Monday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Tuesday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Wednesday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Thursday: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am
Saturday: 4:30 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am and 10:30 am
Saturday: 3:30 – 4:15 pm, or by appointment
A brief history of St. Thomas More Parish
It is an honor to share this story and it is our hope that you will be blessed, as we have been, to see how beautifully God’s providential handiwork unfolds.
Between 1950 and 1965 Bishop Kearney created 22 new parishes, all but six of them outside the city of Rochester. One of those 22 new parishes was St. Thomas More, founded in 1953, with Fr. Francis J. Pegnam as founding pastor. Geographically centered on East Ave. and Clover St., the new parish of St. Thomas More drew its membership from five existing parishes: Our Lady of Lourdes, St. John the Evangelist, St. Louis, St. Joseph, and St. Jerome.
A search for available land in the vicinity of the parish center turned up the Alexander Hone property at the northwest corner of East Avenue and Clover, in addition to a 200 by 400 ft. lot for sale by Ellen Tolan adjoining the Hone land. The latter was in the process of being foreclosed by Monroe County and purchase of the Tolan property was contingent on obtaining the Hone acres.
In May of 1954, when the contract ran out, the Diocese did not renew it. The property’s proximity to the proposed Interstate 490 rendered it undesirable for parish purposes. Futile attempts were made to acquire land at the other three corners of East Ave. and Clover St. where large houses were declining into multi-family dwellings.
Then, in June of 1954, the Diocese made an offer for the 14 1/2 acre Drescher property at 2615 East Ave. In addition to the imposing main house, the grounds included three other usable structures. this compelled a second purchase offer when the first was refused. Finally the offer of $100,00 and life use of the homestead by Mrs. Drescher was accepted, providing the Diocese was able to build a church and school.
The next hurdle was a public hearing at the Town Hall on Sept. 14, 1954. There was a prolonged struggle between the Diocese and the Town of Brighton for the zoning variances necessary to build a church and school. An adverse decision of the Zoning Board, denying the variances, was announced on November 15, 1954. On December 17, the Town Board, serving as the Board of Appeals for the Town, upheld the decision of the Zoning Board. Further court battle ensued and on July 11, 1956 the State Court of Appeals decided 6-1 that the Diocese had the right to build a church and school in an exclusive neighborhood. A joyous parish set about planning for the future!
Throughout the long years of court battles, St. Thomas More parish received support from its neighbor institution, St. John Fisher College. In June of 1954, the Very Rev. John Murphy, president of the College, made available the College chapel and auditorium for daily and Sunday Masses, baptisms, and First Eucharist celebrations. Weddings and funerals were held at satellite parishes with Fr. Pegnam officiating. In July of 1958 the St. Thomas More church building was completed enough for religious services. By November 1st, however, all was ready for a gala dedication ceremony with Bishop Kearney presiding.
Fr. Francis Pegnam guided the young parish through the difficult legal battles and building construction and began his assignment by conducting the first parish census in October of 1953. He also established religious education classes for young children in September of 1953. Catholic elementary education was offered to parishioners in September of 1956 with grades 1-5 taught at St. Jerome’s School in East Rochester. The new school was ready before the church and on February 6, 1957, students and faculty moved in. The worst snowstorm of the winter interrupted the celebration — the school was closed for the next two days!
Fr. Francis Pegnam ministered to the parish until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1982. His successor, Aux. Bishop Dennis W. Hickey, served from 1982 to 1985. Fr. Robert Collins was appointed pastor so St. Thomas More in 1985 and served until December of 1996. During his tenure he added the gathering space behind the church, and when the Sisters of St. Joseph moved out of the parish convent, he sold the old Drescher residence. Fr. Collins was reassigned to St. Joseph’s Church in Livonia in January of 1997 when Fr. Andrew Grzela came to St. Thomas More. Fr. Andrew Grzela was much loved by the people of parish but, sadly, he died on May 19, 1998. Fr. Lee Chase was appointed parish administrator in August of 1998 and became pastor in April of 1999.
During Fr. Chase’s pastorate, the church building received major refurbishment and the carriage house, gathering space, and rectory offices were updated.
In June of 2008 Margaret Ostromecki assumed duties as Pastoral Administrator of the Our Lady Queen of Peace/St. Thomas More cluster, a community of faith with two worship sites. Fr. Michael Upson was named as Full-time Sacramental Minister, with Fr. Joseph Hart as Part-time Sacramental Minister.
In 2009 Fr. Bernard Dan replaced Fr. Upson as Sacramental Minister.
In 2010 Fr. Bill Coffas was named as Director of Becket Hall, housed on the STM campus in the former rectory/church office. He also took over duties as Assisting Priest for the cluster. Fr. Hart remained as Assisting Priest also.
As the community of Our Lady Queen of Peace/St. Thomas More looks to the future, we pray that we may live ever more deeply our call to be a joyful community of saints, loving Christ above all else and serving those in need.