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HISTORY OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH

The following information was submitted by John Curtin

In 1993-1994, the Parish of St. Francis Xavier Church in Marcellus, New York
celebrated its 140th anniversary as a religious community, and its 125th
anniversary as a church. As Marcellus celebrated its bicentennial founding
in 1794, the Roman Catholic community in Marcellus was also witness to a
special celebration. On December 3, 1993, Rev. Peter M. Creed, Pastor of St.
Francis Xavier Church, celebrated a special mass to commemorate the 125th
anniversary of the church. And the church continued to join with the
Marcellus community in commemorating the town's bicentennial throughout 1994.
A number of individuals have already told some of the story about St.
Francis Xavier Church, including Kathryn C. Heffernan, Israel Parsons, and W.
W. Clayton, and from their works this brief history is, in part, borrowed.
The first religious services for the Catholic population in Marcellus were
held in 1853 at the home of John McNally (presently on Rockwell Road) and in
1854, a church of about twenty members was organized, and called the Church
of St. Francis Xavier. Among the twenty members first organized as a
mission, Clayton lists eight men - John McNally, John Glover, Patrick
McLoughlin, John Kerwin, Michael Curtin, John McDonald, Jeremiah Curtin, and
James McNally. It might be assumed that the names of the remaining twelve
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 Main and
South Streets in Marcellus. This building was purchased by the Roman
Catholic community, and on this site the present church edifice was built in
1867.
The first Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Michael Haes (Hayes) who was
somewhat of a circuit rider, covering not only Onondaga County, but parts of
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 William
McCallion as the first pastor of a new parish of Camillus, which included the
territory within the present towns of Camillus, Marcellus, Skaneateles,
Otisco, Jordan, Split Rock, Tully, and probably Onondaga Hill. St. Francis
Xavier was then organized as a mission congregation of St. Joseph's Church
(in Camillus, N.Y.) in 1854, and many of the church records (baptismal and
marriage) of SFX for the time period, 1854-1867 are located there.
Skaneateles was separated from Camillus in 1867, and became a parish with
Marcellus and Otisco as missions. Because of this affiliation, many of the
church records for the time period, 1867-1873, are located in St. Mary's of
the Lake parish in Skaneateles.
Marcellus would remain a mission church until February 4, 1873 when St.
Francis Xavier was made an independent parish with the Reverend William J.
Hayden as first resident pastor and Otisco (St. Patrick's Church) as a
mission. The exact boundaries of this original parish are not known, but it
is supposed to have included the towns of Marcellus and Otisco and part of
Onondaga.
In 1888, St. Patrick's at Otisco was separated from Marcellus, but St.
Michael's at Onondaga Hill and St. Peter's at Split Rock continued to be
missions of St. Francis Xavier until 1903. And at the present time, the
boundaries of the parish of St. Francis Xavier are roughly co-terminal with
the boundaries of the town of Marcellus.
As a religious community for over 140 years, St. Francis Xavier has grown
from a membership of about 20 people to over 650 families at present. In
that time period, there have been over 4000 baptisms performed at SFX, along
with over 1000 marriages, and over 3000 interments have taken place in the
parish cemetery. There have been eleven resident pastors and a number of
assistant pastors at St. Francis Xavier Church including the following:
PASTORS AT ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH
PastorRemarksYears
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
Asst. PastorForYears
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 more
acute in Ireland than in any other European country, the early baptism,
marriage and interment records for St. Francis Xavier are mostly those of
Irish immigrants and their children. St. Francis Xavier Church was founded
by such individuals. Most of them worked on the nearby farms or in the local
mills, and their children attended the local one-room schools. And most of
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 the
world, and all walks of life. Many work outside the town of Marcellus in
non-farm jobs, and their children attend a centralized school. But they
worship in the same church.
St. Francis Xavier Church is over 125 years old, with a rich history. And it
has added to the vitality of the community that is Marcellus for the last 140
years. It is proud to have been a part of Marcellus history for so long.
The mass on December 3, 1993 helped to add special meaning to this history.
And 1994 celebrated not only the bicentennial of the Town of Marcellus, but
140 years of St. Francis Xavier Church as a religious community.

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27 October 1996