History

CHURCH BUILDING

From the Canajoharie Library: “Although the first Christian presence in the Mohawk Valley was that of the French Jesuits, there were no Catholic churches until large numbers of Catholic immigrants began coming to the area in the mid 1800s. In 1862 a congregation was formed in Canajoharie, with a church constructed on the corner of Cliff and Walnut Streets, with the basement carved from the limestone bedrock, and the the stone for the church quarried on or near the property. In those early years a priest traveled from Cooperstown. Church membership grew rapidly, and St. Peter and Paul had its own resident priest by the 1870s, and spawned missions in Fort Plain and St. Johnsville in the 1880′s. The building was rebuilt in the 1890s.  In 2009 (sic, 2010?) the church closed to merge with their Fort Plain site to become Our Lady of Hope Church.”

HISTORY OF PASTORS (1884-2010)

 Rev. James Bloomer

“The Rev. James Bloomer came to St. Peter’s and Paul’s in 1884, remaining as pastor until his death in 1920, for 36 years. Miss Mary Hoban was his housekeeper for many years. His name was a household word for the Catholics in Fort Plain and the surrounding countryside, as well as those in Canajoharie. During this time, St. Peter’s and Paul’s was the center for Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations, weddings, and funerals, as attested by the ancient record book at the former Rectory. In 1898 he was responsible for the renovation of the church, both interior and exterior.  When the church was very cold, Sophie Wheeler recalls that Fr. Bloomer would have Mass at his house next door on Cliff Street. He always had a St. Patrick’s Day Mass and the sermon was always on driving the snakes out of Ireland! As a small girl, she just loved it! During the First World War, he decided to take a trip to Ireland to visit his remaining relatives. His friends protested, because of the great danger of the ship being sunk by the Huns, but he trusted firmly in the Lord and made a safe round trip journey. He died in 1920 and is buried in St. Peter’s and Paul’s cemetery. “

Rev. John H. Ready 1920-1933

“Father Ready became pastor of St. Peter’s and Paul’s in 1920. Many renovations took place during his pastorate. The sacristy, side chapel, and a beautiful marble altar imported from Italy were installed in 1923. The church steeple was struck by lightning during this time and required major repairs. Fr. Ready decided to completely remodel the church. He had admired the Madeleine chapel in Paris, and endeavored to copy it as much as was possible. Six large antique bronze candesticks adorned the main altar and many new sanctuary items were added on special occasions. At Pentecost, Christmas, Easter and on Confirmations, two tall red clay vases filled with American Beauty roses flanked the altar. Strangers often remarked that it was the most beautiful church they had even seen in this country – not elaborate, but in perfect taste, worthy of being the House of God.”

“In 1929, the Catholic cemetery was improved, and new land was acquired at a cost of $10,000. In 1930, a new heating system and a new lighting system were added. Over the years, a total of $40,000 was expended, part of which was paid. Then came the Great Depression immediately by World War II, hindering payment of the debt. This was finally consummated during Father Hogan’s pastorate. “

Rev. James R. Gazeley 1933-1947

 “In October 1933, Father James R. Gazeley and Father Leo F. Brady as assistant, came to Canajoharie. Missions at Delanson and Sharon Springs were care for by priests of Canajoharie. Fr. Gazeley was assisted, in turn by Frs. James O’Neil, Thomas Tooher, William McNamara, Leo Brady, [R.] Mansfield Starks and John W. Casey. Rev. Tooher left early to become a Chaplain in the Army, [and] a farewell dinner was held for him at the [Canajoharie] Country Club. In the early part of 1947, Fr. Gazeley was given a farewell dinner before he left for the Visitation Church in Schuylerville [NY], having exchanged pastorates with Rev. James J. Dasey. All of these priests are now deceased, with the exception of Rev. R. Mansfield Starks.”

“Father Gazeley was honored as a Monsignor in 1961, and later celebrated his Golden Jubilee in Schuylerville. He subsequently retired, resided at St. Coleman’s Home. In June 1975, the Evangelist carred an article about him, naming him the oldest priest in the Diociese. Quote, “Few men in a lifetime can earn the genuine admiration and respect that everyone who knows him has for Msgr. Gazeley. His kindness and deep concern for everyone, regardless of race, color or creed, have endeared him to all, he was truly a saintly pastor.”

 Rev. James J. Dasey 1947-1952

 “During the pastorate of Father Dasey, the parish progress in two particular areas: Devotions to the Blessed Sacraments, and Catechetics. Those who remember those days will recall the First Friday observances, with a beautiful Holy Hour in the evening including an inspirational talk – usually regarding Fr. Dasey’s model saint, the Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney. He strove to imitate him and encouraged us to do likewise. He also revived the Rosary Society, with a dinner in the Fire Hall, attended by a huge crowd. This stimulated new parish vitality which had been rather relaxed due to the pressure of war. It was also during this time that the Catechetical Center was established, and our school of religion inaugurated by the Sisters of the Atonement.”

