Author: Daniel Gorman Jr.

This map shows the site of Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church from 1928 to 2006. Today, the property is the site of Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church had a relatively short history (1927–2006) compared to other Catholic churches of southwest Rochester. In fall 1927, Bishop Thomas Hickey authorized a new parish to accommodate the swelling 19th Ward population and reduce the geographic territory that St. Monica and St. Augustine had to serve. The diocese purchased a lot featuring an old schoolhouse on July 26, 1928. Hickey chose Rev. Edward T. Meagher to serve as Good Counsel’s first pastor.[1] Meagher had an academic background, having taught philosophy at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester for several years.[2] Unlike today, when rectories typically house priests and no one else, Meagher had a cook, Margaret, and a housekeeper, Molly, living with him in the rectory at 75 Ernestine Street.[3] A frame church near the intersection of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Park Boulevard was built in just three weeks. Construction began in September 1928 and Hickey led the first Mass on October 6.[4] Sisters Assunta and Josina (religious order unknown) presided over the first school session on November 10.[5] The initial parish population consisted of approximately 1,800 Irish and German Americans.[6]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish Boundaries Discussion (1928)

The creation of Good Counsel’s community happened on an accelerated timetable. Over the next nine months, male and female social societies formed, and the church hosted its first public events.[7] Plans for a proper school building began in 1929 and ground was broken on March 1, 1930.[8] The fact that Meagher’s brother Dan was a prosperous contractor (who had already erected the church) surely expedited the school’s completion.[9] Various parish histories affirm that men who were unemployed due to the Great Depression worked on the school, although unspecified labor disputes slowed construction.[10] The school opened in September 1930 and graduated its first class in June 1931.[11] The parish purchased 595 Brooks Avenue in 1929 to accommodate the Sisters of St. Francis of Allegany, N.Y., who were sent to Rochester to manage Good Counsel’s school.[12]

By August 1931, the church was nearly $250,000 in debt, so parishioners began to host fundraiser after fundraiser to pay off the amount.[13] Examples of fundraisers include boxing matches (plus a rentable boxing ring), bowling and bingo competitions, and amateur minstrel shows.[14] Given the high rate of foreclosures nationally, the possibility of losing the church must have weighed heavily on Meagher and his staff. Good Counsel’s experience resembles that of Genesee Baptist Church, another 19th Ward religious site whose pastor reported that President Roosevelt’s moratorium on mortgages saved his church from foreclosure.[15] The Works Progress Administration affected Good Counsel tangentially. Arthur T. Purtell, an agent for the Survey of State and Local Historical Records, visited the parish and assessed its archival holdings in 1936. Purtell mentions that Good Counsel housed extensive records of church sacraments, but the status of these files today is unknown.[16]


Works Progress Administration Local Historical Records Survey for Our Lady of Good Counsel (1936)

Men and women from the parish served in World War II. After the war ended, the church installed a plaque bearing the names of parish veterans.[17] The diocese looked to the postwar age with some anxiety. As Bishop James Kearney asked in the Society for the Rochester Propagation of the Faith’s 1945 report,  “Will it be an ‘Atomic Age’ of fear and hate and death or a ‘Christian Era’ of faith and hope and life eternal?”[18] Parish leaders, preferring a Christian era, launched a debt fund campaign in December 1945. Parishioners would donate $100 war bonds to Good Counsel; the church would repay $74 of each bond to parishioners; and the remaining $26 would go into a fund for the church’s future expansion.[19]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Debt Fund Campaign (Fall 1945)

When Fr. Meagher died in November 1946, Fr. Leo Smith succeeded him.[20] Smith oversaw improvements to the physical plant, but, according to Good Counsel’s fiftieth anniversary pamphlet, Smith was averse to deficit spending.[21] By 1952, Smith succeeded in eliminating the parish debt.[22] Unfortunately, improvements to the school in 1957 and the convent circa 1962 sent the church back into debt.[23] By other measures, the parish was prosperous. In 1956, for instance, 159 students from Good Counsel who attended public schools were released from school for religious instruction.[24] By 1959, the parish had roughly 3,000 members and to date had presided over 2,762 baptisms, 1,956 first communions, 2,034 confirmations, 826 marriages, and 801 deaths. Curiously, the same 1959 report conveying these statistics had “No Comment” about the parish’s non-white population.[25] The construction of the Rochester-Monroe County Airport in 1953 also led to the nearby Good Counsel receiving the nickname of “The Airport Church.”[26]

