History of Saint Catherine’s Church

This is history St Catherine’s church in Addison, NY, as adapted from Father Turner’s words for the 100th anniversary in 1954.


A century is but a word to measure time, for few men and women ever live that long. But the fact remains that a century has passed since the beginning of this parish. There is no one living today who saw the beginning of our church, and even the written record we have is far from complete.

Lest these early days be forgotten, this little booklet has been written. It is our hope that it will bring back memories to the older ones of the parish, and at the same time, serve as a reminder for the rest of us as those who went before us were by no means idle. May we, the living, express our gratitude by a little prayer for the priests and people to whom we owe so much.

In Addison, New York

In the southern part of Steuben County, along the shores of the beautiful Canisteo River, lies the village of Addison, New York. First settled by one Samuel Rice in 1792. It carried the name of Middletown until the year 1808. In that year, the town was renamed Addison after Joseph Addison, the English author.

In its early days, Addison was much larger, including parts of Troupsburg, Woodhull, and Rathbone, as well as all of Cameron and Tuscarora. Addison was incorporated under the laws of the New York in the month of January 1854, the same year that witnessed the beginnings of St. Catherine’s Parish.

Early Catholic History in Addison

Like many a place along the route of the Erie Railroad, Addison was first visited by a priest in the year 1849. From that time on until the beginning of the parish, various priests visited the Catholics of Addison from Rexville, Hornell, Auburn, and Geneva. It is said that the first Mass celebrated in Addison was held in one of the shanties along the railroad tracks. Be that as it may, there are records that the Holy Sacrifice was offered in the home of Frank Smith on East Front Street, known as the Flatiron Building and on Goodhue Street at the house of D. D. Hickey.

By 1852, the Catholics of Addison had rented Jones Hall at the corner of Main and Railroad Avenue. In this hall, Father McGlue celebrated Mass and administered the Sacraments at intervals during the period of two-three years. During these early years, Fathers O’Flaherty of Auburn, O’Brien of Hornell, McConnell of Rexville, and Moore of Hornell are names connected with the people of Addison. In 1854, St. Mary’s of Corning welcomed its first resident pastor, Father Thomas Cunningham. To his care was assigned the Catholics of Addison.

The First Church

The actual beginning of the Parish of St. Catherine’s is so well-buried in the misty past that the details are unknown today. But this much is certain: sometime during the year 1854, Father Cunningham met with the Catholics of Addison and planned the small frame church. Land was needed, and a nice parcel of land purchased from Pamelia and Henry Baldwin and Sarah and Rufus Weatherby. The price paid was $260. The plot of land was located on the south side of Curtis Square, extending fifty feet along the Square and south for a distance of about one hundred ninety feet.

The year 1854 was far from an ideal time for Catholics to be planning a church. The Know Nothing Party was just about at its height and highly popular in Addison. Still there were many non-Catholics who did not share in this anti-Catholic feeling, such as, the four who had made available land for the new church. The first church was erected just west of the present rectory, and it continued to serve Addison’s Catholics until the coming of the first resident pastor in the latter part of the 1860s.

Bishop John Timon had come to Buffalo in 1847 as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo which included this county. Since the first volume of his personal diary is no longer in existence, there is no record of the dedication of the church. But, if one can judge from the later volumes available, the Bishop personally came to Addison for that ceremony.

It is certain, however, that he visited St. Catherine’s on September 8, 1856. On that occasion, Bishop Timon heard Confessions, taught Catechism to the children, preached to the people, and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation. Unfortunately, the names of those confirmed that day are unknown.

Addison and Bath, NY

From this beginning until the 1865, three pastors–Father Thomas Cunningham, Father Peter Colgan, and Father Charles McMullen–took care of the spiritual needs of Addison. These priests were pastors of St. Mary’s in Corning.

In 1865, however, Bishop Timon made a change in the status of Addison. It now became a Mission Parish, cared for by St. Mary’s at Bath. So a new face was seen on the streets of Addison–that of Father P. Mazureth. There are a few still living who can recall this priest and his work. Whatever may have been the reason for this change, it could not have been too good for the people because of the increased distance from the Mother Church. However, this change was to prove of short duration. On the eleventh day of June, 1866, Bishop Timon visited St. Catherine’s, and it is likely this visit convinced him that the real answer was a resident priest. However, the Catholics of Addison would have to wait a little longer before they would get their own priest. Another important event was to take place first.

