The History of St. Francis Solanus Church in Interlaken, N.Y.


Compiled/authored by Marie Roloson, November 2011, with contributions from Gerard Messmer Jr., February 2012.

The first Catholics settled in Interlaken (then called Farmer Village) and in the neighboring communities of Ovid and Trumansburg in the late 1830’s and during the 1840’s.  These early Catholics were almost, if not all, immigrants of Ireland.

In those early days there was no resident priest to minister to the Catholics of this South Seneca and Northern Tompkins area.  A certain Father Donahue is reported to have offered the first Mass in this area at Trumansburg in 1844.  A few years later Father Michael Gilbride, pastor at Ithaca, began regular visits to Trumansburg, Farmer, and Ovid.  It was Father Gilbride who offered the first Mass in Farmer in 1849 at the home of Thomas King, opposite Lake View Cemetery.

By the year 1850, the time had come to think of church buildings as regular places for Catholic worship.   Father Gilbride began with the construction of Holy Cross Church in Ovid.  Father Gilbride died at Waterloo in 1854.  Father William Gleason became pastor of Waterloo, Ovid, and Trumansburg.   Father Gleason arranged for the purchase of the Old Methodist Church in Trumansburg to be made into the Catholic Church of St. James the Apostle.

Holy Cross Church in Ovid and the remodeled Church of St. James the Apostle in Trumansburg were both dedicated in 1857 by Bishop John Timon, the first Catholic Bishop of Buffalo.  (Buffalo had become a diocese in 1847.)

The Catholics of Farmer were regarded as part of Holy Cross Church in Ovid.  The old chronicler recalls that the Catholics of Farmer would walk to Ovid to attend Mass.  Farmer and Ovid were linked together as part of a parish whose pastor resided in Waterloo.  Subsequently the Catholic Church in Farmer became bound to St. James Church in Trumansburg.  But the earlier historical bond was to Ovid.

Meanwhile St. James Church in Trumansburg became a Mission Church of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca.  Within a few years (in 1868), Rochester became a Catholic Diocese.  In 1872, Bishop McQuaid, the first bishop of Rochester, made St. James Church in Trumansburg an independent parish.  The Catholics of Farmer Village were then detached from the Ovid-Waterloo parish to become part of the parish of St. James in Trumansburg.

The first pastor of St. James Parish was Father Gilbert Nuonno.  When Father Gilbert took charge, there were thirty Catholic families in Farmer Village.  Catholic services were held in the Town Hall and occasionally in the Universalist Church.  By March of 1873, a fund raising drive was begun to provide a Catholic Church in Farmer Village.

The corner stone of St. Francis Solanus Church was laid on June 4, 1874.  The completed church was dedicated by Bishop McQuaid on January 17, 1875.  In its original dimensions, the church measured 56 by 32 feet.  Its architect and builder was Mr. John King of Farmer Village (Teresa Elliott’s grandfather).  The cost of both lot and church building is reported as $3,502.00.  At the time of its completion, the church had an outstanding debt of $1,250.00.  Another $140.00 expanse was assumed for the addition of a vestry in 1877.  By 1881, the church was out of debt.

There is no clear record of responsibility for the name of St. Francis Solanus Church.  St. Francis Solanus would hardly make the list of most likely patron saints for an Irish congregation.  Perhaps the choice of patron is to be explained by the circumstance that Father Gilbert Nuonno was a Franciscan who had volunteered his services to Bishop McQuaid.  If, Father Gilbert was in fact a Franciscan, he may have used his powers as pastor to name the Interlaken church in honor of St. Francis Solanus who was a Fraanciscan missionary in South America from 1589 to 1610.

So far this is a history of the building and dedication of St. Francis Solanus Church.  The task of compiling the next years of St. Francis Church and the religious community it has served becomes more difficult.  There is a preliminary question of what does make a history of a church and a church community?

We must start with some understanding of what religion is all about—God’s overtures to souls and the response of each soul in faith, hope and love.  At this deeper level of religion where contact between God and man is unseen and veiled in mystery, the historian can present no narrative, neither for an individual’s religious history nor for the history of any group.

But God also acts through visible realities and man responds to God also in visible realities.  Christ has established a viable community—His Church.  This one and universal church community is organized into smaller visible church communities—dioceses and parishes.  Within church communities Christ continues to act through the development of visible religious influence.

At this visible level of religion, religious events and religious realities occur in some place.  The place may be a primitive hut; it may be a private home, a rented theater, or a place in the open air.  But what has become the normal necessity is that there be a church building where a church community will find its place for visible worship, for access to sacraments, for hearing the Gospel message.

