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Catholic Mass restored to NY State Fair after ‘scheduling hiccup’

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Shutterstock | Tommy Liggett

J-P Mauro - published on 08/31/22

The second Sunday of the NYS Fair will proceed with the customary Catholic service.

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The 2022 New York State Fair was set to proceed without a Catholic Mass for the first time in at least 49 years, when event organizers changed their minds. Those in charge did not provide a reason when they canceled the first weekend’s liturgy, but they have since reversed their decision and the second Sunday of the fair will now feature the customary Catholic service.

The Mass

The New York State Fair, held annually in Syracuse, had long been known to feature Catholic Masses on both Sundays of the two-week-long event. According to Syracuse.com, The services were primarily held for the convenience of fair workers and vendors who otherwise might not be able to fit Mass into their hectic fair schedules.

The Masses were typically held an hour before the fair opened, at 9 a.m. For decades the Masses were celebrated in an outdoor setting around a stage in Chevy Court, but were moved indoors to the Empire Theater in the Art & Home Building about seven years ago. This site was said to accommodate more people than the outdoor arena, while also offering better sound systems for the services.

Cancellation

On the morning of August 30, Syracuse.com reported that the fair had ditched the Catholic Mass without explanation. Rev. Joseph Clemente, pastor of St. Marianne Cope Parish in Solvay, told Syracuse that he was informed by email that, “the fair could not accommodate us having Mass this year.”

With no explanation listed, the pastor suggested they were being purposefully aloof:

“They did not give a reason,” Clemente said. “I think on purpose.”

Pastor Clemente went on to note that the fairgrounds fall within St. Marianne Cope’s territory, which makes the Catholic services relevant even in a state-run fair. While Clemente said he was puzzled by the decision to cancel the events, he did not want to cause a fuss by pursuing the matter.

Reinstatement

Just six-hours after the initial report, however, Syracuse.com updated the story reporting that the Catholic Mass has been reinstated to the fair. Interim Fair Director Sean Hennessey said that when the situation came to his attention he reached out to St. Marianne Cope parish.

“I asked if [Fr. Clemente] would come and have the Mass here on Sunday and he said yes,” Hennessey said. “He was very gracious about the whole thing.”

Hennessey went on to call the cancellation of the Mass a “hiccup” in the fair’s organization. He explained that it was never intended for the Mass to be canceled and noted that the fair has had multiple hurdles to contend with this year, including returning from a hiatus due to the world pandemic and a last minute change in the fair’s administration. Recently the former fair director resigned to take a different position.

“With everything that’s been happening, there are a few things that are missing this year. We’re doing our best to get everything right.” Hennessey told Syracuse.com.

Hennessey said that the invitation for the Catholic Mass to resume was extended to future fairs. He also noted that he would like to reach out to other faith groups to offer them the chance to hold services as well.

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