A larger church

During the summer of 1867, the local paper, The Addison Advertiser, announced that, as a result of the increase in membership of the Catholic Society of Addison, plans were underway to enlarge the church. Father Mazureth was not a man to waste time, for by September 4, 1867,  the work of enlarging the church and erecting a bell tower was rapidly nearing completion. If we can believe the figure given in the local paper, they did things in a big way, for the paper declared the new tower was ninety-five feet high. The total cost of this project was $1,039.96. Of this amount,  some $931.25 was raised by subscription with the pastor contributing the balance.

At this time, the lay trustees were Daniel Hickey and Frank Brady.

A Resident Pastor

Dr. Thomas Donahue, who later on would serve St. Catherine’s as one of its pastors, wrote in his “History of the Catholic Church in Western New York” that Father Bradley came to Addison in 1867. Local papers definitely place him is Addison by March 18, 1868. They also show that the local Catholics  had been raising money for at least two months for a “pastoral-residence.” Their efforts were successful for The Addison Advertiser on May 20th states, “The Catholic Society of this Village has erected a very neat building near their church as a parsonage”.

So in the first fourteen years, the people of St. Catherine’s had enlarged their church, built a rectory, and obtained a resident pastor. The year 1869 again witnessed a visit from Bishop Timon for Confirmation. This was in June 1869, the same year the people of the parish held two large festivals–one outdoors in June, the other at Atwater’s Hall in October.

The Present-Day Church

Following the pastorate of Father Bradley from 1873 -1884, four priests served the parish: Fathers Ryan, Brady, Lasher, and “Little” Donahue. This distinctive adjective or some such was necessary because Father T. A. Donahue was succeeded in 1884 by Father P. Donohue, who came to be known as “Big Father” Donohue.

It was becoming increasingly evident that the growing parish was in need of a new church. So it was not exactly a surprise when the local paper in its issue of April 16, 1885, carried the first announcement in these words: “St. Catherine’s Society of Roman Catholics are soon to commence the erection of a large and commodious New Church Edifice on the site of their present structure on Maple Street. Whether the editor was in error or this was really the original plan, actually the church was erected about 100 feet east of the first church. The new building was to be about 60 by 100 feet and to be built at an estimated cost of $15,000.”

At this time the parish had about one-half of this amount in its treasury. Efforts were made to keep down the cost. Some of the labor was volunteered by the people of the parish. For example, those who owned teams agreed to draw the lumber and bricks. Still others donated the stone for the cellar wall.

Original plans called for laying the corner stone in September, but due to delays, this had to be postponed. After the laying of the corner stone later that year, the work continued rapidly, so that by February 18, 1886, the building had been all enclosed and still better, for the people, all the bills had been paid. One should not fail to pay tribute to the generosity of the people of that time. In 1885 they contributed a total of $6,755.20 to meet expenses. Translated in terms of our money today this would mean at least $70,000. Nor should we forget that the year 1885 was far from a good year for wages were being cut and employment increasing.

Another year passed and still the church was not finished. But by April, 1887, the local paper had this to say: “The Catholic Church is nearly completed. The altar cost $500.”

Events began to move rapidly. By the early part of June, July 17 had been set for the dedication. The Corning Journal paper of June 9 states that the building was 51 feet wide and 110 feet in length, and it paid tribute to Father Donohue in these words: “The Reverend Father Donohue deserves great credit for securing the building and completing the church.” By June 23 the people knew that Bishop Ryan was coming to dedicate the church.

The great day arrived. The Corning Journal gives this account of the occasion: “A number of persons of this village (Corning) went to Addison Sunday to witness the dedication of the new St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. The dedication services were very impressive being conducted by Bishop Ryan of Buffalo, Numerous clergymen were present, among them being Father Colgan of Corning. The musical exercises were in charge of St. Patrick’s (sic) Church of Corning. Miss Marie C. Kennedy, daughter of Thomas Kennedy, being the organist. The excellent music furnished was one of the features of the occasion. The new church is a handsome brick structure and costs about $16,000. At its dedication less than $2,000 of debt remained on the church.” And even this debt would not remain long, for that same November, the parish held a fair which raised $800.

Saint William’s Chapel

For some men, more than one job at a time is too much, but for Father Donohue, one job was not enough. At the same time that he was caring for his nearby parishioners, he had his eye on the more distant part of the parish. By the middle of the 1880s, quite a few Irish Catholics had settled in the neighborhood of Cameron Mills. By the Spring of 1885, Father Donohue was celebrating Mass at the schoolhouse of this settlement, and in the following year in the month of January, Patrick O’Connor and his wife deeded to Bishop Ryan a small plot of land for the erection of a chapel. By February 18 of the same year “a neat substantial chapel” had been erected and paid for. Dedicated to St. William this chapel continued to serve the people of that area until 1030, At this time it was no longer needed and the property was sold for the sum of $200.

