The Roman Catholic parish of Saint Francis de Sales in the Catskills hamlet of Phoenicia was founded in 1902. Upon its founding, Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan entrusted care of the church to the Missionary Fathers of La Salette, a religious order that was founded in honor of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette, France that took place in 1846.
The beautiful stone church building at Phoenicia was thereafter constructed, at a cost of $9,000, to serve the community. The church was dedicated on the summer day of Sunday, August 21, 1904. The stone church is Gothic in style and seats approximately 180 people. The first pastor of the congregation, Reverend Julien M. Ginet, was also the architect and builder of the church. Reverend Ginet was succeeded by Reverend John M. Pilloix, who was ordained in 1902 in Hartford, Connecticut.
The below section of an article attributed to Maira Longyear, which can be found on the church website, details some of the church’s early history.
“Now it was time to establish Phoenicia as the center of his widely spread parish, to build his parish church and residence. Several attempts had been made in the past to construct a mission chapel but without success. Father Ginet with a zeal that thrived upon difficulties, set out on his task.
He took up residence in the Globe Hotel; it was known for its fine food; the men of the area after spending a day at the quarry or lumber camp were hungry enough and not at all reluctant to take a thirsty drink or two or three. Many a night as Father Ginet recited his vespers by gas light, was distracted by the gaiety down in the bar below. If his rectory was strange, his church was too. Of all odd places to use as a church was the Odd Fellows Hall. But Sunday after Sunday he would leave the bright lights of the Globe fore the shadowy halls of the Lodge. From the first, numbers who came were consoling. Many non-Catholics, eager for any approach to God came to greet Father Ginet. He entered the Lodge Hall and for a moment it was the gate of heaven; for he carried in his hand, his chaplain’s kit, in his heart, the word of God and in his anointed fingers the power to offer Holy Mass.
Father’s zeal was contagious; within a short time, his people were of one mind; they would have their parish church. One of the graces of his many talented personality was a hobby long cherished by Fr. Ginet. It was architecture; it had its impulse in the beautiful churches of his native France. So Pastor became architect and contractor too. He sent in plans for the church to his superiors, who found them too grandiose for the limited pocketbooks of the people. Undaunted he planned again. This time a smaller church evolved upon the blue print; it was to be made of quarried stone and the price of its building would astonish any builder.
After a laborious day at the quarry, the men lay down their hammers . . . but not for so long; after a few moments rest, they would take up their sledges and now the harsh crushing strokes became a symphony in the prayerful hearts of these men. Now they were quarrying stones for their own church. Other volunteers joined them and very soon indeed, the stone were piled near the site of the new St. Francis de Sales Parish Church. Hammers were laid aside for pick and shovel and the excavations soon deepened. On September 8, the digging began. On September 17, the foundations were laid and the wall structure began. Winter stopped the building for a while. Here we must honor the memory of Father John Hickey of Kingston, who personally and thru his friends contributed sufficient funds to purchase, bricks and cement for the inner walls of the church.
In the spring of 1904, the church was completed. And on July 12, 1904 the cornerstone was laid. Very Rev. Dr. Burtsell D. D., Auxiliary Bishop of New York performed the solemn ceremony of dedication. On this same occasion the first class was confirmed, consisting of 23 persons. The honor of the first baptism belongs to an infant, named Augustus Jay Simpson. Today that infant named Augustus is an august person of some two hundred pounds, and strong in the faith as he is in girth. This “Gem of the Catskills,” as the church is called, cost only nine thousand dollars. Its insured value today is one hundred and fifty thousand.”
The Saint Francis de Sales church at Phoenicia continues to serve the community faithful today, over 120 years after its founding. For more information about the church, including mass times and community outreach efforts, visit their website at www.stjohnstfrancis.org.
Reverend Julien Marie Ginet (1872-1949), the first pastor at St. Francis de Sales, was born at Aillon-le-Jeune in southeast France in 1872. He was the son of Paul Marie and Josephine Garnier Ginet. Father Ginet was educated at Allevard-les-Baines and took his classical instruction at the School of the Missionaries of La Salette at Grenoble, France. In 1885 he was received by the Apostolique School of La Salette at St. Joseph at Isere, France. He entered the novitiate in 1888 at the Holy Mountain and made his profession there on August 2, 1889.
