Priest remains in Clarkdale<br><i>Saturday Mass added at St. Cecilia's</i>

Courtesy photo

Thirty-seven stained glass windows will adorn the new church on Bill Grey Road. The antique artifacts were gifted by a parishioner and were once part of the Transfiguration Parish in downtown Philadelphia.

However you choose to characterize the newly scheduled 4 p.m. Saturday mass at St. Cecilia's, the result is standing room only.

Even the Rev. Michael Hurley is staying put, for now.

"Well, I was hoping and praying and I'm glad that it happened or I would have been out," says the 87-year old patriarch.

When Hurley requested retirement from the Catholic Diocese in Phoenix July 1, he was unsure of whether Bishop Thomas O'Brien would allow him to retain his residence in the rectory behind the little mission church in Clarkdale.

Hurley expressed relief when he received the news by mail Wednesday.

"He ( the Bishop) said I could stay. That's good because I don't know how I would handle it with all this junk," explains Hurley.

Like members of his congregation, Hurley has collected a lot of memories after 25 years.

And traditions like sitting in your favorite church to celebrate your faith are now still available at the little mission church at least one day a week.

"On Saturday, there were three masses trying to crowd into one, it was standing room only," said longtime St. Cecilia's parishioner Roberta Westcott.

Since July 7, St. Cecilia's no longer provided regular Sunday masses due to a continuing shortage of Catholic priests and the Catholic Diocese's plans for consolidating the congregations of both St. Cecilia's and Cottonwood's Immaculate Conception.

On Saturday, the Rev. Bud Pelletier officiated the Mass, which for Catholics fulfills Sunday's obligation. For him, it also brought back memories since as a young boy he also sometimes attended St. Cecilia's.

"It was wonderful," he said of Saturday's celebration and the participation of parishioners. "We all understood it was a difficult circumstance, that there was the emotional hurt in this sudden transition. But outside shaking hands there was warmth and friendliness."

In many ways, Pelletier's experience is a precursor to future Masses at Immaculate Conception as its parishioners also prepare to move to the new church site on Bill Gray Road.

"There's going to be sadness when we move out to the new church," said Pelletier. "This is the church of my first communion, my confirmation and my brothers and sisters were married here. I grew up here with these two buildings. They've been a vital part of my life, too."

But soon every child and adult in the parish may begin to create shared memories.

Thirty-seven antique stained glass windows were gifted to Immaculate Conception by an anonymous donor for use in the new church building.

The windows depict scenes and principles of the faith created in rich colors by German craftsman in the 1920s. The works of art were recovered from the Transfiguration Parish in Philadelphia, an inner city parish that was also closed due to the priest shortage and because of consolidation efforts by its local diocese.

Into the New Year

Phase one construction of Immaculate Conception Parish's new home is scheduled for completion the first week of December. Phase one includes installation of electricity, telephone, septic system, water system, site grading and paving and the installation of temporary modular buildings for the church and office. The $1.5 million project has been funded by the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

Saturdays at St. Cecilia's Mission Church

4 p.m. Mass every Saturday.

Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) 3 p.m.

Following the summer months, more Mass times will be under consideration, said the Rev. Bud Pelletier.

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