The church community may develop other visible structures, possibly a school, a parish center, and organizations of various kinds.  All such realities, like the church building are meant to foster and/or express the vitality of the unseen contact of souls with God.  And they can form a history.

Once we recognize some of the things that can make the history of a church and a parish, the task of compiling that history has to be done with dependence on what earlier historians judged worthy of noting.

The early chroniclers of St. Francis Solanus Church were very sparing in what they considered worthy of noting.  For a period from 1882 through 1891, about the only item recorded in the history of St. Francis Solanus Church was the holding of the Forty Hours Devotion, followed by the laconic statement:  “Nothing of interest this year.”  There is an exception in 1887, when it is reported that a Mission was given by Fathers O’Regan and Donoghue which was “most successful”.   There are also occasional mentions of Farmer Village parishioners going to Trumansburg for the sacrament of Confirmation.

An entry in 1892 noted that Mass was offered every Sunday at Farmer Village with catechism classes after Mass, and that during the year “many opportunities” were offered the people and the children to go to confession.

An entry in 1894 observed that “the people attend Mass well.  Almost all made their Easter duty.”  An economic note enters the old chronicle in 1909:   “No debts except for one half ton of coal.”

Bishop Thomas Hickey made a canonical visitation to Interlaken on July 25, 1910. But the chronicler just states the fact of the visitation with no effort to report any outcome of the visit.

The chronicle of St. Francis Church has no entries for the years between 1910 and 1920.  Then from 1920 through 1935, the first and sometimes only entry is “Jan. 1 Balance on hand.”  Such balances on hand ranged from a low of $00.00 in 1934 to a high of $246.41 in 1926.

The chronicler thought it of interest to note that in July, 1923, a sidewalk was laid.  Then in 1924, new metal ceiling was installed and new green carpet purchased.   The exterior of the church was painted in 1926.  In 1927, a new altar “formerly at convent in Ithaca was refinished by Mr. Harold and Mr. W. Simpson.”

In 1928, the chronicler states that the Jan. 1 balance on hand was $13.83.  Then he adds:  “In October the Dutch Reformed Church of Interlaken gave us their old pipe organ.  It was installed by Louis Forse of Binghamton.  It was a very neighborly act.”

In 1932, “Mr. Sheehan covered floor with linoleum as a gift to the parish.”  In 1934, the church got a new roof at the cost of $252.00 “With the help of a subscription $175.00 was paid on account.”

And thus with these little scraps of information , our parish chronicle went on up to 1936, following a pattern of listing each respective year and its events considered sufficiently notable by the chronicler (even when the only event noted for a year was “Jan. 1, Balance on hand”).

From 1936 on, the format of the chronicle was changed from yearly entries to a more extended account covering the time of each pastor’s assignment to Trumansburg and the Interlaken Mission Church.

Covering the nearly eleven years of the pastorate of Father G. Stuart Hogan (1935-1945), the chronicle of St. Francis Solanus Church describes details in the remodeling of the church.   Featured in this account are such items as the removal of the confessional from the sanctuary to the rear of the church, the painting of the church walls “a light grey, while the woodwork, pews, wainscoating, pillars and choir loft were finished in red mahogany…a very pleasing combination.”  “A very rich and elegant dorsal drape in red and gold was hung in back of the altar…New Leaded stain glass windows made of the quality imported stained glass…were installed by Pike and Co. of Rochester, N.Y. at a cost of $65, each.”

“Two large oil burning stoves were installed in the place of the old and unsightly coal stove which originally had been used to heat the church.”  “The organ had been pumped by hand, so now an electric motor was installed and the organ generally overhauled.”  The chronicle also notes that the outside of the church was painted with the “best white lead paint”.

Released time religious instructions were introduced in St. Francis Church by Father Hogan.  Classes were provided for both grammar and high school students.  The chronicler observes that this was “a great improvement over the old fashioned Sunday School,” since “in the old days many of the country children missed Mass and hence instruction because of careless and indifferent parents who would not bring them to Mass on Sundays.”

Our hand written chronicle (written by several different hands) closes with some of the events that occurred while Father Leonard Kelly was pastor of Trumansburg and Interlaken.  There is a statistical statement that Fr. Kelly found in Interlaken a very small congregation of about 20 families when he took up his duties here on Christmas Day, 1945.

Again the chronicle devotes attention to items affecting the church building.  “By the summer of 1946 a small addition was built on the rear of the church, an oil burner with steam heat installed, the oil stoves and chimneys removed.”  The writer of the chronicle wryly observes that the old oil stoves “gave more smoke than heat.”

