COHOCTON — A century ago a community saw hope in the ashes of their fallen church, and chose to rebuild their foundation on faith.
On July 8 the Cohocton St. Pius V Catholic Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a special blessing and dedication from Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano. It was 100 years ago on July 7, 1918 that the Catholic community came to witness Rochester Bishop Thomas Francis Hickey bless the cornerstone of the new church.
On January 15, 1918 the parishioners awoke to the news that the beloved church on Hill Street had been consumed by flames and reduced to ashes on a cold winter’s day. Their faith was not shaken; before the ruins had a chance to cool they were planning to rebuild a more suitable House of God.
The Gregory Peck property was purchased on Maple Avenue, and it was from this generosity that the community began its efforts in building a new church. Plans had been drawn by Joseph Oberlies of Rochester for the church to be built in the structure of an Old Spanish Mission.
Groundbreaking for the Spanish-style architecture began on May 1, 1918. The cornerstone was laid on July 7, 1918 and it was from that moment the people rejoiced. The work began to take form, and by Oct. 27, 1918 the Catholic community had a church home once more. It took less than a year for this magnificent structure of faith to stand tall in the face of hardships.
Bishop Matano was thrilled to be part of this most blessed day.
“It is always a joy to come to a parish, and celebrate the most holy among us,” he said. “We have kept the faith so beautifully all of these years. We pray it will continue in the future.”
Rev. Stephen Karani saw the faith that these people had a century ago as inspiring.
“We encourage people to be active in their faith,” he said. “That is what people did 100 years ago, and that is what we keep doing today. The historical perspective has shown you the importance of faith itself.”
Rev. Karini added that so many people have come through this church over the last 100 years with baptisms, weddings, burials, and worship.
“People have come here for many years, and this shows you what a small community church can do. These people are proud of their faith, and they are proud of their church,” he said. “It is important to keep practicing our faith.”
“We celebrate this historic day, and hope that it lasts another 100 years,” Rev. Karani continued. “We are here now, and we represent the beliefs of the people who built this church.”
John Landino built the new time capsule made of brass for the next generation of Catholics to discover. The box (also made of brass) will be placed inside the wall, so that those in the future can have an easy time recovering the treasure.
“We fought with the cornerstone for six hours, so I thought this would be a lot easier,” Landino said. “There will be a brass plaque put on the time capsule. This is made to last forever.”
Bishop Matano gave a lovely insight into what the ancestors left behind in the stones of the church.
“Before this church was built they would walk 10 to 20 miles to the Sacred Heart Church in Perkinsville. There couldn’t be a greater testimony of faith from our ancestors. They walked 10 to 20 miles by foot to get to mass every Sunday,” he said. “Those ashes and ruins did not characterize the faith of the people. The faith they saw in the ashes reminded them of an early Ash Wednesday. As Christ rose from the dead, so did the faith of our ancestors from those ashes.”
The oldest parishioner of the church, Victor Schumacher, 85, has spent his entire life in the hollow walls of this Holy Place.
“This is a special day for me. I have gone to this church my whole life,” he said. “I was baptized here, married here, raised all 11 of my children in this church. I have been married for 58 years.”
Schumacher said that Bishop Matano did an excellent job dedicating and blessing the church.
“My grandparents helped with the church,” he said. “They went to the old church on the hill. My family roots are dug real deep in this ground.”
Schumacher added that all his children were baptized and married at this church as well.
There was a presentation given of awards for those who have shown the love of Jesus to the community. They all received a certificate and a photo taken with Bishop Matano. The following were honored: Gerald Kiesl, Kevin Kilbourne, Gregory and Amy Keagy, Mary Ann Scharmberg, Michael VanDurme, Daniel and Roxanne Supulski, Daniel and Gail Cox, Norman Schneider, and Dan and Sharon Slattery.