First Masses

The First Mass of a newly ordained priest is a special occasion. The old church slated for destruction was first to witness not one First Mass but two. The first of these came on June 7, 1886, when Thomas Haire, whose family lived on East Front Street, returned to his home parish to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The previous February another boy of the parish, Thomas Murray, had been ordained to the Holy Priesthood in Genoa, Italy. He returned to this country in July, and he also celebrated Mass in the old church. It is a strange coincidence that the only two boys ordained to the priesthood in the first century of the parish would be ordained the same year.

The Present Parish House

Before the end of his pastorate in 1889, Father Donohue would see the razing of the first church, and the building of the present house on the same site as the first one. Some of the older men of the parish state that some of the lumber from the first church was used to build the present house.

The End of One Era

Early in 1889, Father Donohue left St. Catherine’s. He had given the parish a new church and a new parish residence. Others were now to carry on the work. His successor was the Rev. Thomas Caraher.

Father Caraher served the parish from 1889 until the early part of 1895, when he was succeeded by Father M. Noonan. This pastor had a short stay in the parish, from 1895 until about the middle of 1897. In the normal course of events, he would have had a longer pastorate, but the year 1897 was to see an important change in the status of St. Catherine’s parish.

Bishop Ryan, the second Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, was approaching the end of his life. On the 9th day of July, 1894, Bishop Ryan came to Addison for the last time. On this occasion, he confirmed a large class of boys and girls, a few of whom are still in the parish, such as, John Burke, Robert Coleman, Ellen Knepley, Sarah Finnegan, Julia Hickey, and Nora Finnegan. Not only was this Bishop Ryan’s last visit, but events were to show that it was the last visit of any Buffalo Bishop, for late in 1896, Steuben County became part of the Diocese of Rochester.

The Rochester Diocese

When the Diocese of Rochester began in 1868, some hoped it would extend to the Pennsylvania line, but the counties of Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, and Tioga remained in the Buffalo Diocese. Nothing was done about this until after the death of Bishop Ryan. On December 10, 1896. Rome issued a Papal Brief changing these four counties to the Diocese of Rochester, At that time, these counties contained 26 churches, of which 18 were parishes served by a total of 23 priests. The Papal Brief arrived in the country on January 23, 1897. Bishop McQuaid was a firm believer in personal contacts with his priests and students for the priesthood. It is, therefore, not surprising that he invited all these priests to have dinner with him at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester. Among those present at the dinner was Father Noonan of Addison. In fairness to these priests, they were given the choice of joining the Rochester Diocese or returning to Buffalo for new appointments. About one-half decided to remain in the Buffalo Diocese, among them being the pastor of Addison.

This decision of Father Noonan meant a new pastor for Addison.


The first priest appointed by Bishop McQuaid to serve St. Catherine’s was Father William Darcy, who arrived in Addison in 1897. One of his first task was to prepare a confirmation class. Bishop McQuaid arrived in Addison that first year to meet the people of one of his new parishes and to confirm a class of 47 boys and girls. He was to return again in 1901 and again for the last time in 1905. By the time of his last visit, his health was fast failing, and so that same year Father Thomas Hickey became a bishop with the title co-adjutor and with the right of succession. The new pastor was to bring about two major changes in the parish; the first of which was the cemetery.

Saint Catherine’s Cemetery

The Irish who came to this country during the famine years of the 1840s, some of whom settled at Addison, brought with them a great respect for their dead. One of their first acts was to buy a small piece of land as a burial place. Actually, they had their cemetery several years before there was any Catholic church in the place.

By the time of Father Darcy this old cemetery was pretty well sold and there was need of additional land. A committee of three men of the parish looked over various pieces of property, some near the old cemetery and some far-removed. Finally in 1902, four acres of land of the Bliss property was purchased for cemetery purposes. The new cemetery was located on the same street as the church but on the opposite side and about one-quarter of a mile from the church. This was an ideal site, for it was level, right on the street, and close to both the old cemetery and the church. The price was $1,000.

