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Letter to the Editor

The wonders at St. Bart’s Church

Dear Editor,

Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Norwich contains a multitude of spectacular wonders. The blue stone exterior, the clay tile roof and the magnificent bell tower testify to a refined sense of sacred beauty. The canopy above the altar supported by ornate marble columns recalls Bernini’s baldacchino above the main altar at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The stained glass windows, stations of the cross, marble communion rail, wrought gilded altar gate featuring images of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts, mosaics, frescos and sculptures all work to reveal a feeling of holiness unlike anywhere else in this region. Yet perhaps the most intriguing if not often overlooked aspects of St. Bart’s is the monument to Our Lady of Fatima immediately adjacent to its main entrance. What is this about?

Wikipedia reveals the essential narrative. In 1917 the mother of Jesus Christ appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal requesting penance, recitation of the Rosary and consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. This makes 2017 the one hundred year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

According to the narrative, the Mother of Christ specifically requested the recitation of the Rosary, a sequence of prayers invoking reflection upon the Joyous, Sorrowful and Glorious “Mysteries”. These “Mysteries” constitute the principle episodes from the life of Christ and his Mother: The Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation, Finding the lost child teaching in the temple, the Agony of Gethsemane, Scourging, Crowning with Thorns, The Way of the Cross, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Descent of the Holy Spirit, Assumption, and Coronation.

These episodes are marvelously depicted in the stained glass windows of St Bart’s Church. In the gothic language of light these windows flanking the nave of the church tell the complete story of the essential mystery of Christianity. They reveal the ultimate hero cycle where dense limited material bodies are transformed into unlimited luminosity.

The glass itself is remarkable. Made by the most primitive methods, its warped surface created by pouring molten glass over crude clay tiles features trapped air bubbles and intense colors that might rival stained glass from the great gothic cathedrals of France. Just as the luminosity of Divine grace flows through our bodies during the sacrament of Holy Communion, the light of the sun passes through these stained glass windows.

Hearing the Mass and reciting the Rosary regularly results in a transformation beyond the limits of the ordinary world. Theologians explain that creation did not simply happen once but that creation is continuous. Christ is continually being born, being crucified, being resurrected. Time is not what we think it is. Time can be overcome. There is a moment outside of time where everything has already happened and everything that has ever happened is always happening, “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, PER OMNIA SAECULA SACULORUM, world without end, amen”. In this moment, the essence of Divine compassion, there is existence without duration. Was the message of OUR LADY of FATIMA a hundred years ago a reminder of this mystery?

 Holy Week fast approaches. Recitation of the Rosary, contemplation of the Stations of the Cross and daily Mass make the best preparation for Easter. Yet another potentially immense and more direct experience awaits anyone casually driving by St Bart’s at night and briefly glancing at the Fatima shrine illuminated by flood lights. The scene calls to mind words from the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, “A LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS... AND THE DARKNESS COMPREHENDS IT NOT...”

 Joseph Caezza Guilford, NY




Shots from St. Bartholomew 2014 Feast Day. At the top are winners of the Eddie Caputo 5k, which kicked off the event. Anthony Lewis of Norwich had a time of 21. 16 and Mersadie Dibbell of Norwich finished in 23. 48. Other photos include the procession, entertainment, and food service.

St. Bart’s sets the stage for another Italian feast

Parishioners at St. Batholomew's Catholic Church in the City of Norwich have a longstanding tradition to pay tribute to the Italian Catholic community and emphasize the church which has become a staple in the city.

This Friday and Saturday, St. Bart's will continue that tradition with another round of its annual Italian Feast Day celebration. For more than 80 years, St. Bart's Feast Day has drawn hundreds of area residents to celebrate the Italian Catholic heritage through food, games, and entertainment.

"This is what we do to remind everybody where we came from and how we started out, " said St. Bart's parishioner Theresa Biviano.

Feast Day kicks off Friday at the church located at 81 E. Main Street in Norwich, behind the Monsignor Festa Parish Center. The three-day gala, which started as a construction fundraiser to build the church in 1927, features an array of music, games, raffles, and - of course - old-fashioned Italian cuisine.