The Franciscans withdrew their nuns from Rochester’s Catholic schools in 1962, as fewer women were opting to join the order. Consequently, the Sisters of St. Joseph took over Good Counsel’s school.[27] Vernacular Masses replaced Latin Masses, per Vatican II instructions, in 1966.[28] Fr. Smith retired due to old age in 1967. His successor, Fr. Paul Wohlrab, oversaw the creation of a parish council, new fundraising efforts, and continuing modifications to the physical plant — including the removal of the altar rail.[29] The fiftieth anniversary pamphlet, narrated in the church’s voice, says, “Each time a rail was removed I wanted to scream in agony as if someone was tearing me apart.”[30] This statement is apparently an oblique reference to parishioners who opposed the changes of Vatican II. This opposition did not stop reform-minded parishioners from forming a folk song group, reflecting the national “folk Mass” movement.[31] The church also welcomed a Kenyan priest, Raphael Ndingi, who was later promoted to bishop and became a passionate advocate for Kenyan democracy.[32]

As part of renovations, Good Counsel added a small Marian shrine in the early 1970s.[33] Youth sport programs, consisting of school athletics and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball leagues, became a new parish initiative.[34] Documents from the 1970s indicate that the parish culture did not change completely, but there were competing traditional and progressive elements. Consider the contrast between the students who attended a disco night at Good Counsel’s school in 1978, and the adults who formed a new chapter of the Legion of Mary, a longstanding organization in the diocese.[35] Newspaper photos about CYO and disco night reflect the parish’s changing demographics. Many African American students were now present, in contrast to the parish’s original Irish and German composition.


“Good Counsel team runs up 10-0 season,” City West, Mar. 23, 1978, with photo of Our Lady of Good Counsel CYO Boys’ Basketball Team


“Good Counsel students catch ‘disco fever,'” City West, May 25, 1978, page 8, with photo of female student dance teams

Diocesan budget problems, particularly high levels of debt held by each parish, were apparent by the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.[36] Bishop Matthew Clark shifted the diocese’s emphasis from maintaining parochial schools at each church to maintaining a smaller number of regional Catholic schools. This shift meant, of course, that existing schools would close.[37] In March 1989, as part of this reorganization of Catholic education, Good Counsel pastor Rev. Louis Sirianni announced that Good Counsel Elementary School would merge with Holy Family Elementary. Genesis Catholic Junior High, which Good Counsel had operated since 1987, remained open until 1991.[38] A new regional Catholic middle school, housed at Bishop Kearney High School, absorbed Genesis’s students, while the Genesis building at Good Counsel became Rochester School #54.[39] In another reflection of the diocese’s consolidation of its physical plant, Emmanuel Church of the Deaf began to meet in Scutari Hall, Good Counsel’s basement space.[40]

In 1992, Good Counsel joined a cost, facilities, and priest-sharing venture with St. Monica and St. Augustine called the FIRST Cluster, later known as the Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward (RCC19).[41] The churches in the cluster maintained their individual identities, however. For example, as Good Counsel prepared for its sixty-fifth anniversary in 1992–93, longtime parishioners Betty Conheady and Debbie Millet gave public speeches that combined oral history with their spiritual experiences as members of Good Counsel’s community.[42] This combined interest in spiritual and practical concerns is also apparent in the 1990 “Commitment to Ministry Parish Report.” The report notes Good Counsel’s “lively sense of prayer and community present in our parish,” as well as social justice initiatives, “which exhibit the parish’s sense of the apostolate. They include participation in the monthly SWEM collection of food and money for the poor, participation in the Giving Tree Project at Christmas, attendance at Soup Suppers and other formal and informal ways of outreach to others.”[43] Citing the strength of the parishioners’ character, the report expresses the following long-term goals:

1. That there will be more vocations for service in the church.

2. That there will be increased involvement of parish members in all areas of parish life.

3. That there will be a strengthening of peoples’ faith.

4. That young people will be drawn back to church and become involved in the life of the Church.

5. That our church will always remain as a parish church.[44]

A sixth goal, stated later in the report, is the need for expanded elder care, “since over 22% of the parish are age 70 or over.”[45]

