COVER STORY: Pandemic forces major anniversary adjustments

Last Updated on July 12, 2021 by Editor

Above: From left: Gina Batson, Terri Panuccio, Father Jim and Terry discuss anniversary plans.


When our 125th anniversary committee first met on June 3, 2019, we had grandiose visions of the events that might take place during our anniversary year, and we were fortunate to have a number of wonderful parishioners who stepped up to contribute ideas and fine tune those aspirations.

Besides discussing a special anniversary liturgy and anticipating Bishop Douglas Lucia as the celebrant, we developed a list of proposed special social events to take place just about monthly during the year:

January: Trivia night.

February: Valentine’s dinner open to all couples who were married in the parish.

March: Carnival/Mardi Gras or possibly an Italian cookie bake-off.

May: Open house tours with display boards of historic pictures that would remain in church throughout the year.

July: Special events for our festival, possibly to include neighborhood outreach and a Mount Carmel School reunion during festival weekend.

August: Picnic and family fun event.

September: Our yearly golf tournament.

October: A gala starting with a special liturgy.

We met again on Oct. 22 and Nov. 19, 2019, and Jan. 15, 2020, to continue honing the plans as a committee.

In January 2020, members were broken into committees that were following up on the tasks we were hopeful to be able to put into place. There was some winter vacation hiatus involved as well. Just as that was winding down in March — COVID 19 TOOK OVER!

We started to brainstorm about what we could do to still mark our anniversary and make it special since all of our previous plans revolved around social events that had to be abandoned. Although it seemed like we had plenty of time, we knew it would quickly slip by and we wanted and needed to still make this anniversary year special.

Enter our new ideas.

First, we needed a new logo. We enlisted the artistic talent of Maria Vallese, owner of Retro Sorrento, daughter of parishioners Mark and Ann Marie Palleschi Vallese, and granddaughter of Pete Palleschi.

With that in place, we would develop ideas that we hoped would invoke nostalgia about happenings in the parish over the years: why not send the original “Italian-American Cookbook” developed and published in the 1970s to reprint as so many had expressed an interest in it. The project was sponsored by Adirondack Bank.

We were so happy Father Jim decided to bring back the novena for our 125th year and celebrate all of them himself. We saw this as an opportunity for an outreach to Mother Marianne’s Kitchen. We asked for nonperishable food items to be donated during the nine weeks, as the kitchen is in special need of pantry items during the summer months, and this will make our “Feeding Mary’s Children” theme even better.

In the process of developing the logo with Maria, we needed to incorporate artifacts from our merger with Blessed Sacrament in 2006. It was important to recognize that during the span of our 125-year history, we were fortunate to be able to welcome the parishioners of that church into our parish life.

Additionally, we have been blessed with members of the Burmese community becoming a part of parish. Many of them have joined our Sunday morning Masses where they have graced us with their music and participate as Eucharist ministers and altar servers. We are planning on having them sing on Sunday, July 18. They also have taken part in our annual festival for a few years, offering their ethnic foods made by them and donated for sale, cost free. Thus, we became the community we have evolved into in our 125 years.

You also are able to enjoy our new logo on our sign at the corner of Mohawk and Jay streets. Maria’s rendering was transferred to the sign through the expertise of our parishioner John Vella, owner of Utica Sign and Graphics, who also created the new banner above the center doors in front of church: “CELEBRATING 125 YEARS.”

Maria’s rendering was so spot-on in its depiction of our church’s campus, we asked her to develop her artwork into a Christmas ornament. We are hopeful to be able to offer this ornament to you in the fall for consideration as a keepsake of this special year.

Again, in line with the idea of nostalgia, it was absolutely wonderful that with the treasure trove of pictures from our files and from parishioners such as Rosemarie Chiffy, with the expertise of Fran Perritano and Fred Valentini, we were able to enjoy so many memories of times past each week in our parish bulletin and be educated on our website and YouTube channel about the history of our parish’s evolvement in a six-installment video narrative.

As you many have noticed, in an effort to include our Faith Formation children, Terri Panuccio distributed coloring sheets of the Blessed Mother and Blessed Scalabrini to them for a coloring contest. The results of their talents can be viewed in church.

We are planning an event on July 18, our traditional festival weekend, where we can all break bread together with a pasta dinner catered by Joey’s Restaurant. While it’s a far cry from a formal event in a banquet venue, we are hoping to be able to accommodate as many as space will allow. The outdoor venue also helped us to keep expenses down so that the proceeds will be used as an outreach to assist the Veterans Outreach Center.

Father Jim is excited to be hosting his golf tournament for the eighth year on Aug. 29. It always is a great hit and we’re sure it will be a welcome event this year.

Finally, we plan to end our celebration year with a communion breakfast hosted by the Mount Carmel Society on Sunday, Oct. 17, at Club Monarch. We’ll have a special liturgy celebrated by Bishop Lucia. Following will be a wonderful breakfast/brunch where we will hopefully be uninhibited by the pandemic that derailed everything.

Here’s to God’s blessings on our beautiful parish for many years to come.