In 1892, at 20 years of age, he joined the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette. He left his family and his home country to study theology in the United States at the Hartford Seminary of the La Salette Fathers. Ginet was ordained at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield on March 25, 1897.
After his ordination Ginet worked on the faculty of St. Charles College in Maryland and then served two years as a professor at La Salette College. Father Ginet was then assigned to St. Francis de Sales in Phoenicia, New York, serving there from 1902 to 1910, before returning to La Salette College as the school treasurer. He remained at the college for 2 years, and then served from 1912 to 1921 as the pastor at St. James Church in Danielson, Connecticut.
Father Ginet left St. James Church in 1921 to become the assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s Church at Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He only remained a short time, then being named in 1922 as assistant pastor at the Immaculate Conception Church at Holyoke, Massachusetts. In 1923, with the passing of Father Jean Guinet, Father Ginet was elevated to pastor, and remained there for 26 years until his passing in 1949.
Father Ginet faithfully served as a Roman Catholic priest for 52 years. He passed away at 77 years of age on October 15, 1949 at the La Salette Novitiate in Bloomfield, Connecticut after several years of failing health. He is buried at Mount Saint Benedict Cemetery in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Father Ginet was survived by one brother, Alcine Ginet of Savoie, France.
St. Francis de Sales
The church namesake, Francis de Sales (1567-1622), was a prolific writer whose most famous work, Introduction to the Devout Life, has been a Christian classic for over 4 centuries. Saint Francis de Sales is honored within the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of journalists and writers. The Feast of St. Francis de Sales is celebrated on January 24 of each year.
Quotes by St. Francis de Sales
“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”
“It is a fact that people are always well aware of what is due them. Unfortunately, they remain oblivious of what they owe to others.”
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.”
“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.”
"Mere silence is not wisdom, for wisdom consists of knowing when and how to speak, and when and where to keep silent."
"If we say less than we should it is easy to add, but having said too much it is hard to take it back."
"When we aim at perfection, we must aim at the center, but we must not be troubled if we do not always hit it."
"If we really knew ourselves, instead of being astonished at finding ourselves on the ground, we should marvel how we sometimes manage to remain upright."
"God never permits anything to come upon us as a trial or test of our virtue without desiring that we should profit by it."
Our Lady of La Salette
Located across the street from the church is a beautiful shrine and grotto that serves in honor of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette, France in 1846.
On September 19 of that year the Blessed Mother appeared to two poor children, Maximin Giraud, 11 years old, and Melanie Calvat, 14 years old, in the small village of La Salette in the French Alps. The children, while tending a few cows, were drawn to a globe of light a short distance away. While under their gaze, the globe opened up and they saw a woman seated on some stones which surrounded the bed of a dried stream.
The two children called her “the Beautiful Lady” and listened intently as she spoke with them about conversion, a world reconciled to her Son and a deepening of their faith in their everyday lives. She mentioned the need to renounce the sins of blasphemy and not honoring Sundays as the day to rest and attend Holy Mass. Her prophetic last words to the two children were ‘Well, my children, you will make this well known to all my people.’” Soon thereafter there was a natural spring present where Mary had stood.
The Missionaries of La Salette was founded in 1852, six years after the apparition. This Missionaries of La Salette would become important in the history of St. Francis de Sales when the church was entrusted to the group’s care in 1902 with the assignment of Reverend M. Julien Ginet.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette is located at Attleboro, Massachusetts, however there are also a number of parishes, shrines and communities throughout the Americas that dedicate themselves to the apparition. Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of La Salette on September 19 of each year.
Memorare to Our Lady of La Salette
“Remember, Our Lady of La Salette, true mother of Sorrows, the tears you shed for us on Calvary. Remember also the care you have taken to keep us faithful to Christ, your Son. Having done so much for your children, you will not now abandon us. Comforted by this consoling thought, we come to you pleading, despite our infidelities and ingratitude. Virgin of Reconciliation, do not reject our prayers, but intercede for us, obtain for us the grace to love Jesus above all else. May we console you by living a holy life and so come to share the eternal life Christ gained by His cross. Amen.”