The 1990 report is striking for its honesty about the anxieties of Good Counsel’s parishioners:

Fear, especially among the older people, seems to be the prominent emotion regarding change. There is the fear of a shortage of priests and seminarians. There is a fear that people will opt not to become involved in the parish. Losing a grip on our religion is feared by some as well as a loss of our identity as Catholics through amalgamation with other religions. Loss of young adults is a concern. Finally, closing of our parish church and the loss of our parish identity is feared.[46]

The report authors admit they “do not think that the parishioners are ready for change.”[47]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Commitment to Ministry Parish Report (May-June 1990)

The cluster arrangement brought unavoidable changes, however. Priests served multiple churches within the Community, instead of working at single churches. Father Peter Enyan-Boadu, a Ghananian priest who became one of these “pastoral vicars,” told the Catholic Courier in 1994, “The Blacks and Hispanics — many a time, they feel uneasy in our church. I want to see that they feel welcome.” Enyan-Boadu’s outreach to Haitian Catholics was an example of his commitment to bringing greater racial diversity to cluster churches, including Good Counsel.[48] This need to increase the cluster/Community’s racial diversity continued into the 2000s; a 2003 leadership summit, which cluster leaders such as Fr. Ray Fleming attended, explicitly considered how to make urban Catholic churches welcoming to African Americans.[49] An Islamic-Catholic unity service occurred at Good Counsel, as part of Community-wide interfaith programming, in January 2004.[50] Additionally, the Roman Catholic Community’s leaders petitioned the Rochester District Attorney in 1995 to deter local shop owners from allowing criminal activities, such as drug sales or selling alcohol to minors, at their establishments.[51] This incident reflects the depressed economy of the 19th Ward as Rochester deindustrialized.

By the early 2000s, Good Counsel was very different from its configuration a decade earlier. The Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward had added Ss. Peter and Paul.[52] Fr. Bob Werth, as overall pastor for the Community, was optimistic about the future of the conglomerate, but individual churches like Good Counsel lacked full-time priests.[53] Sister Marie Suzanne “Sue” Hoffman therefore became Good Counsel’s pastoral administrator, running daily business matters.[54] The parish celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2003 — complete with a Mass led by Bishop Clark — against this backdrop of diminished resources.[55] In fall 2004, Bishop Clark called for a new process of pastoral planning — assessing the future viability of urban churches — that built on a late-1990s initiative, “Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium.”[56] The 19th Ward/Corn Hill/Bull’s Head Planning Group, formed to consider RCC19’s future, canvassed parishioners and developed a downsizing plan. In November 2005, the group recommended the closure of Good Counsel, St. Augustine, and Ss. Peter and Paul, and parishioners upheld this measure in a vote. Parishioners would report to St. Monica, which would also become home to Emmanuel Church of the Deaf. Some parishioners of the closing churches reported a feeling of loss, while others accepted the change, given the city’s declining Catholic population.[57]

The Catholic Courier ran a feature article on Good Counsel’s closing. Fr. Ray Fleming, the new pastor of St. Monica, presided over the final Good Counsel Mass on May 7, 2006. Parishioners interviewed for the article described an acute feeling of pain that accompanied the dissolution of the Good Counsel community. Nicholas Reeder said, “It’s like being at a funeral, mourning the loss of a dear friend, a dear family member.”[58] Reeder’s statement echoes the fear of change from the 1990 report.

Bishop Clark could not attend the closing Mass, but sent a letter thanking parishioners for sacrificing their parish so that the greater diocese might benefit. The Bishop quoted the parish’s recent Vision Statement for the Rochester diocese: “We work to build communities of faith that are open, welcoming, warm, flexible, and spontaneous, where hospitality is not only felt among those who previously were alienated and who presently worship with us at Sunday Mass, but also with those who live in the neighborhoods.” Clark wanted parishioners to believe that this spirit from Good Counsel would endure at the new St. Monica.[59]

Today, the former Good Counsel complex is the site of a Pentecostal church, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship. The fellowship runs the small, unaccredited In Christ Alone Bible College from these premises.[60] The former Our Lady of Good Counsel School building currently houses a charter school called True North Rochester Preparatory Middle School.[61] After processing Good Counsel’s old statuary and artifacts in 2008, the Diocese of Rochester gave the equipment to Fynders Keepers, a church supply company, for redistribution to other churches.[62]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Closing Mass Program (May 7, 2006)