On the menu this year: homemade sausage and peppers, meatball subs, eggplant parmesan, pasta fagiole, gigi, fried ravioli, peaches and wine, Italian cookies, hot dogs and hamburgers, and a number of other Italian dishes and pastries.

"So many people come just for the food, " said longtime parishioner JoAnn Testani. "But the main reason we do this every year is to honor our Patron Saint, St. Bartholomew.

" The St. Bart's Feast Day celebration starts Friday evening with a youth dance and Italian cuisine for sale. The youth dance, new this year to Feast Day activities, is for kids ages 10-14. Testani said the dance is to give kids something fun to do and ease into a tradition that's been passed down for generations.

"While kids are at the dance, parents could be outside enjoying the food and entertainment, " she added. "It's a good way to get (young people) more involved.

" Friday also presents a chance to register for the Eddie Caputo Memorial 5K Walk/Run, set to take off at 10: 30 a. m. on Saturday. The third annual Eddie Caputo Run is expected to have a grand turnout, said festival organizers, as people come out not only to raise money for St. Bart's, but also to commemorate longtime parishioner Eddie Caputo, a man who was dedicated to the church, his conviction, and the local community.

Entertainment on Friday will be provided by the Bruce Beadle Band, which will take the stage at the parish center from 6: 30-8: 30 p. m.

The festival continues Saturday from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. A number of festivities are planned throughout the day, including face painting and cake decorating, performances from the Norwich Theater Company at 2 p. m. , mass at 4 p. m. , the Norwich Dance Club at 5: 15 p. m. , Phoenix Project Dance at 6: 15 p. m. , and DJ music from 6-9 p. m.

Celebrations come to a close Sunday with mass at 9 a. m. , followed by a procession with a statue of St. Batholomew. Parishioners carry the statue through town each year, encouraging people to pin money to the banner that decorates it.

All proceeds raised during Feast Day festivities will be used for necessary structural repairs and upkeep of the church.

Said parishioner Michele Haughton, "This is just a great way to remember our ancestors who came from the old country. "

Norwich Community Soup Kitchen opens its doors for another season
Sun Staff Writer

NORWICH - For four years, the Norwich Community Soup Kitchen located in the St. Bartholomew's Parish Center on East Main Street in Norwich has been serving up free meals to area residents and asking nothing in return.

On Tuesday, the community kitchen once again opened its doors for a new season, assuring that those in need can get a free hot meal in addition to the opportunity to enjoy the company of others. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the St. Bartholomew Parish Center, 81 E. Main St. near the heart of downtown Norwich.

According to organizers, it takes more than a few helping hands to keep things on track when the soup kitchen opens. As many as 140 volunteers have been known to pitch-in on any given night, setting time apart from their own busy schedules to prepare, cook, serve and clean for others. Helpers range in talents and age, noted one volunteer. Whether it's a local high school student or one of the more seasoned volunteers contributing their time in retirement, everyone has a role they can play, she said.

While dinner isn't served until 5:30, volunteers are hard at work throughout the day. Tables and chairs are set up in the morning and food preparation begins as early as 1 p.m. Enough food is made to feed a crowd of 100, making the Norwich Community Soup Kitchen one of the largest in the county.
Although the volunteer group inherited the "soup kitchen" label, it's name - the Norwich Community Soup Kitchen  is misleading, one organizer pointed out, because it doesn't actually serve soup and it's open to residents beyond the Norwich community.

Tuesday night's menu consisted of biscuits and sausage gravy, mashed potatoes, peas and a roll on the side, and was made available to anyone from Chenango County who showed up.
Free dinners are made possible solely through private donations and grants from individuals and other charitable organizations such as the Chenango United Way, the Follett Foundation, and the New York State Central Food Bank.

The all-volunteer organization asks that anyone who wishes to make a financial donation send it to Norwich Community Kitchen c/o St Bartholomew Church 81 East Main St. Norwich NY 13815. Free dinners will be offered every week through May. For additional information, call 337-2215

St. Bartholomew’s celebrates more than 80 years of

Italian Catholic heritage


Sun Staff Writer


Norwich -- For more than 80 years, parishioners at St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church on East Main Street in Norwich have come together for an annual festival to celebrate the longstanding Irish Catholic heritage in the area and help sustain a church that has become an unmistakable staple in the community.

