St. Luke's Parish History


St. Luke the Evangelist Parish came into existence in its present form on July 1, 2006 but it was not the beginning of Catholic ministry in the area we minister to.  Rather, it was five parishes:

  • St. Mary’s in Geneseo, NY
  • St. Patrick’s in Mount Morris, NY
  • Holy Angels in Nunda, NY
  • St. Thomas Aquinas in Leicester, NY
  • St. Lucy’s in Retsof, NY

becoming one to share priests and other resources to make sure we could continue to minister to people in western Livingston County.

Each of these parishes were established as individual parishes at various times in the second half of the 19th century.  However, the known history of Catholic ministry in western Livingston County dates back to at least the 1830’s.

Thus, Catholic ministry began when the population was much smaller and travel was by walking or horse & buggy.  Thus, travel time was slow.  One priest might travel between multiple towns to say Mass.  As the population grew, so did the number of priests so the number of churches grew.  Thus, a priest might only cover one or two towns.

Even in the days when the number of Catholics was growing, people went where there was work.   Sometimes, that meant the closing of churches.  We see this in our history when the Genesee waterway was completed and some salt mines closed.

What follows below is a much more detailed history of both our churches that are open today but also churches that have closed as well as secular institutions in our area where we provide Catholic ministry:

  • Newman Community at SUNY Geneseo
  • Livingston County Jail
  • Groveland Correctional Facility
  • Livingston County Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation (CNR)
  • Morgan Estates Assisted Living

Part I – Our Current Churches

Moving to the more detailed history, we offer a more detailed history of our current churches in the order of when they were officially established (* indicates a recently compiled history):

St. Patrick’s Church in Mount Morris

Holy Angels in Nunda, NY

St. Mary’s Church in Geneseo, NY

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Church in Leicester, NY (1897 as a mission church)

  • under construction

St. Lucy’s Church in Retsof, NY

In Fall 2019, Fr. Jeff offered a series of three presentations called “Our Saints and Intercessors” on the saints for whom our churches are named.  You can watch these presentations on his website at

Part II – Former Churches

Now, we turn to our churches that have closed (in order of their establishment):

Church in Tuscarora

In a short time, a small church was erected in Tuscarora (5 miles south, and then known as Brushville), where many of the Irish working on the canal had settled.  By 1842, canal construction had ended, and families moved away, so services at the church were discontinued.  Families who moved back to Mount Morris resumed meeting for Mass in private homes. 

St. Raphael’s in Piffard (1887-1978)

  • From “A History Saint Lucy’s Church Retsof, New York:  1911-1965”

    To the east was Piffard, a predominantly an Irish Community which, like Retsof, recieved its religiuos attention from the priests of Geneseo, Avon, or Mt. Morris.  When St. Raphael's Church was built in 1887, the families of Retsof felt moved to take up a collection members of the community and raised $100 as a donation towards the $3,000 cost of the new structure. 

Holy Name Church in Groveland (1894-1994)
Chapel of Divine Compassion in Sonyea (1900-1980’s)

Church of the Assumption, Mount Morris (1914-1961)

Santa Maria de Mercede in Cuylerville, NY (established 1914)

  • From Fr. Robert F. McNamara’s The Diocese of Rochester in America 1868-1993.  Published by The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, New York.  1998.

Another Italian chapel, Santa Maria de Mercede, was constructed in 1914 at Cuylerville, also in Livingston County.  A group of Italians had been brought in by the Sterling Salt Company to operate its Cuylerville mine.  It seems that the Company not only donated a church lot for their use, but built the little frame church itself.  Santa Maria de Mercede ceased to be used as a mission church around 1933, for when the mine at Cuylerville closed it was no longer needed.  The abandoned building was destroyed by fire some seven years later” (262).

Some online biographies of the Saints of our closed churches:

Part III – Secular Institutions in Our Area with Catholic Ministry

The institutions listed below are secular institutions where we provide Catholic ministry.  We should also mention here Catholic Charities of Livingston County based in Mount Morris who we partner with to serve people in our communities.

