The history of Our Lady of the Lakes begins with the story of the six churches of St. Andrew, St. Januarius, St. Mary, St. Michael, St. Patrick, and St. Theresa. St. Januarius was a parish by itself for most of its existence. St. Andrew’s was always a mission church of St. Michael’s, with priests from St. Michael’s celebrating the Masses and providing for all the sacramental needs. St. Patrick’s shared a priest with St. Gabriel’s in Hammondsport, before being united with St. Januarius in Naples. St. Mary’s and St. Theresa’s, although formed independently, had worked together for many years.
In 1997, our diocese called for every parish in the diocese to undergo a planning process, first as individual parishes reviewing strengths and weaknesses, and then together as regions. Our diocese is made up of twelve regions. Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community is in the Finger Lakes region. So, each with its own story, the six churches began to work together. Changing demographics, declining attendance, and reduced number of clergy called for collaboration and sharing of resources.
Attentive to the question, “How do we continue to be a place where people can come to deepen their relationship with God?”, we needed to balance being good stewards of our God-given gifts with the wise use of our resources. We did this by assuming a shared staff model. Serving the needs of all our worship sites, we have one Business Manager and one Director of Faith Formation. We also share both professional and our lay leadership resources with a combined Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults/Children (RCIA/C) program.
We merged the various committees of the parish. Previously, we had three parish councils (St. Michael, St. Januarius and St. Andrew), one combined parish council for St. Theresa and St. Mary, and a ‘parish forum’ structure at St. Patrick’s. There is now one pastoral council that includes membership from all of the worship sites. The Pastoral Council deals with the issues of the parish at large. Likewise, we combined the Finance, Social Ministry and Liturgy committees. Care of the Community groups address the issues particular to each worship site.
Attendance figures versus the capacity of each church was also examined. Was there a need for six churches? Nobody ever wants to close a church. Yet, considering expenses that go with maintaining six churches (electricity, heat and maintenance) versus attendance, capacity and resources, decisions were made to close St. Andrew’s and St. Mary’s. These were not easy decisions.
Becoming one parish does not mean each worship site does everything exactly the same. Each church has its own history and traditions. Each church has a different floor plan. Our Liturgy Committee develops ideas that may be achieved in slightly different ways at the different sites. Likewise, our Social Ministry Committee does not dictate the ministry at each church. We seek to work together in a way that respects the traditions of the parishioners at each worship site. We pool our resources to achieve the greatest benefit for all God’s people.
In 2010, after twelve years of working together, the process to formally reorganize as one parish known as Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community began. It was a difficult process. It will continue to bring new challenges, challenges that we face together united as one family through our common baptism.