The church pews were taken up, the floor sanded and the pews then cut and fitted “so that there was a center aisle and two side aisles.”  A new altar and new statues were purchased with the help of donations received from servicemen associated with Father Kelly during his Navy chaplaincy.  The new altar was dedicated to the men of the 4th Marine Air Wing who lost their lives in World War II.

Apparently that “very pleasing combination” of red and grey referred to earlier had meanwhile lost some of its appeal, since in 1947 “the church was painted inside and out.”

St. Francis Solanus Church had a big day on November 6, 1949 when Bishop Kearney of Rochester came to offer Mass to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the church.  A new Wurlitzer electric organ had been installed as a diamond jubilee gift to the church from Mrs. Mary (Quinn) Preston of Owego.  In the course of the following year (1950), new pews and kneelers were installed in the church.  With the addition of an organ, St. Francis began a search for an organist and a choir.  Ms. Mary Lou Stewart volunteered to play the organ for Sunday Mass.  Volunteers signed up to sing and sing they did all through the 1950’s.

Getting away from building and remodeling history, the chronicle of Fr. Kelly’s pastorate notes that a two Mass Sunday schedule was begun in St. Francis Solanus Church for the summer months of 1946.  Then, when the Capuchins came to Interlaken in June of 1951, two Masses were offered on Sundays throughout the year.

The coming of the Capuchin Friars to Interlaken received a little more attention in the chronicle for St. James Church in Trumansburg.  That chronicle reports that in 1951 “The Capuchin Fathers purchased Shadow Lawn.  On June 14, Rev.Bede Scully, O.F.M. Cap. came to Interlaken to open the new house.  On June 17th the Capuchin Fathers began Sunday work in the parishes (sic) of Interlaken and Trumansburg.”

Father Leonard Kelly was a pioneer in the development of catechetical facilities for public school students.  In the summer of 1953 he had the St. Francis Church Catechetical Center built near the Interlaken Central School on a lot donated by Mr. and Mrs. James Daily.  Volunteer labor, provided especially by Fr. Kelly himself, by Fr. Bede Scully, O.F.M. Cap., and John Quinn made it possible to erect the Catechetical Center for about $1,500.00.  The St. Francis Solanus Catechetical Center was described as the first unit of its kind in the diocese of Rochester for providing an efficient facility close to the Public School for the religious instruction of students in a released time program.

That same summer of 1953, vacation school for religion was held for the first time in Interlaken with the assistance of two Sisters of Mercy.  The classes were given in the American Legion Home.

Fr. Kelly was transferred to the pastorate of Assumption Church in Fairport, N. Y. in 1954.  The last entry in our handwritten chronicle is an account of a drive for funds to improve the condition of St. Francis Church.  Over $7,000.00 was pledged.  The chronicle ends with a report that about $4,000.00 was already collected.

The new pastor for Trumansburg and Interlaken was Father Francis Marks.  Fr. Marks took up the task of planning for the renovations at St. Francis Solanus Church.  Since it was judged a hazard, the old steeple was to be removed.  The front of the church was to be extended to provide space for a parish office, a baptistery and for a sound-proof room (sometimes called “a crying room”) for young children.

Plans were also drawn up for an Annex to be built at the southeast corner of the church (just about where it was eventually to be built years later).

Before the plans of Father Marks could be executed, Bishop Kearney decided to separate St. Francis Solanus Mission Church from St. James Parish in Trumansburg.  St. Francis Solanus Mission was made St. Francis Solanus Parish entrusted to the care of the Capuchin Fathers residing at St. Fidelis Friary.  On June 27, 1956, Father Gereon Lindsay, O.F.M. Cap., then Superior at the Friary, was appointed as Administrator of St. Francis Solanus Parish.

The territory of the newly created parish was described as follows:  “Start at Northeastern point of Weyers Point and Cayuga Lake.  Go South along West shore of Cayuga Lake to East Covert Road.   Go west on E. Covert Rd. (North side) to Rt. 96.  Cross Rt. 96 to West Covert Rd. Go West on W. Covert Rd. (North side) to E. Town Line Rd.  Go North on East Town Line Rd. (East side) to W. Town Line Rd., still North on Rock River Rd. (East side) to Center Rd.  Go East on Center Rd. (South side) across Rt. 89 to Weyers Point (South side) and on to Lake.”

Early on the agenda for Father Gereon was the work of renovation planned for St. Francis Church.  The plans for the Annex had to be shelved.  But other renovation work was begun in early September of 1956.  The old steeple was removed and a new entrance porch was built.  The interior walls of the church were covered with striated sheet rock and a new ceiling was installed.  The altar was remodeled and a new tabernacle was provided so that the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved in the church.  A new confessional and a new baptismal font were also purchased for the church.