Friday marks the 85th annual St. Bartholomew Italian Feast Celebration at the Monsignor Festa Parish Center, 81 E. Main St. in Norwich. The three-day annual gala - which began in 1927 as a fundraiser to construct the church itself - features an arrangement of music, games, raffles and - of course - some of the finest Italian cuisine to be found. According to organizers, the intent is to carry on a tradition passed down for more than three generations of parishioners and preserve the legacy of the Italian Catholic Church.

"This is such an important tradition for us," explained JoAnn Testani, a longtime parishioner of the church. "We are trying to carry on the traditions passed down to us by our parents and our grandparents."

"Every year, we have people who attend not only from our perish, but from all over," added Teresa Biviano, a senior member of the church who has been involved with the festival since childhood. "It is something that has been supported for a long time and several businesses and parishioners have been very generous in donating to us.

" The festival gets underway at 5 p.m. Friday, when Italian foods are served up behind the parish center. The menu features some of the tastiest Italian foods, say organizers, including homemade sausage and peppers, meatball subs, pasta fagole, eggplant parmigiana, fried ravioli, polenta and gigi, and a variety of Italian pastries and homemade Italian cookies.

A special performance from "All Shook Up," a Norwich Theater Company production based on the life of Elvis Presley, is also scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

Admission, as always, is free.

Friday also presents a chance to register for the Eddie Caputo Memorial 5K Run and Walk, set to take off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The 2nd annual Eddie Caputo Run is expected to have a grand turnout, said festival coordinators, as people come out not only to raise money for St. Bartholomew's, but also to commemorate parishioner Eddie Caputo, a man who was dedicated to the church, his conviction, and the local community.

"I hope a lot of people are able to participate," said Joseph Caputo, father of the late Eddie Caputo. "He was so good. He dedicated his life to the church and to the faith

." Registration for the Eddie Caputo Run and Walk will continue from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday.

The festival continues that day with an array of entertainment including silent auctions, a book sale, cash raffles, a cake booth, and games for adults and children. Additionally, a performance from the Donna French Dance Studio of Norwich is set to take to the parish grounds at 2:30 p.m., and Italian foods will be offered until the event ends at 9 p.m.

At 9 a.m. Sunday, the celebration takes a different tone, beginning with a special Mass spoken in both English and Italian. The service will be followed by a procession of parishioners carrying a stature of St. Bartholomew. Tradition is that parishioners bear the stature in a procession around the church grounds as people attach money to the streamers on the stature - the very same stature used in the first procession in 1927. Once again, all proceeds go directly toward the mission of the church.

Sunday's Mass and procession will be immediately followed by a free-will offering breakfast brunch under the pavilion behind the parish center. For additional information on the St. Bartholomew Italian Feast Celebration, visit the church website,

St. Bartholomew’s celebrates Italian Feast this weekend

NORWICH – St. Bartholomew’s will once again host its annual Italian Feast Day beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and running through the weekend at its 81 East Main St. location.

 The celebration will culminate with a special 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday by Father Ralph Bove, in both English and Italian, said organizers, who added the event is free and open to the entire community.

 Joked Mayor Joseph Maiurano, “On Italian Feast Day, everyone becomes Italian.”

  Organizers said the key components of the celebration range from a massive assortment of Italian cuisine, raffles and games to Friday’s hour-long performance of excerpts from the Norwich Theater Company’s upcoming production of “Godspell.” The Italian Feast celebration runs until 8:30 p.m. Friday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

 A procession will follow Sunday’s Mass at approximately 10 a.m., during which time a statue of St. Bartholomew will be hoisted up and carried around the church grounds. Fluttering from the statue’s back will be the same banner that first ordained it during the 1927 celebration, said organizers, and people will have an opportunity to pin money on to it in a traditional offering to the saint.

 All proceeds raised will be used for necessary structural repairs and upkeep of the historical monument that the church has become.

