(WKBW release) With the retirement of longtime pastor Father Francis J. Jann, St. Mark Parish in Rushford will merge with St. Patrick Parish in Belfast on Mar. 25.
According to a news release issued Wednesday, the merger was approved by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, and was announced to parishioners at Masses the weekend of Mar. 3-4.
Father Jann had served as pastor of the Allegany County parish for the past 38 years, from 1974 until retiring earlier this year.
The Apr. 28, 2007 announcement regarding the reorganization of parishes in the Allegany County Vicariate stated, “Upon the retirement of Father Francis Jann, (St. Mark) will become an oratory to serve the summer communities of Rushford and Rushford Lake. The oratory will become the responsibility of St. Philomena Parish in Franklinville. This is consistent with the proposal from that vicariate.”
“The factors that influenced those decisions five years ago are still a reality today, and the current shortage of priests makes the implementation of those decisions a necessity,” Bishop Kmiec said. “A merger with St. Patrick seems the most appropriate arrangement since the parishes have a long history of collaboration and shared a pastor for many years. Father Dennis Mancuso (of St. Patrick) will be the pastor responsible for St. Mark Oratory, and summer sacramental assistance will be provided by the administrator of St. Philomena Parish in Franklinville due to the proximity of the parishes.”
Father Sean DiMaria, vicar of Allegany County, has suggested that the parish community of St. Mark might wish to celebrate a final Mass as a parish community on the Feast of St. Mark which falls on Wednesday, Apr. 25. Bishop Kmiec has offered to come to Rushford to celebrate the Mass.
In a letter to St. Mark parishioners, Bishop Kmiec wrote, “I am very grateful to you for the care and friendship you have shown to Father Jann for so many years. Your relationship with Father Jann has allowed him to exercise his priestly, pastoral calling long beyond the normal age of retirement. I pray that God will bless you a hundredfold for that.”
The parish merger is part of the “Journey in Faith and Grace,” the Diocese of Buffalo’s ongoing strategic plan for parish restructuring.