It was Christmas time before these renovations could be finished and new paint given to both the interior and exterior of the church.  For the period that the church was closed for renovations, Sunday Mass was offered in what was then the Lake Theater on Main Street.

The creation of St. Francis Solanus Parish and the renovation of the church became the occasion for the publication of a booklet, Priests and Pioneers written by Father Julius Sullivan, O.F.M. Cap. then stationed at St. Fidelis Friary.  Father Julius traced the history of the Catholic Church in Interlaken from 1838 to 1956.

In July of 1958, Father Gereon was transferred from Interlaken to New York City.  His successor as Superior at St. Fidelis Friary and Pastor of St. Francis Solanus Parish was Father Anselm Leahy, O.F.M. Cap.

Father Anselm’s big ambition was to bring Sisters to Interlaken.  The expectation was that the Sisters would offer their services in catechetical and census work in Interlaken, Trumansburg, and Ovid.  A house on the corner of Orchard and Prospect Streets was purchased to become the Sister’s Convent.  However, it eventually proved impossible to get Sisters and the house that was expected to be a Convent had to be sold by the parish.

Like most religious orders, the Capuchins of each Province (or region) meet every three years in what is called a Chapter for the election of Provincial (regional) Superiors.  Chapter time is also the occasion for changes in assignments within the local Friaries of the Province.  Thus, on the occasion of the Provincial Chapter in July of 1961, Father Anselm was transferred from Interlaken to Brooklyn.  Father Harold Higgins, O.F.M. Cap. was appointed as Superior of St. Fidelis Friary and Pastor of St. Francis Solanus Parish.

Father Harold was to remain as pastor for nine years.  Even when he finished six years as Superior of the Friary (the usual limit for local Capuchin Superiors), and Father Seraphin Winterroth, O.F.M. Cap. was appointed Superior of the Friary, Fr. Harold continued as Pastor of the Interlaken Parish.

A major project, the census of the parish, was undertaken in 1965.   In a summary of the census, dated January 1, 1966, St. Francis Solanus Parish listed 60 families, plus four parishioners living alone.  Within the parish there were 39 men over 18 years of age, and 63 women over 18.  There were 109 children.

Bishop Kearney launched the Joint College Fund Drive throughout the Rochester Diocese, the quota assigned to St. Francis Solanus Parish was $2,500.00  That quota was topped when on November 26, 1965, a sum of $2,575.00 was reached in pledges from the parish.  The last report included in parish records shows that actual cash contributions amounted to $2,367.00, a sum very close to the total that had been pledged.

At the same time that the parishioners of St. Francis Solanus Church were trying to meet their quota for the Joint College Fund, they also met further expenses for church renovations.  To conform to new liturgical directives, the altar had to be refashioned to have the priest face the congregation at Mass.  The tabernacle was relocated to set into the wall behind the altar.  At the same time a small addition was added to the rear of the church building to provide washroom facilities.

In August of 1970 Father Bennet Devine, O.F.M. Cap. was appointed as the new Superior of the Friary and Pastor of St. Francis Solanus Parish.  A notable addition to the Church was made early in 1972 when a new Allen organ was installed at a cost of $3,970.00

During the pastorate of Father Bennett, the question of the construction of some kind of parish hall was revived.  While the Friary was available for smaller meetings involving the Parish, there was the disadvantage of distance between Friary and Church.  Moreover, the Parish had no place available for more numerous gatherings of parishioners.  Discussion of this problem led to both reconsideration of an Annex similar to that planned at the time of the pastorate of Father Marks and to a proposal to excavate under the church building to provide a Parish Hall.  Again such plans had to be temporarily shelved.

Another development during the pastorate of Father Bennett was the introduction of the St. Francis Solanus Parish Council.  The impetus to form Parish Councils came from the Second Vatican Council.  Their purpose is to serve through consultation and suggestions in achieving the purposes of the parish community.

In June of 1973, Father Bennett was transferred from Interlaken to the chaplaincy of the Fishkill Correctional Facility at Beacon, New York.  His place at Interlaken was taken by Father Bertrand Scully, O.F.M. Cap., brother of the Father Bede Scully who was the first Capuchin Superior at St. Fidelis Friary.