 A long list of Italian foods will include, pasta e fagiolo, Italian wedding soup, homemade sausage and peppers, ravioli and cannoli, as well as American fare such as meatball subs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fried dough, brownie sundaes and peachs fermented in wine (the latter, an alleged favorite of Father Bove’s).

 A variety of raffles will be held in the parish gym, in addition to games and a book sale. Prizes include a $1,000 cash prize as well as a laptop. Only 600 tickets will be available for the laptop raffle, giving attendees a slightly better chance then they would have winning the New York State Lottery, said organizers.

 On Saturday, the festival will feature the first Eddie Caputo 5K Run/Walk beginning at 10:30 a.m. Registration forms are available at NBT, the YMCA, McLaughlin’s and the Pennysaver.

 Last year, the St. Bartholomew Parish was able to raise an estimated $14,000, said organizers, who added they understand times are tough, so all of the food and games will be reasonably priced, allowing all in attendance to have a good time. Even so, said the committee, the celebration is more than just good eating, and the committee is hoping the event will once again symbolize friendship throughout the community, bringing people together for three days of celebration and fun.

 For more information, call  337-2215 or visit  



Saint Bartholomew, we salute you!


The seed of wisdom is self knowledge. As a community, the key to our collective identity lies largely in myth and folklore. With that in mind it may be useful to examine the history behind one of our city’s most unusual architectural wonders.

 St. Bart’s Church at the corner of East Main Street and Silver Street, with its Romanesque features, blue stone exterior, clay tile roof and stunning bell tower, rings out a message of hope and salvation from another land and another age. Originally built by hoards of immigrants from the Island of Lipari, just north of Sicily, it testifies to the power and the glory of a martyr who was skinned alive for his commitment to Divine Illumination.

 St. Bartholomew, totally without guile, might today be heard reiterating the idiom, “It is what it is.” His faith transcended mere belief. It was rather a mystic certainty born not from whimsical momentary communion with Divinity but total permanent absorption into the ecstasy of oneness with the universe. For him horrifying death was a ticket to joyous eternity.

 As a child, my grandfather took me on his knee to tell the story of how the people of Lipari came to venerate St. Bartholomew. Shortly after the time of Christ a great famine fell upon the island. Starvation claimed the lives of many. Then a mysterious ship appeared in the harbor bearing the name “St. Bartholomew.” It docked and all the sailors, each of them named “Bartholomew” began unloading sacks of wheat. The people were overjoyed. Their hunger was satisfied. The next day they returned to the harbor to repay the sailors but the boat was gone. The body of the saint had washed ashore. Folktales describe how no one could lift it except the innocent children. The people built a great Basilica and to this day the feast of St. Bartholomew is celebrated there not once but four times a year. Immigrants brought this tradition to Norwich a century ago.

 Upon passing the Church of St. Bartholomew in Norwich the chance always presents itself to look up at his statue perched above the rose window and make the sign of the cross. Calling down his grace is as simple as that. His sacred edifice throbs with Divine energy and gushes holiness with the force of a mystic geyser-like fountain to enrich our community. He offers not just food for our mortal bodies but nourishment for our immortal souls. This year’s feast day celebrations take place on August 24th and 25th.  We all have the opportunity to participate in this tradition. Let’s not waste it.

 Joseph Caezza

Letter To The Editor

Honoring the life and spirit of Eddie Caputo

George Flanagan's commemorative party at Chenango Lake on May 16th marked the first anniversary of the passing of Eddie Caputo, also known as Johnny Bullhead. Eddie's friends gathered by scores to celebrate the life of one of Chenango County's most amazing characters. His funeral Mass at a totally packed St. Bartholomew's Church a year ago seemed more like the crowds at Christmas eve midnight Mass. It was certainly the biggest funeral ever celebrated at St. Bart's.

We live in a world ruled and ruined by Wall Street fraud. Its financial masters destroy country after country in their quest for world domination and the enslavement of humankind. Recent scandals including MF Global, the recent JP Morgan Debacle and the LIBOR affair demonstrate the diabolic intentions of the money junkies. Evil may be defined as denying another the right to thrive. The specific example of greed concerns taking more than one needs. With this in mind let us consider a single episode from Eddie's life.

