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St. Andrew's Church will close its doors

DUNDEE—An era that has spanned more than 100 years will come to an end June 28 when the last mass is celebrated at St. Andrew’s Church on Union Street.
After years of thought and study, the Roman Catholic church which in recent years has been part of a six parish cluster of Catholic churches known as Our Lady of the Lakes, will close its doors. One of the issues that precipitated the closing has been the growing shortage of Catholic priests to serve all six churches in the cluster.
Two priests, the Rev. Robert Ring and the Rev. John Omboga, serve the six churches comprising the cluster which cover a geographic area that ranges from Penn Yan and Dundee, west to Naples, Rushville, Prattsburg and north to Stanley. In addition, the priests also provide spiritual services at Soldiers & Sailors Hospital, The Homestead and Penn Yan Manor Nursing Homes, Yates County Jail, Keuka College and to homebound parishioners.
Helen Sullivan has been a member of St. Andrew’s for 50 years. She reflected on those decades during a recent phone conversation. She said her husband Bob grew up in Dundee and was a parishioner from his youth. He told her during the early years the priest, who lived at the rectory at St. Michael’s Church, took a train to Dundee on Sunday, said mass, had dinner with a family from the church and returned to Penn Yan by train in the evening. Sullivan added, “It’s hard to believe in this day and age.”
In the early years, St. Andrew’s didn’t have a church hall. Members of groups such as the Altar and Rosary Society met in each others’ homes for years. In the 1980s, Mr. and Mrs. Lynn Hunt bequeathed money to the church and that donation, coupled with fund raisers, allowed the church hall to be built. Sullivan said, “We really used the hall. The Altar and Rosary Society met there and we had coffee hours, breakfasts, bake sales and a Christmas party. We were active. We tried to do for the community.”
Shut-ins were always remembered, as were families who needed help at Christmas. Sullivan said a Wish Tree for children was part of the project, recalling, “People went all out. They were very generous.” A food box was included with the gifts and clothing items for the children. Sullivan said, “It was good for all of us, but extremely good for young people who didn’t have hard times. We learned a lot over the years and as we got older it got harder.” During the last two years the church group made Christmas stockings. Sullivan said, “They did such a fantastic job. The people who filled them were generous. This year; nothing. It makes you feel bad.”
Parishioners will now attend mass at St. Michael’s in Penn Yan, St. Mary of the Lake in Watkins Glen or St. Stanislaus in Bradford.
The church may be used for weddings and funerals until it is eventually sold. Ring said there is no timeline for sale of the church building. Dispersing the contents of the church and hall is one of the many tasks connected with closing the church. A sale will be held during Dundee Day July 11, according to Sister Ann Alderman, a member of the church who has been assisting with plans for closing. No church items will be at the sale but contents of the hall will be included, ranging from a refrigerator to file cabinets, tables, pots and pans, fans and other items, Alderman termed, “All the things that collect in a church hall.” She said the sale will be one of the last steps.
Alderman has been a member of St. Andrew’s for about 12 years. She recalled being asked to speak about Cobblestone Springs shortly after she moved here. Although she was nervous about making a speech, she said, “The people here have been so accepting. It was a church where everyone knew you and welcomed you. Now there will be a celebration of the life that was there.” Alderman said, “Preparing for closing was a two year process. The churches came together and had choices, but it pointed to St. Andrew’s being closed. My heart aches for long time parishioners.”  
The Union Street building was built in 1833 by the Free Christian Church members, according to information in Linda Jackson’s compilation for the 175th anniversary of Yates County, Aspiring Christians.  In 1877, after the Free Christian Church had closed, Father Eugene Paganini, then pastor of St. Michael’s Church, helped Dundee’s Catholic population purchase the empty building. The church was rededicated as a Catholic Church as a mission church of St. Michael’s in Penn Yan, later becoming an independent church.
A bell that was cast for the Free Christian Church has been rung before and after mass, despite a hiatus of 100 years. At some time in the 1880s the bell was removed and stored above the choir loft. It was reinstalled and rung for the first time in the 20th century on Christmas Eve 1990.
Few churches have closed permanently in Dundee since the village was established. Some have survived despite catastrophic fires. Grace Episcopal Church at the corner of Seneca and Grace Streets was deeded to the town of Starkey after the parish was dissolved by the Rochester Diocese of the Episcopal church. The property reverted to heirs of Andrew A. Harpending and they passed title to the town of Starkey so that the property could continue to be used for the public good.
Sullivan recalled attending a final service two years ago at Our Lady of Good Counsel, the church she attended while growing up in Rochester. She said, “It was a beautiful and sad service. Now we will miss the closeness of the people in Dundee. You know people in Penn Yan, but it’s not the same.”
The final mass at St. Andrews will be at 3 p.m. June 28, followed by a reception in the church hall.

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