Upwards of 200 people marched through the village of Herkimer
Monday to celebrate their successful transition into a shared
As the only village in Herkimer County with two Roman Catholic
churches, members of surrounding parishes started at Sts.
Anthony and Joseph Church on South Main Street and ended at
St. Francis de Sales Church on North Bellinger Street. Singing
songs of peace, the message was clear: We
can all work together. The
display was necessary since, just over eight months ago, the
Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany announced it would be closing
33 of its 190 churches as part of a restructuring known as
“Called to Be Church.”Dealing
with a diminishing number of priests and an increasing trend
of Catholics moving out of traditional parish locations, many
churches were also forced to merge in order to avoid being
part of the nearly 20 percent that closed their doors.
Herkimer County’s nine churches had been involved in
planning efforts prior to the closings and, as a result, were
asked to be part of the group forming combined parishes, sharing
pastors and many services.
Mark Cunningham, pastor at St. Francis de Sales in Herkimer
and blessed sacramental minister at Blessed Sacrament Church
in Mohawk, said many local parishioners feared the change.
But many unexpected, and outright positive, signs have popped
up since the mergers.
When Fr. Leo Potvin retired as pastor at St. John the Baptist
Church in Newport and St. Joseph’s Church in Dolgeville,
the area pastors thought they would be called upon to pick
up another parish, despite many having already taken on two
Because Herkimer County’s parishes were so involved
in planning groups and worked hard to present a model for
success, though, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of the diocese decided
to appoint a new priest, Fr. Bob Gorman.
“We got a priest and we weren’t expecting one,”
Cunningham said, referring to the positive sign of the support
The second, and most convincing, proof that local churches
had, against all odds, thrived under the new system was their
ability to collect funds.
Instead of decreasing the main fund-raising drive, as many
predicted, Cunningham said eight of nine Herkimer parishes
actually increased their totals. The “sense of unity
and togetherness” through donation proved to be the
largest increase, percentage wise, in the 14 counties in the
diocese, he added.
In order to celebrate local parishes accomplishments in perseverance,
Cunningham said the Herkimer Deanery is holding a week of
thanksgiving each night through Thursday, Sept. 17.
Each evening at 7 p.m., the parishioners are asked to gather
at a specific church for worship. And the Solemn Procession
on Monday in Herkimer served as an example of the commitment.
Cunningham, however, wasn’t surprised at the local residents,
which have dealt with their share of hardships, overcoming
the perceived hurdles. “We have a knack for survival,
a knack for making the best of things,” he said.