Irondequoit Catholic church celebrated its last Sunday mass this past Sunday.
The final Sunday mass at St. Salome Church's Culver Road location was delivered on Sept. 26. A reception followed. The church is now a part of the consolidated Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, which brought the five Catholic churches — St. Margaret Mary’s, Christ the King, St. Thomas, St. Salome and St. Cecelia’s — under one parish, with three separate worship sites and a new mass schedule.
Stained glass art containing inspirational words of wisdom line the windows of St. Salome Catholic Church.
Happy are the pure of heart.
Happy are the merciful.
Happy are the peacemakers.
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right.
Eternal life does not accept those who are born but once.
This phrase lies in the window behind the baptismal font, referencing the rebirth of parishioners as they are baptized into Catholicism.
But now, it can also serve as reference to the rebirth of the longest-established Irondequoit Catholic church, as it celebrated its last Sunday mass this past weekend.
The final Sunday mass at St. Salome Church's Culver Road location was delivered on Sept. 26, with a reception to follow. The church is now a part of the consolidated Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, which brought the five Catholic churches — St. Margaret Mary’s, Christ the King, St. Thomas, St. Salome and St. Cecelia’s — under one parish, with three separate worship sites and a new mass schedule.
The church has stood in the Sea Breeze area for 102 years, though it hasn’t always been in the same building. The church is in its third building since it opened in 1908, with the two prior churches both destroyed by fire.
The first building was built after vacationers visiting the Sea Breeze resort area had requested a church be built, so that they did not have to return to city limits for Sunday mass. The land was donated by a local, and her only request was to have the church named after her patron saint, St. Salome. It is believed Salome was a relative of Jesus, and the mother of two apostles, James and John. She is often depicted with a box of herbs and spices, as she was one of the women gathered to anoint Jesus’s body: They had returned to Jesus’s tomb, to find the stone had rolled away and that Jesus had risen from the dead, according to the Bible and church tradition. A church named after St. Salome is rare, parishioner Sandy Doran said.
The first building lasted until 1910, when a fire believed to have stemmed from a recent furnace installation destroyed the wooden church. Parishioners and locals raised enough money to build the second church, which was placed on the land on the east side of Culver Road, facing the previous church site. The second church opened in 1911. The school opened a short time later, in 1921.
This design was of Spanish architecture, with an orange tile roof and stucco walls.
The inside was wooden, but the outside stood sturdy. In 1967, it was a stormy, rain-clad night as a patron was leaving the nearby bar. Lightning had hit the building, and by the time the man saw the church, flames had already engulfed the building, with flames easily visible from the stained glass windows.
The fire departments arrived on scene, but the church was a total loss. The floor had fallen into the basement, and the interior was destroyed.
In 1969, the current building was dedicated.
With the long-standing history, the church has raised generations of families. Parishioners’ parents were baptized and married in the church. Their kids were baptized in the same church.
“We’re a part of Irondequoit, just as Irondequoit is a part of us,” Doran said.
The church has become the family, and a strong community for all parishioners.
“It’s always a warm, welcoming place to people who want to worship with us,” Pastoral Assistant Donna Moll said. “I think that’s something we’ve emphasized here. We’re a welcoming community here. Very welcoming and always have been.”
The ministries at the church will merge, with current members of particular ministries becoming a part of the parish’s ministries.
“An upside of merging is now that we’re in all of these groups, there’s more of us to be a part of ministries,” Doran said, “now that Catholic churches are united in this community.”
The final Sunday mass celebrated the long history of the church, including specially written hymns, titled “Blessed St. Salome” and “One hundred years, Blessed St. Salome.” Parishioners came together for the final regular mass, followed by a reception. The church will continue funerals and special events as needed until the building is sold or other uses are found for it.
The future of the building does remain unknown, but it is believed the diocese will be in charge of the sale.
“That’s all a part of the transition,” Paul Zoltoski, leader of the transition team, said. Zoltoski has been a member of St. Salome’s for 31 years, with his children’s baptisms and First Communions at the church.
Zoltoski stresses there will not be a for-sale sign on the church, however.
Items inside the church, such as the St. Salome statue, or plaques commemorating memorial donations or parishioners who served overseas in the military, will all find new places in one of the three worship sites of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
The consolidation of the churches will see less duplication of work, and pooled resources to make projects stronger, Moll said. “We hope to have a stronger Catholic presence in Irondequoit,” she said. “Instead of five different celebrations of the same things, we can put all that work and effort into one.”
Charity and holiday projects will see a bigger pool of resources, as well. Zoltoski and Moll hope that the consolidation can help the town, as a whole.
“We want to make Irondequoit a better place because of the Catholic church being in it,” Zoltoski said.
But despite the upsides, many are still sad to see the church, and the community associated with it, move to a new parish and a new location.
“My husband’s family has been here their whole life,” Moll said. “It’s a home community, and the people in the community are close-knit. Everyone is not going to be in the same place every weekend, and that’s really sad, but we should have a stronger community.”
“The big thing is the sadness of the whole thing,” Zoltoski added. “The key to the whole thing is the community, the familiar place. It’s a very quaint, beautiful church. It’s tough to describe, but it’s a very welcoming community.”
The other church set to close, St. Thomas the Apostle, will celebrate its final Sunday mass in November.