August 28, 2012 —
If you attended the celebration of the 150th-year anniversary of St. Francis Xavier Parish on the Landers Campground on August 26, you would have had difficulty identifying the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
Dressed without his Episcopal regalia, clad in a white collarless shirt and wearing suspenders and a hard straw hat, Cardinal Dolan mixed with the admiring parishioners, laughing and joking as they swarmed around him.
“I came because they invited me,” Dolan said. “There are over 400 parishes in the archdiocese and I choose to visit them when they are having a celebration, like this 150th anniversary.”
In a friendly gesture, the cardinal grasped both shoulders of this reporter as the interview began.
“I’m happy to be with these good people on this occasion,” he said.
He bemoaned the fact that he has had to close some parishes. “It’s a very painful duty, but someone has to do it.”
When asked if he was being too partisan in agreeing to offer the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention, he said, “I’m coming to pray, not to make a speech. I wouldn’t go if they asked me to make a speech. But to say a prayer with them is acceptable. I’ll go to the Democrat Convention to pray if they ask me.”
When asked whether, in the light of the dispute the American bishops are having with President Barack Obama over the issue of covering the cost of an abortion for employees of Catholic institutions, it was hard not to appear partisan, the cardinal replied, “Absolutely not. I’m praying with them.”
St. Francis Xavier Parish, one of three local parishes that were being administered by the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) from the Holy Name Province, was established in 1862 and was spun off the Holy Cross Parish in Callicoon.
Later, around 1901, the order established St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary (now the Delaware Valley Job Corps) in Callicoon. By the early 1920s, the Narrowsburg congregation had grown threefold, necessitating a new and larger church. In 1925, Patrick Cardinal Hayes of New York dedicated the present church. It became an independent parish in 1958.