Some churches stay open on brutally cold day

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2015 at 12:00 am

With no travel advisory, some dedicated faithful attend Mass, church services

Photos by Tom Rivers
This couple walks along the sidewalk on West Park Street after attending Mass at Holy Family Parish in Albion this morning.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is one of seven historic churches at the Courthouse Square in Albion. Only two of the churches, St. Joseph’s and Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, are open today.

The front steps at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church were shoveled this morning for Mass.

The Catholic church normally has about 120 people attend Sunday morning Mass. There were 48 people in the pews this morning for the 8 a.m. service.

“Forty-eight people came out,” said Father Richard Csizmar, pastor of the parish. “That really is something.”

There were another 105 people who attended Mass on Saturday evening.

Csizmar said there is typically one Sunday a winter where the weather is so treacherous that few people make it to church. Today was unusual because Bishop Richard J. Malone told Catholics in Western New York they were excused from their church obligation due to the brutal cold.

The doors at the First Baptist Church in Albion have been bombarded with snow.

Csizmar was impressed with the turnout this morning, but he didn’t want parishioners to put themselves in danger by coming.

“You hope people will use good judgment,” he said.

Csizmar lives next door to the church. He said priests in other parishes have to drive many miles, sometimes leading Mass at two or more churches.

Helen and Ed Wilkins were among the 48 at Mass this morning. It was minus 4 degrees when they drove into Albion just before 8.

“We just like being here on Sundays,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “It was sparse but we did our duty. You need your faith.”

Pullman Memorial Universalist Church resembles an igloo this morning with all the snow and ice.

Pullman Memorial leaders watched the news to see if there was a travel advisory in Orleans County. There wasn’t, so Pastor Lee Richards and Board President Gaye Smith decided church would go on at 11 a.m.

Richards drove to Albion from Rochester and Smith travelled from Kendall. They said the roads weren’t too bad, but the temperature is very cold.

Smith was determined to get to Albion for a church board meeting that started at 9. There was a quorum of board members as the church plans a wine-tasting on March 21, mulls a roof repair project, reviews grants and works on other church business.

“We have a lot going on,” Smith said.

Richards said he would be reluctant to ever cancel a church service. If there was a travel advisory, the church may have closed for today.

“Church is important,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. People need an opportunity to connect.”

Today is forecast for a high of minus 2 degrees. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until 6 p.m. for Orleans and several other WNY counties. Wind chills could fall to minus 30 today.

A motorist drives south on Main Street in Albion this morning. Traffic is very light with the area gripped in a deep freeze.