In the endnotes that follow, SMA stands for the St. Monica Roman Catholic Church Archives, 34 Monica Street, Rochester, N.Y., 14619. Our Lady of Good Counsel is sometimes abbreviated as OLGC. Open-access back issues of The Catholic Courier, in its various iterations (Courier Journal, etc.), are available at and

[1] “Bishop Hickey To Bless New West Side Church,” Rochester Times-Union (Rochester, N.Y.), Friday Evening, 5 Oct. 1928, photocopy in SMA; Robert F. McNamara, The Diocese of Rochester in America, 1868–1993, foreword by Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, 2nd ed. (Rochester, N.Y.: Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 1998), 302; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1, SMA; OLGC “A Parish is Born” Draft (n.d.), SMA; OLGC Church History Questionnaire for Robert McNamara’s Book (July 31, 1959), SMA. Note: Joseph J. Hagler says that the original building on the parish land was a farmhouse, not a schoolhouse [“The Founding of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish” (1952), 1, SMA]. This point needs clarification.

[2] Hagler, “Founding,” 1.

[3] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1; “Parish is Born,” 2.

[4] “Bishop Hickey”; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1–2; OLGC Undated Historical Files (n.d.; pastor Ed Meagher), including what appears to be a transcript of Hickey’s remarks. Note: A 1959 historical report lists the church’s address as 75 Ernestine Street [OLGC Church History Questionnaire], but an older insurance file lists the church’s address as 650 Brooks Avenue [OLGC Insurance Assessment (n.d., but typewritten), SMA].

[5] Hagler, “Founding,” 3; OLGC “A Brief Parish History,” n.d. (circa 1957), SMA.

[6] OLGC Church History Questionnaire.

[7] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 3.

[8] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 4.

[9] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1, 4; “Parish is Born,” 2–4.

[10] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 5; “Parish is Born,” 4.

[11] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 5; McNamara, Diocese, 346.

[12] “Brief Parish History”; Hagler, “Founding,” 4; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 4; “Parish is Born,” 4.

[13] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 6–7; “Parish is Born,” 4–5.

[14] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 7; “Parish is Born,” 5.

[15] Cherishing Our Diversity: Celebrating Our 130th Anniversary, 1871–2001 (Rochester, N.Y.: Genesee Baptist Church, 2001), 10, University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, & Preservation, BX6480.R6 G448 2001. Permalink.

[16] Arthur T. Purtell, Church Records from Our Lady of Good Counsel, Survey of State and Local Historical Records, Works Progress Administration, 1936, copy in SMA. 

[17] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 8–9.

[18] Bishop James E. Kearney, in Society for the Propagation of the Faith (Rochester) Annual Report, Jan. 1–Dec. 31, 1944 (Rochester, N.Y.: St. Bernard’s Institute, n.d. [1945]), copy in Rush Rhees Library stacks.

[19] M. Alvah Halloran and Mrs. Theodore F. Florack, “Our Lady of Good Counsel Debt Fund Campaign, December 1st to 15th, 1945” (Nov. 28, 1945), SMA.

[20] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 9.

[21] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 9. See also: “Parish is Born,” 6.

[22] Hagler, “Foundation,” 6.

[23] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 11; OLGC “For a Better Tomorrow” Fundraising Booklet (1957), SMA; “Parish is Born,” 6.

[24] “Released-Time Religion,” The Courier-Journal (Rochester, N.Y.), Friday, Mar. 2, 1956, copy in SMA.

[25] OLGC Church History Questionnaire.

[26] Daniel Gorman Jr., interview with John Curran, 20 Dec. 2018.

[27] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 11; “Parish is Born,” 7.

[28] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 11–12.

[29] Foley Associates, “Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Rochester, New York, Church Renovation Program: Final Report,” Jun. 26, 1970, SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 12–14, 16–17; “Parish is Born,” 7.

[30] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 12.

[31] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 14.

[32] “Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki,” The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, accessed 18 Jan. 2018,; “Bishop Kearney Slated by Good Counsel Men” (newspaper cutout, n.d. [1967–68]), copy in SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 15, 22; Daniel Wesangula, “Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki personal struggles with old age and fading memory,” Standard Digital (Kenya), 23 Mar. 2014, accessed 18 Jan. 2018,

[33] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 17–18.

