HISTORY OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH
The following information was submitted by John
In 1993-1994, the Parish of St. Francis Xavier Church in Marcellus,
celebrated its 140th anniversary as a religious community, and its
anniversary as a church. As Marcellus celebrated its bicentennial founding
in 1794, the Roman Catholic community in Marcellus was also witness
special celebration. On December 3, 1993, Rev. Peter M. Creed, Pastor
Francis Xavier Church, celebrated a special mass to commemorate the
anniversary of the church. And the church continued to join with the
Marcellus community in commemorating the town's bicentennial throughout
A number of individuals have already told some of the story about St.
Francis Xavier Church, including Kathryn C. Heffernan, Israel Parsons,
W. Clayton, and from their works this brief history is, in part, borrowed.
The first religious services for the Catholic population in Marcellus
held in 1853 at the home of John McNally (presently on Rockwell Road)
1854, a church of about twenty members was organized, and called the
of St. Francis Xavier. Among the twenty members first organized as
mission, Clayton lists eight men - John McNally, John Glover, Patrick
McLoughlin, John Kerwin, Michael Curtin, John McDonald, Jeremiah Curtin,
James McNally. It might be assumed that the names of the remaining
were not available at that time, or that they were women and children.
Services were held for many years in the second story of the Old Tavern,
which stood for a number of years on the corner of what is now West
South Streets in Marcellus. This building was purchased by the Roman
Catholic community, and on this site the present church edifice was
The first Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Michael Haes (Hayes) who
somewhat of a circuit rider, covering not only Onondaga County, but
Madison, Cortland, and Oswego. Baptismal and marriage records in widely
separated places bear his name, if not his signature.
In December 1852, Bishop John McCloskey of Albany appointed Reverend
McCallion as the first pastor of a new parish of Camillus, which included
territory within the present towns of Camillus, Marcellus, Skaneateles,
Otisco, Jordan, Split Rock, Tully, and probably Onondaga Hill. St.
Xavier was then organized as a mission congregation of St. Joseph's
(in Camillus, N.Y.) in 1854, and many of the church records (baptismal
marriage) of SFX for the time period, 1854-1867 are located there.
Skaneateles was separated from Camillus in 1867, and became a parish
Marcellus and Otisco as missions. Because of this affiliation, many
church records for the time period, 1867-1873, are located in St. Mary's
the Lake parish in Skaneateles.
Marcellus would remain a mission church until February 4, 1873 when
Francis Xavier was made an independent parish with the Reverend William
Hayden as first resident pastor and Otisco (St. Patrick's Church) as
mission. The exact boundaries of this original parish are not known,
is supposed to have included the towns of Marcellus and Otisco and
In 1888, St. Patrick's at Otisco was separated from Marcellus, but
Michael's at Onondaga Hill and St. Peter's at Split Rock continued
missions of St. Francis Xavier until 1903. And at the present time,
boundaries of the parish of St. Francis Xavier are roughly co-terminal
the boundaries of the town of Marcellus.
As a religious community for over 140 years, St. Francis Xavier has
from a membership of about 20 people to over 650 families at present.
that time period, there have been over 4000 baptisms performed at SFX,
with over 1000 marriages, and over 3000 interments have taken place
parish cemetery. There have been eleven resident pastors and a number
assistant pastors at St. Francis Xavier Church including the following:
PASTORS AT ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH
Rev. Michael HeasCircuit Rider1849-1852
Rev. William McCallionCamillus Pastor1852-1864
Rev. Joseph Butler O.M.C.Camillus Pastor1864-1865
Rev. Francis J. PurcellSkaneateles Pastor1865-1873
Rev. John J. Hayden1st Resident Pastor1873-1874
Rev. Bernard J. McDonough2nd Resident Pastor1874-1878
Rev. Michael P. Renehan3rd Resident Pastor1878-1879
Rev. James J. Renehan4th Resident Pastor1879-1925
Rev. Thomas J. Driscoll5th Resident Pastor1925-1933
Rev. Daniel C. Hartnett6th Resident Pastor1933-1967
Rev. J. Robert Quigley7th Resident Pastor1967-1972
Rev. James L. Nicholson8th Resident Pastor1972-1986
Rev. Robert F. Lavin9th Resident Pastor1986-1990
Rev. Peter M. Creed 10th Resident Pastor 1990-1995
Rev. J. Michael Donovan11th Resident Pastor1995-Present
ASST. PASTORS AT ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH
Rev. Edward Bayard Rev. Michael P. Renehan1878-1879
Rev. Dr. William J. GlennRev. James J. Renehan1897-1897
Rev. David M. HennesseyRev. James J. Renehan1914-1917
Rev. Edward MelickRev. James J. Renehan1917-1919
Rev. Howard C. McDowellRev. James J. Renehan1919-1920
Rev. Marshall McMahonRev. James J. Renehan1920-1922
Rev. Harold J. FlynnRev. James J. Renehan1921-1922
Rev. Paul HemmerRev. James J. Renehan1922-1923
Rev. William TraceyRev. James J. Renehan1923-1924
Rev. Lyial A. TobinRev. James J. Renehan1924-1925
Rev. James LutzRev. Daniel C. Hartnett1965-1967
Rev. Gerald KatzRev. Robert F. Lavin1989-1990
Because, throughout the 19th century, the reasons for emigration were
acute in Ireland than in any other European country, the early baptism,
marriage and interment records for St. Francis Xavier are mostly those
Irish immigrants and their children. St. Francis Xavier Church was
by such individuals. Most of them worked on the nearby farms or in
mills, and their children attended the local one-room schools. And
them are interred in St. Francis Xavier Parish Cemetery.
Today, St. Francis Xavier Church is a community of many different people.
It welcomes, marries, baptizes and buries people from all parts of
world, and all walks of life. Many work outside the town of Marcellus
non-farm jobs, and their children attend a centralized school. But
worship in the same church.
St. Francis Xavier Church is over 125 years old, with a rich history.
has added to the vitality of the community that is Marcellus for the
years. It is proud to have been a part of Marcellus history for so
The mass on December 3, 1993 helped to add special meaning to this
And 1994 celebrated not only the bicentennial of the Town of Marcellus,
140 years of St. Francis Xavier Church as a religious community.
to Onondaga County Church Records page.
to Onondaga County NY Gen-Web page.
27 October 1996