An historic chapter in Troy history came to a close this past weekend as St. Peter's and St. Paul the Apostle Churches closed their doors for the last time.

"There is some sadness because of the wonderful history of these parishes; they've existed so long," said Rev. William Gorman, administrator for both churches.

St. Peter's just celebrated its 185th anniversary. Founded in 1824 by Rev. Peter Heavens, it was the third-oldest Catholic church in New York State.

Established in 1890, St. Paul the Apostle was designed by architect Edward Loth, a Troy resident who had spent years studying in Germany. A German influence can be seen from the standout stained-glass windows, which are made of Munich glass.

While Father Gorman feels the heartbreak of losing both churches, he is aware of the situation that necessitated the closures.

"I'm thinking one thing in my head and feeling something else in my heart," he explained. "In my heart, I feel sad; I feel slightly frustrated; I'm sad at the thought of losing wonderful parishioners and wonderful friends. In my head, I understand there is a difference between simply closing and 'closing ranks.' 

"I've asked people to study the situation as a closed-rank situation - in the military, [that] meant we came together and became closer to one another, and were able to move on to the future and see that we have not lost everything. We are capable of starting something new with our Catholic Church."

Father Gorman pointed to the dwindling Mass attendance over the years, recalling the 750 parishioners St. Peter's used to have at weekend Masses and the 500 at St. Paul's.

"It's been years since we've had that many people in our churches, whether it be death, people moving away or just moving into the suburbs," he said.

Several staff members will continue their work at St. Anthony of Padua Shrine Church in Troy, a move that "made sense for me," said Rev. Mario Julian, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony's. 

Many parishioners are also moving to St. Anthony's; Father Julian has been seeing about 50 to 60 new faces at Mass each week.

"There [are] still a lot of people 'testing the water,'" he said. 

St. Anthony's will also supervise St. Peter's Cemetery. The parish has discussed holding events to help welcome new parishioners to their church, including a "Harvest Hello" barbecue in the fall. 

As far as St. Peter's and St. Paul's church buildings are concerned, "there has been a great interest in both churches," said Noel Olsen, Director of Real Property for the Albany Diocese. "We certainly have had a number of inquiries."

Mr. Olsen told The Evangelist that it would be a month or so before any decisions would be made about what to do with the buildings.

Despite the sadness of losing St. Peter's and St. Paul's, Father Gorman wanted to send an optimistic message to his parishioners.

"It can be a new beginning for all of us," he said. "We can start over, be renewed and possibly become even more excited about our Roman Catholic faith. There are no endings, only a new beginning in Jesus Christ."