Under renewed urgings from parishioners, the matter of a Church Annex was again taken up.  Mr. Walter Depew, a member of the Parish drew up plans for an Annex similar to the one proposed at the time of Father Marks.  Diocesan approval was received and construction was begun in September, 1974.  Basic construction was entrusted to Thomas Duffee of Trumansburg with finishing work to be provided by volunteers from the parish.  The whole parish helped with the completion of the Annex.  The floor coverings were donated and installed by the Harold Miles Sr. family.  New kitchen plumbing was designed and installed as a gift from Gerard Messmer Sr.  Mr. Messmer also contributed and purchased many of the parts and/or equipment needed.  He oversaw the drainage system installation for the Annex also.  Gerard Messmer Jr. designed the wiring sysem, electric heating system and the lighting.  Mr. Messmer Jr. also volunteered to help install the switchgear, controls, outlets, and the wiring to feed all the lighting and heating equipment.  The kitchen appliances were donated by Vance Crane Appliances of Interlaken (owned and operated by Merewyn and Betty Crane).  The interior was finished and painted by many volunteers from the parish.

The first formal use of the new annex was on May 11, 1975 for First Holy Communion with a reception to follow.   The whole church was happy to have the social hall for functions.

On November 23, 1975 Bishop Joseph L. Hogan, D.D., Bishop of Rochester concelebrated with former pastors and members of the Capuchin Order of the Province of St. Mary a mass at St. Francis to celebrate the centennial of the church and to dedicate the new annex.    A reception for the Bishop and people was held in the new annex after the service.  The Bishop said “If one does not have a sense of history, usually one does not have a sense of gratitude,” stressing “that today many want to eliminate history and he was happy that the historical past of the parish, as found in a booklet prepared by the pastor, Fr. Bertrand Scully, must give the parishioners a sense of gratitude to those priests and people who preceded them.” (Interlaken Review, December 4, 1975 p. 20)

A census of households in 1975 registered 93 households.  Some may have only had one person in the house while others had many.  The parish was thriving.

The church needed to raise money for upkeep and expenses and the idea of a fund raiser was discussed.  In 1960 the people decided to have a chicken barbeque dinner.  The event was held at the St. Fidelis Friary.  The lawns became the scene for a cake wheel, raffle, and tables for eat in customers, and the boat dock for the boats of lake visitors.  The ladies of the church met in the boathouse the day before to prepare the gallons of cole slaw and potato salad necessary.   The men manned the pit the next day cooking the marinated chicken to perfection.  This fundraiser was not only profitable but was a successful social event.  It would become an annual event.  The menu moved from potato salad to salt potatoes and eventually baked beans.  The salads were purchased locally instead of made the day before, but salt potatoes and beans were prepared at the boat house for a long time.  Music by live bands or disc jockeys was always part of the day.   Children’s games were added some years and the raffle was updated around the 42nd barbeque.  The barbeque was part of St. Francis’ heritage for fifty years.  The last year included a 5K run.  This was not the first time a race was associated with St. Francis Solanus as The Ovid Gazett had a From the Past article that “the ladies and gentlemen of St. Francis Solanus Church of Farmer Village hosted a ball and festival… Fred Coleman…was the winner in the 3-mile skating race and Peter Kinsell received the highest number of votes for the contest for the gold-headed cane.” (October 5, 2005 p. 2)

The Ladies Guild of St. Francis Solanus Church was also formed with bi-laws in 1960.  The purpose was to contribute to the spiritual and social welfare of the Parish and assist the Pastor in ways he deems necessary.  Membership was open to all of the ladies of the parish and meetings were two times a year and at other times as deemed necessary.  Dues were $2 per year payable each January.  The church and altar care were seen to by the guild.  A sunshine person was elected to send cards and gifts to the sick of the parish as necessary.  There was a Thanksgiving Clothing drive and religious education teachers.  Meetings were held in different ladies’ homes and at the Friary.  Bake sales, rummage sales, craft fairs, and eventually dish to pass suppers were organized.

Encouraging the congregation to sing and participate more in masses started being discussed at Parish Council meetings in 1972.  Apparently after its great start in the 1950’s, music participation at mass had deteriorated.  Music was encouraged for Christmas with a choir.  At first only one weekend mass had music and almost no singing was heard except at the holiday season.  Discussion of a hymn board to let parishioners know the order of the hymns sung was discussed but the price tag was high so it was suggested maybe a clever parishioner could produce one for the church.

