Situated off the main road in Dover Plains, St. Charles Borromeo is a picturesque country church, covered by shingles and with simple stained-glass windows portraying the sacraments and other symbols of Catholicism.
The small church seats 190 people. Three Masses are offered each weekend, with a daily Mass offered in the rectory. There are 640 families registered.
“It’s a regular country parish,” said Father Anthony Giuliano, the pastor.
“The people know one another,” he added. “They are very kind and open.”
That atmosphere creates a warm setting for a parish that covers a large area in Dutchess County. There is a mixture of young and old, and families with children, the pastor said.
St. Charles Borromeo was first a mission church of St. John the Evangelist in Pawling and was established in 1872 because of the rapid growth in the area from workers on the quarry, railroads and at the state hospital. It became an independent parish in 1936, serving Dover Plains and Wingdale.
St. Charles Borromeo marked its 75th anniversary last year.
Due to a population boom in the area, the mission Chapel of Our Lady of Solace was established in Wingdale in 1962 and staffed by Capuchin friars. The main purpose of the mission was to serve those at the psychiatric hospital in Wingdale—the hospital closed in the 1970s. Our Lady of Solace mission was closed last December.
At the beginning of its history, parishioners were predominantly Irish, Italian and German, with workers coming for jobs on the railroad and the now-closed hospital. For many years, the church, located just one block from the Metro North station, was the farthest stop on the railroad line.
When the hospital closed in the 1970s, many of the original parishioners moved away. Many parishioners continue to be of Italian and Irish descent along with a good number of Hispanics.
“They are staunchly Catholic. They are there no matter what the weather,” said Father Giuliano, who was recently appointed to serve as pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Pawling while continuing at St. Charles Borromeo.
Stained-glass windows portray the seven sacraments as well as other symbols of the faith. “They are teaching tools for the church, and symbols to help people understand the faith,” Father Giuliano said.
Father Giuliano is the lone priest at St. Charles Borromeo, which is also served by Deacon James Lawlor. The pastor told CNY that there is an atmosphere of familiarity at the parish, with everyone knowing their neighbors. That helps in what he sees as the parish’s mission, which he said is “to bring back the lost and wayward sheep of God.”
To do this, he tells parishioners to live out the Gospel message and spread the word that the parish is there to welcome all.
The parish religious education program, led by director Nan Kramer, enrolls 125 students from first to ninth grades.
St. Charles Borromeo also has a Rosary Altar Society and hosts groups for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Other groups are formed by parish volunteers when they are needed.
“We have 17 mobile home parks in (our) boundaries,” Father Giuliano said, noting that he visits them with the hope of bringing people into the parish. The best way to darw new parishioners, he said, is by word of mouth.
“In a country parish, they trust each other more readily,” he said. People are coming into the parish, slowly but surely, particularly the young.
He said with affection, “We are always trying to get back the lost sheep,” and added that for the future the aim is to keep that mission going. “Hope springs eternal and you keep trying.”