They've long been known by the catchy title of the "A-B-C Parishes." Now, three churches in central Steuben County have an intriguing name of a different sort.
Beginning July 1, the churches became known as Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia Parish based on a decree by Bishop Matthew H. Clark. This single entity combines what was previously a cluster of three parishes: St. Catherine of Siena, Addison; St. Stanislaus, Bradford; and St. Joseph, Campbell (the A-B-C acronym is derived from the first letter of the name of each community).
According to Father Patrick Connor, pastor, the new parish title was selected from among 30 names submitted by parishioners and religious-education students. The final three names forwarded to Bishop Clark were St. Matthias, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia.
Father Connor noted that the bishop was seeking a parish name not held anywhere else in the diocese. The new one may not be recognizable to many, but it's highly appropriate since Isidore and Maria Torribia are the patron saints of farmers and rural communities. The central Steuben area is mostly rural, as evidenced by the wide distance between churches: it's 30 miles from Bradford to Addison, with Campbell located in between.
Father Connor said the title of Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia carries significant meaning, even though not all parishioners are farmers or live in rural settings.
"But we all benefit from the labor of farmers, who provide us with food. So Isidore and Maria can remind us to be grateful and supportive of those who put food on our tables," he remarked.
Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia lived in Spain in the 12 century. They share a feast day on May 15, and St. Maria Torribia also has her own feast day on Sept. 9. According to legend, Isidore was a devoted attendee of daily Mass who had an angel do the plowing so he could go to church. In addition, he and Maria Torribia had a son who once fell into a well. Otherwise helpless, the parents turned to prayer and the water level rose up with the child safely floating on top so they could rescue him. Isidore and Maria Torribia then became celibate to honor that miracle, although their son later died in childhood. Maria outlived Isidore by several decades and is said to have performed many miracles and received visions.
Father Connor noted that the churches in Addison, Bradford and Campbell constitute the first parish of the Rochester Diocese to be named for married patron saints; thus they "help to encourage married couples in their vocation." He added that intercessions to Isidore and Maria can be made by parents who grieve the loss of a son or daughter.
"I think it will take awhile for our people to get used to the name change from A-B-C," Father Connor said. However, since the shortening of Ss. Catherine, Stanislaus and Joseph into A-B-C tended to de-emphasize the focus on those patron saints, he observed that the new parish title helps restore proper reflection on devotion to saints and the lives that they led.
For many years St. Catherine, St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph operated as a cluster, by which one pastoral leader oversees one or more churches but the parishes otherwise remain separate entities. The late Father Gerald O'Connor oversaw the A-B-C churches until his retirement in 2007, with Father Connor succeeding him at that point. With the recent merging into one parish, all staffs, finances and parish pastoral councils from the churches were combined and a new parish title was selected, even though each church building retains its original name.
St. Catherine, St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph are among five churches in the Central Steuben Catholic Parishes planning group. A recent change also took place for the other two churches, St. Gabriel in Hammondsport and St. Mary in Bath. This summer they entered into a cluster arrangement, as they proceed toward becoming a single parish with a new name as well.