Work was begun immediately in the laying out of lots, and on the 7th day of May, the first eight lots were sold. The names of these eight purchasers were Jessie Brennan, Edward Horey, Finnecan-Toomey Families, John D, and Charles Murray, John Troy, Mrs. Edward McDevitt, Mrs. Mary Roache, and Mrs. Thomas Hallinan. The price ? $35 for 320 square feet. At the present time, both cemeteries are in use, but the parish has now reached the time when just about the last burial has been made in the old cemetery. The first recorded burial in the old cemetery in that of Thomas Toomey, whose stone carries the date of 1857. It was left to Father Sullivan to enclose the new cemetery with its first fence. It became necessary to replace this fence in 1953 at a cost of $2,200.


When the present church was dedicated in 1887, the interior of the building was left partly unfinished. Many of the parishioners can Still remember the large wooden beams and truss work open to the view of all. As ore of them described it, if you looked up it looked like a large barn and all of this was supported from the floor of the church by several large pillars between the pews. Now it was time to do something about this and complete the House of God. Father Darcy was not the first pastor to vision the complete church, but he was the pastor whose dream became reality. With the cooperation of the people money was raised and the work begun. The dollar had shrunk in size and it required almost as much money to finish the building as the original job had cost. The completion of this work left the church in just about its present form.

After twelve years of service Bishop Hickey moved Father Darcy to Avon, NY, and from there to Canandaigua where he remained until his death.


The next, pastor of St. Catherine’s came to Addison as a very young priest. For about, five years he had been assistant under Father Long at SS. Peter and Paul Church, Elmira. This priest was to spend ten fruitful years in the parish and to win the admiration of both Catholics and non-Catholics. During these years he did much to improve the parish. The Stations of the Cross now on the walls of the church were erected during those years. His pastorate covered the war years of the First World War when 29 boys of the parish served their country.

It was the year 1920. On the evening of Tuesday, September 20, the community was shocked to learn that Father Sullivan was in the Corning Hospital in an unconscious condition as a result of an auto accident. The next day he was able to give details. Returning from Corning he slowed down to avoid another car which stalled the motor of his car. He got out of the car to start the motor, but through forgetfulness, left the car in gear. As he cranked the car it started, dragging him along so that he was seriously injured. The early readers of Thursday’s paper were cheered by the news that he was showing improvement, but before the later readers had time to read this article, pneumonia had set in and by two o’clock the next morning Father Sullivan was dead. The parish began now to prepare for the one and only priest’s funeral in its first hundred years. The body of Father Sullivan was returned to Addison to lie in state in St. Catherine’s from Sunday until 10 o’clock Monday morning. At that time Father Bloomer of Elmira celebrated a Solemn Funeral Mass. The body was then removed to St. Mary’s, Elmira, where Bishop Thomas Hickey celebrated a Pontifical Funeral Mass the next morning and laid him to rest in the cemetery at Elmira.


Following the death of Father Sullivan until 1928, St. Catherine’s was served by Father Thomas Harrington. During his pastorate there were two confirmations. One in 1922 by Bishop Hickey, and one in 1928 by Bishop Walsh of South Carolina. It was during the early part of his pastorate, in 1923 to be exact, that Court St. Catherine of the Catholic Daughters of America was organized in the parish. According to the official charter of the Court it began on June 10 with a membership of 40 under Mary Wood as the first Grand Regent.

It was also this pastorate that witnessed the partial destruction of the parish house by fire. Only the fact of early discovery by two of the parishioners who were on their way to work, averted far greater damage. The local fire department by their prompt action was able to save a considerable part of the house. Most important of all the parish records remained intact and untouched. There are still some charred timbers in the attic giving silent testimony that the fire had a fair start when it was discovered.

It was after his departure from St. Catherine’s that Father Harrington was afflicted by God with blindness. This trial he bore with patience even though he was first forced to retire from the active management of his parish at Livonia. Those who visited him during those years say that his sense of hearing was so keen that he recognized old friends just by the sound of their voices.


In 1928 Father William Killackey arrived as the new pastor of St. Catherine’s. Mild of manner and small in size he endeared himself to the people of St. Catherine’s. He was to serve the parish during the worst years of the depression. But despite this, he had the courage to go ahead and make improvements. During 1930 he directed remodeling- and decoration of the interior of the church. The altar was simplified and the large window behind the altar was replaced with a smaller window given in memory of Father Thomas Murray.

For many years the Catholics of St. Catherine’s had been forced to go elsewhere for social facilities. But in 1932 he began the parish hall beneath the church. Although money was tight and many of the people opposed the plan, nevertheless, the work was completed under the direction of John Croft at a cost of about $2,000. In 1934 Father Killackey was transferred by the Bishop to Honeyoe Falls where he remained until his death.


