BY ADAM ROSSIThough Easter is this weekend, many Catholics in the Albany Diocese have been experiencing a feeling of rebirth for months. After the results of the "Called to be Church" process were announced in January, parishioners at the three dozen parishes slated for closure have been choosing new parishes to attend.
If the aim of Called to be Church was to revitalize the Church in the Diocese, that goal seems to be met at St. Mary's parish in Waterford. Lately, there have been many new faces at that parish.
Said one employee at St. Mary's: "We have been getting new parishioners since churches have closed, mostly from Cohoes."
The city of Cohoes, approximately two miles from Waterford, lost three parishes in February: St. Bernard's, St. Joseph's and St. Rita/Sacred Heart. Many of those parishioners have come to St. Mary's looking for a new beginning.
"It's still a little awkward for now," said Dina Ford, a former St. Bernard's parishioner. "My hope is that eventually I will feel like I'm at my church again."
For Colin and Carrie Fitzgerald, once parishioners of St. Joseph's, finding St. Mary's has served as a balm.
"It's a beautiful church and I do enjoy the Mass," said Mrs. Fitzgerald as she exited a Saturday vigil liturgy. "But of course, it still is going to take some getting used to."
"It's unfortunate that this all had to happen," added Mr. Fitzgerald, "but we still have to celebrate our faith. We still have to thank God for what we have. And I think this church presents a wonderful setting to do that."
The Fitzgeralds are not the only new members to feel this way.
"They seem very happy. They seem to like the church," a St. Mary's staffer said of all the newcomers. "Hopefully, we'll eventually come to feel like home for them."
Long-time parishioners at St. Mary's told The Evangelist they welcome the new additions.
"I think it's great that so many people are looking at St. Mary's and saying, 'I want to go there.' It says a lot about us as a parish," said Robert Nathanson.
Likewise, Kimberly Catalanotto felt it speaks volumes of St. Mary's that Catholics are choosing it: "Some of these people are very hurt. If we can be there to welcome them and help them cope, then I think that says great things about St. Mary's."
Though the new parishioners might not immediately feel the comfort they felt at their old church, some said they were optimistic about the future.
"I'll never forget St. Bernard's," Ms. Ford explained. "It was wonderful. But now we have to move on and start a new chapter."
"We're trying to look ahead, not back," agreed Mr. Fitzgerald. "St. Joseph's was our church, but it's gone now. There's nothing we can do other than hope that St. Mary's will be just as good to us."