[34] “Good Counsel Team Runs Up 10-0 Season,” City West (Rochester, N.Y.), Mar. 23, 1978, copy in OLGC Papers, SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 13.

[35] “Good Counsel Students Catch ‘Disco Fever,’” City West (Rochester, N.Y.), May 25, 1978, 8, copy in SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 17.

[36] For detailed period discussion of diocesan financial problems, see the digitized files “OLGC School Closure Etc Newspapers (1988–89)” and “OLGC Newspaper Cutouts 1988–89,” PDF copies of which are available through SMA and the Diocese of Rochester Archives. These files consist of scanned copies of newspaper articles from SMA that discuss school closures, the diocese’s inability to meet proposed pension responsibilities, and how to care for elderly clergy. I also drew on information gained during my 20 Dec. 2018 interview with John Curran.

[37] John Mulligan, public letter and press release on Catholic schools, Jan. 5, 1989, copy in OLGC papers, SMA.

[38] John Curran, email to Daniel Gorman Jr., 24 Dec. 2018; Gorman, interview with Curran; Louis A. Sirianni, School Closure Letter to Bishop Matthew H. Clark, Mar. 7, 1989, copy in SMA. See also: OLGC Genesis Catholic Junior High School Flyer (n.d. [1980s]), SMA; Teresa A. Parsons, “Genesis: Collaboration Unites Community Under New Name,” The Courier-Journal (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Aug. 27, 1987, copy in SMA.

[39] Curran, email to Gorman, Dec. 24, 2018; Mulligan, public letter.

[40] Gorman, interview with Curran.

[41] St. Monica 2003 Booklet, SMA.

[42] OLGC Betty Conheady & Debbie Millet Talk (1992), SMA.

[43] OLGC “Commitment to Ministry Parish Report” Section II (May-June 1990), SMA.

[44] “Commitment to Ministry” Section III.

[45] “Commitment to Ministry” Section III.

[46] “Commitment to Ministry” Section V.

[47] “Commitment to Ministry” Section V.

[48] Mike Latona, “Newcomer Priests Settle in at Diocesan Posts,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Mar. 24, 1994, 5A, copy in SMA.

[49] Jennifer Burke, “Exploring Issues of Diversity,” The Catholic Courier 114, no. 47 (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, September 4, 2003, 1, 6, copy in SMA.

[50] Mike Crupi, “Religious Unity Celebrated,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Jan. 22, 2004, 9, copy in SMA.

[51] Rob Cullivan, “Social Action Network Raps Monroe District Attorney,” Diocesan News [presumably part of The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.)], Thursday, Oct. 12, 1995, copy in SMA.

[52] Gorman, interview with Curran; Mike Latona and Tamara Tirado, “City Churches Cope With Change,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), November 2005, copy in SMA; Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward Lent Schedule (“Be Still… and know that I am here”), 2003, SMA; Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward Lent Schedule (“Shatter the Hardness of Our Hearts”), 2004, SMA.

[53] Rob Cullivan, “Many Parts, One Body, Many Gifts, One Spirit,” The Catholic Courier 112, no. 26 (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Apr. 5, 2001, 1, 14, copy in SMA.

[54] James Sarkis, “Our Lady of Good Counsel,” Rochester Churches, accessed Jun. 22, 2017,

[55] “Our Lady of Good Council 75th Anniversary Celebration” Program, SMA.

[56] Gorman, interview with Curran.

[57] John Curran, email to Daniel Gorman Jr., 26 Apr. 2019; Gorman, interview with Curran; Marketta Gregory, “Catholics to Shut Down 11 Churches,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Marketta Gregory, “Closures Sadden Resigned Faithful,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Latona, “City Churches.”

[58] Rob Cullivan, “Good Counsel Says Goodbye,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), May 20–21, 2006, 1, 3, copy in OLGC papers, SMA; quote from page 1.

[59] Bishop Matthew J. Clark, open letter to Our Lady of Good Counsel Parishioners, May 7, 2006, in OLGC Closing Mass Program (May 7, 2006), SMA.

[60] “About Us,” “Finding Us,” “In Christ Alone,” and “What We Believe,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship, accessed Jan. 22, 2018,,,

[61] “True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School,” SUNY Charter Schools Institute, acc. Dec. 20, 2018,

[62] Gorman, interview with Curran.