He made his frugal living as a contractor painting houses. In the midst of the present state of economic recession, one unforgettable story shows his true nature. He was paid in advance a few thousand dollars to paint a house. At the end of the job he presented his mystified customer with a check for $800 dollars. When questioned about the unexpected refund, he explained that the job was completed sooner than anticipated. What contractor would ever do such a thing? The deed recalls his famous battle cry, "The best things in life are not things."

Love remains to be the bridge between the living and the dead. Love indeed overcomes death. Love overcomes time itself. This is the example set for us by Jesus Christ, St Bartholomew and in his own little way, Eddie Caputo. In the words of the New Testament he is "changed not gone."

Sages and saints from every corner of the globe tell us that time is not what we think it is. Time can be overcome. The admonition from the Mass, " As it was in the beginning, Is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen" confirms this. There is a Divine moment outside of time where everything has already happened and everything that ever happened is always happening. Jesus is continuously being born is a stable, being crucified on the cross and rising from the dead. We celebrate this mystery at every Mass, in the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.

In a similar vein, Eddie is always leading warm up exercises for varsity football practice, always excelling in his athletic prowess in wrestling, baseball and cross country. He is in the Divine moment of eternity, always organizing his friends to start a business. As a well-known "party waiting to happen" he is always doing the grunt work for his personally originated annual events, the perch derby and the squirrel roast. I see him clearly, for all eternity, dancing in ecstasy with Marie Dykstra at the St. Bart's feast day celebration or again Eddie leading the procession of the statue of St. Bartholomew that he restored through the streets of Norwich or once again leading the battle to keep our church from being shut down with tee shirts he produced depicting the martyrdom of St. Bartholomew. It happens not once but always. And always I am in total amazement as he joins me at 3 a.m. during an all-night vigil adoration at the St. Paul's Marion Chapel. What a total surprise it always is. I sit alone in celestial silence. Peace is broken when the back door suddenly opens. I wonder who it could be at this hour. In walks Eddie Caputo!

The seeds of Caputo greatness live on in so many ways; the recent exhibit at the Chenango Council of the Arts by Eddie's nephew, also named Ed, or the recent graduation speech by his other nephew, John Mooney, valedictorian of Norwich Senior High School's Class of 2012, but especially in the upcoming Ed Caputo Memorial 5 K run scheduled for Aug. 25.

The call goes out now to all bullheads. Let us sign up now and start training for this event. With easy effort we can create an institution to honor his memory that will coincide with St Bartholomew's Feast Day celebration. Personally, I am on it.

Joseph Caezza



St Bart's Church in Norwich, N.Y., contains a multitude of spectacular wonders. The blue stone exterior, the clay tile roof and the magnificent bell tower testify to a refined sense of sacred beauty. The canopy above the altar supported by marble columns recalls Bernini's baldacchino above the main altar at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The Fatima shrine, Stations of the Cross, marble communion rail, mosaics, frescos and sculptures all work to reveal a feeling of holiness unattainable anywhere else in this region.

The most neglected feature of St Bart's is perhaps also the most sublime. How many of us have ever taken the time to study the stained glass windows of "our little cathedral"? In the gothic language of light these windows flanking the nave of the church tell the complete story of the Joyous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. These "Mysteries" constitute the principle episodes from the life of Christ and his Mother; The Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation, Finding the lost Christ Child, The Agony of Gethsemane, Scourging, Crowning with Thorns, Way of the Cross, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption and The Coronation. These episodes are contemplated while reciting the prayers of the Rosary. Here for all to see in the stained glass windows of St Bart's Church is the ultimate hero cycle, the ultimate human drama.

But why do we need to hear Mass and recite the Rosary on a daily basis? Theologians tell us that creation did not simply happen once but that creation is continuous. Christ is continuously being born, being crucified, being resurrected. We discover this as an experiential reality after years of devotion to the Joyous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and the ritual of Mass.