On the third day of July, 1934, Father Francis Moffett arrived at St. Catherine’s for a very short pastorate, one that was to be divided between activity and sickness. This priest suffered from a lung condition that was to force him after but a short time to give up the work that he loved. However when his health permitted, he was noted for the interest that he took both in the parish and in community affairs. In the month of February, 1937, the bishop sent Father J. Edward McKay to take over the active work of the parish. This arrangement resulted in some improvement in the condition of the pastor, but he was unable to get back sufficient strength to take over the parish. Consequently, in the month of June, 1937, he submitted his resignation as pastor of the parish. This meant a new pastor for Addison.


Father Kelly arrived in Addison on the 23rd day of June that same year. Previously he had been pastor of St. Gabriel’s at Hammondsport, N.Y. The new pastor was short in stature and stocky in build. As the depression was still going strong and the number of parishioners had decreased, the new pastor had a tough struggle to finance the parish. Unfortunately he did not have support from some of the people, which did not make thing any easier. Finally in September, 1941 the bishop transferred Father Kelly to Livonia Center, N. Y. The people of the parish held a farewell party for Father Kelly on the night of September 26th.


The priest who came to Addison next was Father William Cannan. This priest also came from Hammondsport, N. Y. He was a good administrator as well as a good priest and while his pastorate was to last only a little more than three years, during that time he succeeded in putting the parish in good financial shape. He also endeared himself by his contacts with the people and especially the sick. When the news of his transfer to St. Charles, Elmira Heights, became known, the Holy Name Society and the Altar Society jointly sponsored a farewell party. The president of the Holy Name Society, Thomas P. Kane, speaking for both groups presented the departing priest with a substantial purse.


When the new pastor of St. Catherine’s arrived the people were to have some difficulty with his name. But it was only a short time until he was ‘’Father Peter” for those who found difficulty with his last name. Tall and blond, full of fun, yet able to be serious and strict when the demand arose, he made a host of friends, not only among the Catholics, but with others of the community. Father Jankowski had St. Catherine’s as his first pastorate. He came, he looked it over, and he saw the ravishes of the long depression and so he set about to correct them. The interior of the church was badly in need of repairs. The people cooperated with his plans, so he was able to refinish the interior of the church at a cost of $4,000. Once again, the people could worship God in inspiring surroundings. Father Jankowski labored in this parish until June 27, 1950, at which time he was transferred by Bishop Kearney to St. Mary’s, Geneseo, New York.


Father Peter Jankowski was succeeded by Reverend Francis Turner, who had been pastor of St. Bernard’s Scipio Center and St. Hilary’s, Genoa, N. Y. He arrived in Addison in June, 1950- During 1952 a new Consonata Organ was installed in the church, replacing an old organ that had served the parish for more than forty years.

In the fall of 1953, with the cooperation of the men of the parish, the old hall, built in the depression years, was enlarged and modernized. The parish now has a social center large enough to seat 200 for a dinner, plus a modern kitchen. It took the men six months working two or three evenings a week to complete this undertaking.

One thing had been missing form the church for the first hundred years. Both the old and the new church had been constructed with a bell tower, but during these many years there had been no bells to summon the people to the service of God. Now in the centennial year of the parish, St. Catherine’s people responded to the call of their pastor, and the month of August saw the installation of a Strongberg Carlson Twin Bell system in the church tower.

And so the first hundred years comes to a close with our centennial celebration. On Sunday, October third, the Most Reverend Lawrence B. Casey, Auxiliary Bishop of Rochester, will celebrate Mass for the people of the parish, giving thanks to God for His graces and blessings of the first hundred years.


One hundred years have passed. This account has for the most part been concerned with the material, tangible things of the parish. There is another side of the parish, for more important, the spiritual side. ANOTHER has kept this account, both the good and the bad, and His account is far more accurate than the statistics of parish books. His book has already been closed on many hundreds connected with St. Catherine’s. And in the not too distant future will be closed for the last one who had anything to do with the first hundred years of St. Catherine’s, Addison. May this account show no one of them wanting.


The author wishes to express his appreciation to everyone who helped in any way to make this booklet possible.
Father Francis Turner


In a century that has seen so many changes from horse and buggy to automobile and airplanes, space launches, television and the internet, St. Catherine’s has made changes too but physically most of the changes have been in refining, refinishing and expanding on what had already been built.