“In 1951 Father Dasey became very ill, and was cared for at the Rectory until he passed away April 11, 1952. Fr. Edward A. Heenan, who had been assisting him, was then appointed as administrator, until September 1953, when he was made pastor of the church in Roxbury, NY.”


Rev. John J. Hogan, 1953-1971

 “Father Hogan came to St. Peter’s and Paul’s from the Blessed Sacrament church in Hague. His sister, Mary, retired from fifty years of teaching [and] became his housekeeper. His first project was to pay up the long standing debt of the parish, and that was done most efficiently. Many repairs and improvements were done, including the annex on the west side of the church, and after Vatican II, changes in the sanctuary and [redecoration] of the interior. Also, a [house] on Otsego St. was purchased for the Sisters and the Cliff St. house [was] refurbished to be used as a school and center for [the] parish social life.”

“Ecumenism was emphasized [along with] collaboration with other churches of the village, especially during Week of Unity and World Day of Prayer. Also, Father Hogan [along] with the Sisters, promoted Scouting in a big way. The girls and boys earned church awards and [were] going to the Cathedral for ceremonies. There were Christmas pageants held at the Fire Hall, and for every event there were printed programs.

Due to ill health, Fr. Hogan retired in 1971 and lived at 114 Cliff Street with his sister until his death in February 1973.  He had [the following] assistants [through] the years: Rev. George McKeon; Rev. Jonas Ruokis, a Lithuanian refugee; Rev, Morris Dwyer; and, Rev. Terrance Healy from Dalkey, Ireland. Father Hogan and his sister, Mary, are buried in our cemetery.”

 

Rev. Richard J. Walsh, 1971-1981

 “Father Walsh arrived in November 1971 to assume his pastoral duties at St. Peter’s and Paul’s. He had been pastor of St. Michael’s, South Glens Falls, [NY]. At his first meeting with the Parish Council he was asked to give his consent to the purchase of the Jones property at 32 Walnut St., adjoining the church, as it was deemed a feasible thing to do, considering its close proximity to the church. The Otsego St. convent was old, and Sisters Barbara and Edmund, who were serving the parish at that time, were installed in their new convent.”

“In 1975, the church saw the completion of its new roof. In 1978, the church organ was renovated. On June 6, 1976, Father Walsh celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination with a special Mass and music, [with] six of his friends celebrating. On May 2, 1976, all [of] the village churches came together at St. Peter’s and Paul’s to join in a “Festival of Praise – One Nation Under God’. [It] was a shining example of full community spirit.  After Father Walsh retired, he stated that it had been his dream to install a bell or carillon in the church tower. Someday his dream may be realized.  He passed away a short time after his retirement in October 1981.”


Rev. William J. Gaffigan 1981 – 2010

“Our present pastor, Fr. William J. Gaffigan, came to us in 1981, the youngest pastor we have ever had [in] this century. His deep spirituality is truly an inspiration to all, and, to have that combined with the energy and drive he possesses, along with his ability as a business manager, is a rare combination of qualities. In six years he has accomplished not only temporal tasks with much foresight and acumen, but has emphasized strong concern for the youth of the parish, who will be its future. One hundred years from now, we trust they and their descendants will be carrying on the sacred traditions of St. Peter’s and Paul’s.”

 

CHURCH BELL and TOWER CROSS

From the 125th Anniversary booklet:  “Many have inquired as to whether there was ever a bell in the church tower. Florence Paluzzi, who came here in 1911, recalls people saying that they used to have a bell, but no one knew what happened to it. Jean Wankerl wonders if there might have been a beel in the old wooden church….However, she recalls hearing the story of a Mr. Dulin who went to the Klondike to pan for gold; He vowed no to return until he had enough to buy a bell for the church. Evidently he was not successful, for he never returned here. [He] and is family settled in Old Forge, and Celestine Melick recalls visiting them once a year.”

 “Sophie Traudt Wheeler recalls that the cross atop the steeple was made by Judge Willard Wheeler, Bill Wheeler’s uncle.”

Regarding a bell, Eric Stroud has been in the tower many times to survey the situation. He confirms there is no bell installed, and that a bell would need to be no larger than 26” in diameter to fit through a small entranceway between the great attic and the tower.  Eric has found a suitable bell in southern New Jersey and it awaits pickup! It will require a lot of manpower to carry it up to the attic, and then into the tower, but this is on the definite “to-do list” for the Upstate Chapel venue.