Time is not what we think it is. Time can be overcome. There is a moment outside of time where everything has already happened and everything that has ever happened is always happening "AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING, IS NOW AND EVER SHALL BE, PER OMNIA SAECULA SACULORUM, WORLD WITHOUT END AMEN". In this moment, the essence of Divine Love, there is existence without duration. The spectacular twelve-rayed rose window above the main entrance to St Bart's comprises a symbolic expression of this idea. It bears witness to this timeless moment of eternity. Each of us has the capacity to experience this. Each of us still has the opportunity. Let's not waste it.

Joseph Caezza

Guilford, NY


Former London Times journalist Margaret Allen signed copies of her book, “Home From Home: The Aeolian Community of Norwich, New York,” at a reception last night at St. Bartholomew’s Rev. Guy Festa Parish Center.

Copies of Allen’s book are available at First Edition Bookstore in Norwich and through St. Bart’s.

They can also be purchased online at and www.centrostudieolie. it. For more information, email

 Pictured from left are Nick Testani; Editor Clara Raimondi from Centro Studie, Norwich Mayor Joe Maiurano, Allen, and Maria Taranto, chair of the archive committee of the Filicudi St. Stephen Society of Waltham, Massachusetts.

Community Donation
American Legion Post 189 of Norwich recently donated $5000 to the community kitchen at St. Bartholomew's Parish Center. Free meals are served every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the East main Street center through the end of June. From Left:  Legion Post Commander Brian joy, Deborah Trythall, JoAnn Testani and Dorothy Loiselle.

St. Bartholomew’s set to celebrate annual Italian Feast Day
By: Brian Golden, Sun Staff Writer
Published: August 26th, 2010

NORWICH - St. Bartholomew's will celebrate its 83rd Annual Italian Feast Day Friday, Saturday and Sunday behind the Monsignor Festa Parish Center, 81 East Main St.

Although the official St. Bartholomew's feast day fell on Tuesday this year, event coordinators reported they'd received permission to hold the celebratory Mass at 9 a.m. Sunday, a portion of which will be said in Italian.

Instituted in 1927 by Father Walter Sinnott, the annual event, from 1927 to 1953, was held at the local church and church hall before relocating to the Chenango County Fair in 1954. In 1978, the celebration returned to the church grounds, where it's been held ever since.

Coordinators for the event said they "feel this celebration is important to carry on the traditions" of the church, "so our children and grandchildren know where they came from," as previous generations were responsible for "helping to build the church."

Many parishioners' ancestors were natives of the island of Lipari off the north coast of Sicily, they added.
The Italian Feast Celebration will kick things off from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday with a DJ, an Antique Car Cruise-In and Italian cuisine. Event organizers reported a variety of prizes will be awarded to those participating in the Cruise-In and a trophy will be presented for first place.

Running from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday's activities will include raffles, games, a DJ and more, said organizers, who added a variety of Italian foods, homemade sausage and peppers, hamburgers and hot dogs will be served throughout the day. Representatives of the New York State Legislature will also be on hand Saturday afternoon, including a visit by Congressman Michael Arcuri between 1:30 and 2 p.m.

A special celebration of Italian music in song and dance, coordinated by Mary Musson and aided by the Perkins School of the Arts, will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Monsignor Festa Parish Center, with approximately 40 parishioners, neighbors and friends combining their musical talents for a "sentimental, innovative and highly entertaining" performance, said organizers.

Sunday's Mass will be followed by a "spiritual procession" which will find parishioners surrounding the church and carrying a statue of St. Bartholomew, customarily decorated with streamers and money, to be donated to the church. The same banners carried at the first celebration in 1927 will also be used in the procession. A free will offering breakfast and brunch will follow.

"St. Bartholomew, along with fellow apostle Jude, was one of 12 apostles credited with bringing Christianity to America in the first century," reported organizers. "Both saints are considered the patron saints of the American Apostolic Church."

There is no admission for the St. Bartholomew's Italian Feast Day Celebration and the event is open to the public. For more information call 336-3513 or visit  .

Norwich's Catholic parishes separate once again
By: Melissa deCordova, Sun Staff Writer
Published: March 16th, 2010

NORWICH - Another chapter in the history of the Catholic community of Norwich was written over the weekend as the parish and finance councils of St. Bartholomew's and St. Paul's churches were made separate once again.

