Close-Knit Parish in Amenia Celebrates 150th Anniversary

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Rosanna Hamm, a lifelong parishioner of Immaculate Conception-St. Anthony parish in Amenia, was born in the Dutchess County town and baptized at the parish in 1951.

“I was an infant; my great-grandfather was the one who had the first Mass held at his house, Thomas McEnroe—on my father’s side of the family; we go way back here,” Mrs. Hamm, 67, said in a phone interview with CNY. She said she loves the parish “because of my historic ties, and because it’s a wonderful community.”

She added, “It’s a very close-knit community; it’s an integral part of my life.” Mrs. Hamm has been a parish trustee for three years. She also has served as a lector for the past 30 years, and she volunteers at the parish’s food pantry and thrift shop. She taught religious education for 27 years.

Immaculate Conception-St. Anthony parish has been celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and the commemorations included a Sept. 17 Mass offered by Cardinal Dolan, followed by a parish community barbecue.

The Mass was concelebrated by priests formerly assigned to the parish, as well as by the current pastor, Father Kent Wilson, who told CNY last month that the parish community is “very friendly, with many generous people.”

The anniversary is “a reminder of the great things that this small parish has done in the community,” Father Wilson, the parish’s 12th pastor, said of the 150 years. “It is a real inspiration to have our cardinal celebrate with us here in our community…It was a real shot in the arm.”

Father Wilson became pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in 2009, succeeding Father John Durkin, who had served as pastor for almost 21 years, the second longest in parish history. (Father Francis E. Lavelle, who served from 1907 to 1950, was the longest-serving pastor.)

The parish is also served by Deacon David Weinstein; Virginia Bida, religious education coordinator; Denise Conway, parish secretary, Regina Syversen, organist and choir director; and Ken Pomeisl, web master.

St. Anthony became part of Immaculate Conception parish in 2015 under the archdiocese’s Making All Things New pastoral planning process. The two Dutchess County churches are about 18 miles apart—St. Anthony on Poplar Avenue in Pine Plains, and Immaculate Conception on Lavelle Road at South Street in Amenia. The parish has about 300 registered households.

As the parish story goes, Father Michael Riordon of St. Peter’s parish in Poughkeepsie visited an outpost of the parish, Amenia, in 1852 to offer the first Mass in town. It was at the home of Thomas McEnroe, in the Ore Bed section of the village, according to parish records.

There were some Catholic families in the town, and several Catholic men were employed in the iron ore beds at Sharon Station and Amenia. Father Patrick Tandy was assigned as the first pastor in 1868 when the first church building was constructed, located south of the village. New parish lines were drawn up, and coming within the boundaries of Immaculate Conception parish in Amenia were several mission churches.

In July 1886, lightning struck the church and caused a fire that destroyed the building, including the basement school. The following year, the present church was built, and the parochial school was again housed in the basement.

In 1958, a new modern-type parish elementary school was built on the church grounds. Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt taught classes before and after the school construction. The elementary school was founded in 1881 and closed in 1986.

In recent decades, the parish has undertaken other notable endeavors. It started the parish food pantry in the late 1980s, opened a thrift shop and built the Shrine to St. Peregrine, designed to provide spiritual comfort to cancer patients and their families.

The Sisters of Life, based in Suffern, became nearby summertime friends with the establishment of Camp St. Joseph, used for retreats, at Wethersfield Garden northeast of Millbrook. Mrs. Conway, the parish secretary, said that for the past two years parish youths who are 8th-and 9th-grade students have had retreats at Wethersfield Garden in preparation for Confirmation.

As for the Sisters of Life, Mrs. Conway said, “They attend Mass in our parish, and Father Wilson also says Mass at the chapel in Wethersfield for them throughout the summer. Many of the sisters attended the 150th anniversary of our parish, and several sang in our choir.”

Advent performances of the Living Nativity are now held, complete with animals, and performances by religious education students. Also, the cross on the steeple of Immaculate Conception has been repaired, and a portrait of the Blessed Mother inside the church and the statue of Our Lady outside have been restored.

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