Secular Community



Livingston County Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation (CNR)

Mount Morris

St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s

Livingston County Jail


St. Mary’s

Groveland Correctional Facility


Volunteers from various churches

Morgan Estates Assisted Living Community


Volunteers from various churches

SUNY Geneseo (formerly known as the Normal School in our parish history documents)


St. Mary’s supports the Newman Community




Livingston County Correctional Facility (closed)



Craig Development Center (closed)

Sonyea (site of Groveland Correctional Facility)

Chapel of Divine Compassion (closed)

Tuberculosis hospital (closed)

Mount Morris

St. Patrick’s


Part IV – St. Luke’s Since We Became One Parish

Part V – The Future

Since combining our separate parishes into St. Luke the Evangelist Parish Community, we have combined ministries and shared priests to serve our people. Our world is a changing world. Once there were no phones and once there was mail delivery that took weeks for a letter to be delivered by horse. Now we live in a world of automobiles, planes, trains, and high-speed communication on the Internet, forcing changes in the way we minister. We ask the Lord to help us adapt in ways to reach people where they are, using our website and social media to help.

We also face challenges of people moving away and a society that is redefining its faith, spirituality and moral compass. 

The future remains uncertain as it is yet to happen.  What we do know is that as long as we strive to follow the Spirit so that the Father’s Will is done, we will always continue to serve those in our communities.

Appendix I – Vocations from Our Region






  • Fr. Jeff Chichester, Ordained in our diocese 2018



St. Mary’s

  • Rt. Rev. Msgr. William J. Donovan
  • Rev. Joseph Kanka


  • Kay Kanka, Sisters of St. Joseph
  • Sr. Mary Joan Millecan, Sisters of St. Francis of Penance & Christian Charity
  • Sister Connie Derby, Sisters of St. Joseph
  • Sister Mary Clouser, Sisters of St. Joseph
  • Sister Marie McTarnaghan, Sisters of St. Francis – 3rd Order Regular
  • William (Bill) Goodman, ordained in our diocese 2019


St. Patrick’s

  • Rev. Alfred J. Horr, ordained by Bishop James E. Kearney on May 18, 1940.
  • Bishop William Larkin, ordained in Syracuse by Bishop Walter A. Foery on May 15, 1947 for the Diocese of Miami, Florida
  • Robert J. Keating studied for the priesthood but died before being ordained
  • Sister M. Dafrosa, S.S. J. (Joanna Cannon) reception April 3,1918
  • Sister M. Bernice, S.S.J. (Mary Agnes Baily) reception April 3, 1924
  • Sister M. Euphemia, S.S.J. (Barbara Hughes) reception September 5,1934
  • Sister Josephine Ignatia, S.S.J. (Frances Macaluso) reception Oct. 15, 1943
  • Sister M. Gonzaga, S.S.J. (Annette Truby) reception July 2, 1953


Holy Angels

  • Edward Rowan - Reverend Father John Lambert Rowan, O.F.M.


  • Johanna Lorraine Sylvester - Sister Mary Frances Teresita
  • Charles Somers - Brother Bonaventure, C.S.S.R.
  • John Byrnes – Brother Mary Gerard, Trappist, Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard


St. Thomas Aquinas


  • Sr. Mary Arthur Stocking, Sisters of Mercy (RSM)
  • Sr. Agnes Rita Duffy, Sisters of St. Joseph, SSJ

St. Lucy’s


  • Angelina Scaglione - Sister Frances Edward, SSJ (1920’s)
  • Mary Stewart - Sr. Mary Elizabeth, Franciscan Sister of the Atonement
  • Deacon George Spezzano, Emeritus


Acknowledgements and Thank You’s

We would be remiss if we did not take the time to thank Kathy Trainor, Theresa Gall, Dianne Cicero, and Virginia NiCastle for their work in compiling the more recent PDF’s that are linked to here.  (Other contributing members of the Felix Valentino Forum included Betty Flynn, Margaret Grandshaw, Toni Pendergast and Margaret Vangalio.) We also wish to thank those listed in the acknowledgements in the older documents that are also linked to here.  Finally, we thank Fr. Jeff for his work in bringing this all together on our website.

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