FALCONER - Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic Church has joined the rarefied group of area parishes that have prospered for a century or more.
Trustee Mary Buccola, 90, has been with the church for 80 years. She watched the church transform from small to large. She also observed the change that allowed the priest to face the audience from the altar.
"There have been several changes, but every change is always an asset to making it a beautiful place," said Buccola. "What we have now is very beautiful, and I'm sure this will last us for a good long time."
Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic Church in Falconer will celebrate its 100th anniversary July 21-22.
P-J photos by Dusten Rader
Buccola has also watched many people come and go through the years. But, as a result of her love for religion, a willingness to help and a desire to prosper with the congregation, she decided to become a trustee.
According to Buccola, after 80 years with the church, the 100th Anniversary is a momentous occasion that will start a year-long celebration. It begins with a festival on Friday, July 21, and Saturday, July 22, starting at noon. The festival will honor ethnic the heritage of the Italians who founded the church. There will be food and live entertainment, and it's open to the public.
"It will be a celebration of good people, good pastors we've had and family relationships," said Buccola. "We're proud of what we have and that we've been able to keep everything going for a new generation."
The new generation includes youth such as Elise Cusimano, 18, who was baptized and confirmed at Our Lady of Loreto. Now that she's graduated from high school, she plans to attend JCC to study kinesiology.
"I really like it here because we have our own family," said Cusimano. "There are a lot of role models here. Father Joe (Janaczek) has a great sense of humor, is really devoted to his job and is a great person overall. A lot of the other adults set good examples for people like me. Hopefully, I can start doing the same now, because I want to do the same that they did for me. The church has been here for me through my whole life. It has definitely made me who I am and helped develop my character."
Cusimano is glad she got to see the church before all the renovation was completed.
"The change was huge," said Cusimano. "I'm glad I got to experience it before the renovations were done, so I could see the transformation. But, a lot of the history is still here, it is just fresher and newer."
One of Cusimano's favorite aspects of the renovation is the newly repainted stars on the ceiling.
"What's neat about them is that they aren't randomly placed; they are constellations," she said. "There is going to be a map in the back of the church for them. And, there is also a lot of outlining and two-tone colors."
Another update includes the restoration of the mural above the main altar. The mural, entitled "The Holy House Of Loreto," brings life to one of the titles given to Mary, mother of Jesus, "Our Lady of Loreto." The mural surrounds the crucifix, and the canopy above it proclaims in Latin, "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus" (Holy, Holy, Holy). The mural depicts the house of Nazareth, where Mary was born, and where the annunciation occurred. Tradition states that the house was swept from the Holy Land by a band of angels to where it rests today in Loreto, Italy.
A completely new addition is the Holy Spirit symbol above the arch leading to the main altar. The symbol incorporates the cross of Christ and the dove.
"The Holy Spirit resides and abides as the soul of the church," said Rev. Joseph P. Janaczek, pastor. "It is the Holy Spirit's responsibility to make Christ present to the faithful, and hold together the people in the unity of faith."
This is Janaczek's second time being at a church during its 100th anniversary. The first was at St. Hedwig's in Dunkirk.
"I've sort of made the joke that any church that's celebrating a 100th they send me to, but, it does give a wonderful sense of continuity," said Janaczek. "Here it is very important to hit 100, but, we are but babies when you look at Europe and you see some of those churches that go back to before the end of the first millennium. They are still wonderful monuments and testaments to faith. The important thing is not just having the monuments and testaments, but also having the faith being lived. Buildings are nice, but they call us to greater reality, and that has got to be expressed in your mind, your heart and the way you treat other people."
Continuity allows churches to presume nothing and inform new generations of everything, Janaczek said.
"You have to begin at the basics, because if you don't you will probably miss something important that people will begin to treat as customs, then habits and then they wont know what they are doing and why they are doing it," said Janaczek. "You have to ground everything solidly on the foundation of the faith that you're living and expressing."
According to Janaczek, the renovation was a good thing because it brings a sense of unity and continuity together.
"There are times when you drift apart from practice," said Janaczek. "But, there are also times you have to reevaluate and bring all things together so that you are expressing a faith that was, that is and that we hopefully will continue to be."
The funding for the renovation came from the people of the church, and Janaczek believes that without the people there is no church.
"It is the people who build the monument, and it is the people who fill it with the leadership of clergy that are interested in doing the work of God," he said. "The work of men can be done by men, but the work of God, the proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel, the celebration of the totality, the Eucharist - these are things that you need the clergy to be joined with the people (to) bring us all together and move forward together."
Those looking to get involved need only to go to the church and celebrate, then Janaczek and the church family have an opportunity to welcome the newcomers.
Vinnie Fanera, a member of the church who joined five years ago, was looking for a parish that he and his wife Kacey could get married and settle down at. Out of all the places they visited, Our Lady Of Loreto felt most like home.
"We chose Our Lady of Loreto because we felt most welcome and at home there," said Fanera. "They took us in and made us feel like part of the family."
Fanera has two young daughters, whom he feels are surrounded by a comforting aura when they enter Our Lady of Loreto.
"I think it's great that on the 100th Anniversary they can honor it with all the upgrades," said Fanera. "It's a good setting for my daughters because I can point up to the ceiling and show them all the stars. The improvements heighten the experience of being there."
Janaczek believes in the importance of continuing the tradition of unity and faith in the area. He hopes that Our Lady of Loreto can be a place that continues to prosper alongside the people.
"As we enter into the 100th year I hope that our friends and neighbors will take the opportunity to come and share the place with us," said Janaczek. "And, hopefully the community will continue to grow as a community of faith in this area because that is profoundly important."
Our Lady of Loreto is located at 309 W. Everett St. in Falconer. For more information call 665-4253.