The children of the parish put on the first Christmas pageant in 1977.  Patricia Messmer acquired the pageant books.  Costumes were made and lines and songs learned.  There were angels, shepherds, kings, Joseph and Mary.   This was the beginning of another annual event.  The pageant has changed depending on the needs and children present.  Sometimes there are children readers and musicians as well as the other parts of the pageant.  Costumes have been refurbished.  In the early 1980’s the pageant changed the look of the church in that a shepherd’s head dress (Beth Butterer’s) caught fire during the pageant by being too close to the votive lights located on the altar.  A quick thinking parishioner (Roger Coonradt) pulled the head piece off and stomped out the flames and the show continued, but the votive lights were permanently removed from the altar.

By 1979 it was increasingly difficult to find teachers for the religious education release time during the school day.  It was decided to move the classes back to Sunday’s after mass.  It was not an easy decision but more and more people had other obligations during the daytime.

Different ideas for fund raisers were always being discussed.  It was decided to ask Anne Knight a local artist to draw a picture of the church which could be used to make and then sell notecards.

Bishop Matthew Clark the Bishop of Rochester came to our parish for confirmation on February 25, 1980.  The confirmation was at 5 p. m.  There was a reception for the Bishop and the parish afterwards with finger sandwiches and punch.  The annex was proving to be very useful.

All this time the music ministry was slowly improving.  By 1985 all the masses had music at them.  We were fortunate to have people to play the organ and encourage participation in music.  MaryAnn Dendis and Sandy Huhn were instrumental in getting our music ministry up and running.  Anyone attending mass in the current year would hear the music fill the church and think it was always this way.  Jane Carroll and Rich and Deb Rasmussen added guitar music at various times.   Chris Carroll has been a strong force in helping our young children learn and sing songs at masses.

The CCD building that was located so conveniently to the school was not allowed to remain unused when the CCD classes were moved to Sundays.  A Community Closet was organized to allow used clothing to be sold and/or distributed to people in the community or in need.  It was open one day a month from 9:30-1:30 (Thursday).  The profits were to go to the community such as the Food Pantry located at the Reformed Church.   After several years of providing this service it started becoming more difficult to find available people to man the jobs needed to keep it open.  Donations of remaining items were made to the House of Concern in Seneca Falls and the Reformed Church in Interlaken.  Unfortunately after that the building was vacant and used for church storage until it was sold in 2011.

In 1986, it was considered more economical to have the Saturday night and Sunday 8:00 am mass in the annex to conserve on heat.  It should be noted that our boiler system for the church was voluntarily maintained for many years by Mr. Gerard Messmer Sr.  The directory completed in 1986 said there were 73 households in the parish.  The Guild came up with the idea of a church cookbook to try to raise money for the parish.  The cookbook would be sold at the barbeque.  New steps and a handicap ramp were put on the front of the church.

By 1987 the cost of heating oil vs. electric was again reviewed and heating oil was considered more reasonable so weekend masses were returned to the church.  The evening mass in 1987 was moved from 7:30 pm on Saturday night to 5:30 pm.

Rev. Nelson Ruppert at a parish council meeting in 1989 disclosed an overview of our finances for the last four years.  He said, “We are basically paying our expenses, slowly increasing our reserves and ‘maintaining our own’.”

The neighboring parish of Holy Cross in Ovid lost its pastor Father Weedo and Father Nelson said masses at both parishes for a while until the Capuchin’s assumed responsibility of the parish.  Father Nelson was assigned to Holy Cross and Father John came to Interlaken.

The interior of St. Francis needed to be painted again in 1990.  Anne Knight (the local artist of our notecard fame) was the person who recommended the current paint combination in our church.  Mr. Harold Wright of Trumansburg did the actual painting of the interior of the church.  The mass schedule for weekends was changed in 1991.  St. Francis Solanus no longer had three weekend masses.  There was one Saturday night mass at 7:30 and one Sunday morning mass at 9:00.  The change involved the number of people at mass and the cost of heating the church in the winter.

In 1994 Bishop Clark decided to cluster the two parishes of Holy Cross and St.  Francis.  They would retain their individuality and be served by the Capuchins but they would be a unit.  That meant one priest for both parishes.  Father Nelson was chosen to be the pastor of the unit of churches.  St. Francis and Holy Cross were again linked as in their past history.   Father John O’Hara was assigned the Trumansburg parish as they were in need of a priest.  So now the Capuchin Order of St. Mary’s Province had the three parishes and the Friary in their care.  Because the Parish Council was growing, the Guild’s function was not necessary as so many of the duties overlapped with the Council, the ladies no longer met but as part of the Council and served on committees and in the liturgy as needed.

Father Nelson Ruppert took ill in 1998 and Father Regis Armstrong took over for him until Father Bernard Maloney could replace him.  Father Nelson had been with the parish of St. Francis and in the area for fourteen years.

