s going to be the Oswego Catholic Community of Christ the Good Shepherd."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.