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St. Agnes to close the hymnals for final time

SAINT AGNES CATHOLIC Church in Leicester Junction will close after nearly a century and a half as a place of celebration, mourning, contemplation and prayer. Independent photo/Angelo Lynn

LEICESTER — After 140 years, Saint Agnes Catholic Church, the small white place of worship in Leicester Junction, will soon be closing.

The community made up of parishioners from both Leicester and Whiting will gather for its final Mass on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m. Parishioners will gather for a potluck dinner afterwards.

The church, built in 1881, was erected to serve the farming communities of Leicester and Whiting. When it was first built, parishioners traveled by horse and buggy to the white clapboard church that sits at the edge of the Leicester-Whiting Road. Throughout its existence the priests who said Mass were supplied by the Catholic churches in Brandon or Orwell.

In recent years, the church was shuttered for six months of the year and opened for Christmas Eve Mass and for services from May through October.  It was the consensus of those present in the church on Aug. 29 this year that this should be the last season for Saint Agnes and that the closing Mass should coincide with the 140th Anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone that took place on Oct. 23, 1881.

“For the parishioners of Saint Agnes this is difficult time,” said pastor Fr. Maurice Moreau, OFM Cap. “It is emotionally painful. In the church’s rich history of 140 years, many happy events, baptisms, first communions and weddings, were celebrated in this church. It has also been the place where parishioners mourned their beloved departed. For the Catholics of Leicester and Whiting many of their memories are rooted in the people and celebrations of this church. Their emotional pain gives evidence of the special place this structure and its people hold in their hearts.”

“This church has been home for families for many years. We feel like a family, celebrating joyous as well as solemn events together,” said Diane Benware, who is the president of the Parish Council and the sacristan for Saint Agnes church. “We each have our ‘special pew.’ It is hard to think of not being together, but we are grateful for the years and times together.”

Those who presently attend Saint Agnes will be welcome in the Catholic churches of Brandon, Orwell and Middlebury, said Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Catholic Diocese of Burlington in a letter addressed to Fr. Maurice. “We need to ensure that the pastoral needs of those who make up Saint Agnes community are met,” he said.

The contents of the structure — the religious articles, such as the altar of sacrifice, tabernacle, statues and stations-of-the-cross — will find new homes in neighboring churches or possibly the missions.

After the structure has been decreed as usable for secular functions it will be sold, said Benware, who added that it could be a difficult sell as it has no running water and sits on a small parcel of land.

Benware also issued a call for anyone who might have old photos of families celebrating events at the church to contact her so the church can put together an historical scrapbook. Copies of any personal photos and other historical references to the church will be made promptly with the originals returned, she said. Benware can be reached at 247-3786.

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