The Diocesan terminology for “Parish Council” changed to “Pastoral Council” in 1999 with committees for Word, Community Building, Worship, Temporalities, Witness, and Executive.  The priest should preach, lead worship service, and shepherd his people.  Other things should be taken care of by the laity.  At this time St. Francis hosted many coffee hours, helped with Christmas projects, had religious instruction of the youth, brought mass and communion to the homebound, each mass had Eucharistic ministers, lectors, greeters, song leaders, and altar servers.  On April 26, Bishop Clark had confirmation at St. Francis.

During 2000 Novelli Engineering of Ithaca reported that our church and annex was in immediate need of structural repair.  The roofs were falling and the walls expanding outward.  Also the floors of the church and annex were in need of support.  Schichel Architecture of Itaca designed the structural repair and added lighting and fans to the church and annex.  Schichel Construction Co.,Dryden, was awarded the project.  Construction began in June 2002 and was completed in August 2003.  Parishioners approved a fund raising campaign to raise half of the cost of the project and replenish some of the parish savings.  The campaign was pledges that continued for ten months.  Repairs that were made included tie rods being installed above the ceiling supports for floors and annex, the annex had new trusses and roof, new ceiling and walls, with lights and fans for both the annex and church, and the porch had new wrought iron supports put in.

In 2000, the University of NC under the direction of Professor Paul Wilkes conducted a study of Catholic Parishes.  Mr. Wilkes said, “What we were looking for were churches that quite simply honor and serve God, serve congregrants well and reach out into their communities.  We put no litmus test on them.”   (Kathleen Schwar, Catholic Courier, April 5, 2001)  The Courier went on to say that “Common traits emerged.  The churches were looked upon as missionary outposts, maintained an edge, constantly scrutinizing themselves; had a ‘habit of being’ ranging from a warm welcome on an initial phone call to relevant homilies and exciting religious education; were forgiving; were innovative and entrepreneurial; were willing to take risks and make mistakes. …Members feel a special relationship to their parish, which is the center of their lives.  The parish has many communities or areas of interest within it.  Parishes don’t ‘allow’ lay people to work in the church but encourage and expect them to.  And they nourish relationships with God.”  In 2002 the results of this study were published by the Pastoral Summit, University of NC at Wilmington, 2064 Randal Library.  Our church, St. Francis Solanus, was listed as one of the three hundred Excellent Catholic Parishes in the United States.  (Paul Wilkes, Excellent Catholic Parishes, 2001, Paulist Press, New York).

Through being made aware of the needs of children in Afghanistan by Gerard Messmer III who was stationed there and is the son of Gerard and Millie Messmer of our parish, people gathered and sent supplies for school and toys to the people of Afghanistan in 2003.  Cakes were provided to the Community Manor adult home for birthday celebrations (one cake each month).  Youth boxes for all the people who receive Meals on Wheels were assembled by the youth of the parish for distribution.

The parish list in 2004 included 68 families.  In 2005 the parish sidewalk and driveway was paved in August.  The parish also published a pictorial directory.  This helped people learn the names of people who they saw in church each Sunday.  The organ was sold and a new piano purchased for the music at mass.

In an attempt to raise funds for the church, a Cash Bash (Eugene Carroll gave the church the idea) was devised in 2006.  First prize was $5000, second prize $3000, and third $1000.  All tickets included the price of tickets to a dinner/dance at the end of the raffle with the winners being drawn at the event.  Along the way, paid up ticket holders were eligible for monthly drawings with the winner receiving $100. Each paid up ticket cost $100. This Cash Bash fund raiser was run four consecutive years finishing in 2010.

In 2010 St. Francis Solanus added a weekday mass on Wednesdays at 9:00.  With the clustering of parishes, St. Francis has one Sunday mass at 9:00 with Holy Cross having a Saturday night vigil mass and one Sunday mass at 10:30.

The St. Francis Solanus fund raiser for 2011 was another 5K run that included at parish chili cook off.  Great fun was had by the tasters as well as the cooks.  It was a very successful event.

In both 2010 and 2011 St. Celia Music Ministry Recognition Awards were given to two youth of our parish:  Jacob Perry (2010) and Christina Bromka (2011).  And in 2011 we are practicing songs and responses for the new liturgy that has been passed down from the Vatican.   We are ready to do our best.


And so we come to a conclusion of this brief parish history.  Obviously, this account cannot pretend to be the full story.  It can only recall what previous chroniclers wrote down.  And it might be observed, priests are not famous for diary keeping.   Perhaps we should have added up statistics on baptisms, confirmations, marriages, etc.  But the ink on old records has faded beyond possibility of deciphering.  Perhaps we should have given more notice to naming individual parishioners for their contributions of time and service to the church.  But that might mean an odious process of selection.  And it should be understood that what has been recalled of the progress of St. Francis Solanus Church was only made possible through the loyalty of its parishioners.