While Rev. Ralph A. Bove was unable to discuss the details yesterday, he confirmed that he made "a simple" announcement in mass at both churches on Sunday.

"The parishes will be separate except for a linkage with a common faith, one pastor and religious education. I can't say any more than that," he said.

St. Bart's and St. Paul's were separate entities for more than seven decades until 2001, when they were combined under the leadership of the Rev. Douglas Cunningham and unofficially renamed the Church of the Holy Apostles - St. Bartholomew's and St. Paul's Catholic Churches.

Then, in March of 2006, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse announced that one of the two parishes would close as part of a diocese-wide parish consolidation. Father Cunningham later confirmed that St. Bart's would close its doors.

The announcement led to an uproar in the primarily Italian immigrant community that built St. Bart's on East Main Street back in 1927. Church council reorganizations and a lengthy legal investigation into the parishes' finances ensued. The accounting practices conducted by church administrators were called into question by some parishioners following their investigations into how funds and endowments were used and accounted for after Cunningham combined St. Paul's and St. Bart's finances into one account.

Cunningham, who was the Catholic community's spiritual leader for more than 14 years, stepped away from his post in June of 2009. Those close to him cited "serious health reasons."

Father Bove was appointed administrator for both churches in July.

The parish council was informed last Wednesday, and on Sunday, Bove read a statement from the Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham, bishop of Syracuse Diocese. The statement reads, in part: "Each parish has its own special character, spirituality and traditions. These are God's gift to us as we move forward ..."

St. Bart's member Gail Annese, of Randall Avenue in Norwich, said Monday that both congregations were pleased with the announcement.

"We are two Catholic churches, really, that are both very spiritual. But we have separate needs. Having our own autonomy back will now allow us to focus on St. Bart's," she said.

Mass schedule for weekends and week days will remain the same. Donations will be credited to the parish where members belong and the existing staff will remain in place. Bove said he doesn't anticipate any staff changes on either council at this time.

Norwich’s new priest notes special gifts of region, congregations
Sun Staff Writer

NORWICH - Growing up on Manhattan's Lower East Side surrounded by a large, close knit family and a community of church-going neighbors has enabled Father Ralph Bove to identify the special gifts in people and in Norwich.

After only a few short weeks behind the pulpit, the new priest of St. Paul's and St. Bartholomew's Catholic churches said he feels comfortable and at home.
The surrounding hillsides and downtown thoroughfares are "very beautiful" he said, and his Sunday masses have been filled with people "who want to be fed spiritually."
"I feel very blessed to be here," he said simply.

The neighborhood between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges where Father Ralph lived was anchored by the pillared bastions of St. Joseph's (Italian), St. James (Irish) and the Transfiguration (Chinese) churches. All of his cousins, friends and neighbors went to the Catholic schools there, and all of the schools were bulging with students, he said.

"Growing up, our relationship with each other and with the parish priest was very close. With this close involvement, we had a very strong sense of our faith," he said.

Bove, who speaks fluent Italian, said everyone got along and respected each other's territory. "I'm looking forward to working with both communities here, at St. Paul's and at St. Bart's. Both communities have their own special gifts," he said. "We have a nice, solid group coming to church now. People are participating in mass. It's very satisfying. People here want to be fed homilies, have lively sacraments and good liturgy.

" One of the hallmarks of Father Ralph's ministry is being available. He said people expect their priest to be available. Serving both parishes doesn't concern him, and he considers himself lucky to have St. Paul's just a hop, skip and a jump from the rectory and St. Bart's just a couple of blocks down the street. With fewer priests in the region, many are asked to travel much further distances, he said.

Bove studied theology at the University of Toronto for three years and in Rome, Italy for one year before returning to New York City, where he was later ordained. His first assignment was for a summer position at St. Peter's in Syracuse and, since then, he has remained with the Diocese of Syracuse. Father Ralph applied for the position in Norwich upon the recommendation of a former nun at Holy Family School, Sister Julia.

Three of his previous assignments for the diocese were with churches that sponsored parochial schools, and learning more about Holy Family School has been "a wonderful surprise" for him. Father Ralph said he looks forward to serving as the school's spiritual advisor and inspiring youths to be more involved in their faith.

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