The greatest gap in this whole story has to be the record of what we cannot know—how God has encountered souls in and through St. Francis Solanus Church and Parish.  Sometimes an individual parishioner might lift the veil protecting his own experience.  But mostly this is a secret world of God’s grace, His invitations to love, His answering of prayer.  St. Francis Solanus Church hopefully has provided a place for these things to happen these past years.

The Present and the Future the Twenty First Century:

Beginning July 1, 2016 the three churches: St Francis Solanus, Holy Cross, and St James the Apostle, will be united under the one parish name of  “Mary, Mother of Mercy” with Rev Bernard M. Maloney, OFM Cap -Pastor.

Pastors that have served at St. Francis Solanus Parish

Pastor Dates of Service Deceased
Rev. James O’Connor (Ovid and Farmer Village) 1870-1872 +July 4, 1909
Rev. Gilbert Nuonno (Trumansburg and Farmer Village) 1872-1877 +April 10, 1908
Rev. Angelo Lugero (Trumansburg and Farmer Village) 1877-1881 +March 9, 1909
Rev. Michael T. Madden (Trumansburg and Interlaken) 1881-1909 +Sept. 23, 1918
Rev. T. J. Harrington (Trumansburg and Interlaken) 1909-1920 +Feb. 18, 1953
Rev. E. Joseph Esser (Trumansburg and Interlaken) 1920-1935 +Oct. 8, 1963
Rev. G. Stuart Hogan (Trumansburg and Interlaken) 1935-1945 +June 1, 1985
Rev. Leonard A. Kelly (Trumansburg and Interlaken) 1945-1954 +Sept. 30, 1983
Rev. Francis A. Marks (Trumansburg and Interlaken) 1954-1956 +May 29, 1979
Rev. Gereon Lindsay, O.F. M. Cap.  Interlaken 1956-1958 +March 11, 1971
Rev. Anselm Leahy, O.F.M. Cap. 1958-1961 +Jan. 15, 1971
Rev. Harold Higgins, O.F.M. Cap. 1961-1970 +Feb. 1, 1989
Rev. Bennett Devine, O.F.M. Cap. 1970-1973 +Oct. 23, 1978
Rev. Bertrand Scully, O.F. M. Cap. 1973-1979 +May 5, 1994
Rev. James McIntyre, O.F.M. Cap. 1979-1984
Rev. Nelson Ruppert, O.F. M. Cap. 1984-1990
Rev. John O’Hare, O.F.M. Cap. 1990-1994 +July 20, 1996
Rev. Nelson Ruppert, O.F.M. Cap. 1994-1998 +March 11, 2000
Rev. Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap. 1998
Rev. Bernard M. Maloney 1998-2002
Rev. William Winters, O.F.M. Cap. 2002-2008
Rev. Bartholomew (Bart) Minson, O.F.M. Cap. 2008-2015
Rev. Bernard M. Maloney, O.F.M. Cap. 2015-Present



Mass Times:

Weekday Liturgies:
Communion service at 9:00 a.m. at St. James the Apostle church.

Tuesday through Friday:
Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Francis Solanus church (Recitation of the Rosary begins at 8:00 a.m.)

NOTE: Weekday liturgies may be cancelled due to funerals or bad weather.

Weekend Masses:
4:00 p.m. at St. Francis Solanus, Interlaken

9:00 a.m. at St. James the Apostle, Trumansburg
10:30 a.m. at Holy Cross, Ovid

If you are unable to attend Mass in person due to health reasons, please see this list of ways to participate in Sunday Mass online.

Mass intentions: Those wishing to have someone remembered at a parish Mass may fill out a Mass Intentions Request form which is automatically submitted to the church office.

Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession:

Fridays, 6:30–7:30 p.m., at St. Francis Solanus church in Interlaken or by appointment with a priest.

Private Prayer:

• St. Francis Solanus Church in Interlaken is open at all times.
• St. James the Apostle Church in Trumansburg is open most days from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

© 2024 The Parish of Mary Mother of Mercy
3660 Orchard St., P.O. Box 403, Interlaken, NY 14847

St. James the Apostle, 17 Whig St, Trumansburg, NY
Holy Cross, 7231 Main Street, Ovid, N.Y.
St. Francis Solanus, 3660 Orchard St., Interlaken, N.Y.
Diocese of Rochester

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