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The Telegram
  • 2 area saints makes religion a ‘product worth marketing’

  • A little more than six months after the canonization of Sts. Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha, many parts of the state, as close as West Utica and as expansive as Rochester and Auriesville, are seeing the effect of having saints who lived in the Mohawk Valley.

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  • For Ellen Benton, there are not enough words to describe the importance of two saints coming from the Mohawk Valley.
    “When we see everything that’s going on in the world, knowing that we have two saints who are praying for us, it’s just comforting,” said Benton, a member of a committee to honor St. Marianne Cope through St. Joseph & St. Patrick Church in Utica, her home parish.
    A little more than six months after the canonization of Sts. Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha, many parts of the state, as close as West Utica and as expansive as Rochester and Auriesville, are seeing the effect of having saints who lived in the Mohawk Valley.
    The canonization and impact that Sts. Marianne and Kateri have had on Central New York has made religion a “product worth marketing,” said Kelly Blazosky, president of Oneida County Tourism.
    The tourism group has come together with representatives from Onondaga and Montgomery counties, Rochester, St. Joseph & St. Patrick Church and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Community to develop a saints devotional trail — a drivable, customizable path that would map out sites of religious and historic significance related to the saints.
    “This is definitely a topic that has enough assets to create a product worth marketing,” she said.
    Religion already is a big draw. Visitors from across the Northeast as well as Canada travel to the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Festival in September at St. Anthony and St. Agnes Church in Utica, as well as St. Kateri’s shrine in Auriesville.
    “These were people who lived and walked among us, and I think it’s thrilling for people when they think about that and they walk in the same paths as the saints,” said Danielle Cummings, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.
    Still in the research stages, Blazosky said the devotional trail would not come to fruition until 2014, based on funding and identifying important sites that not only include current saints, but ones on their way to canonization, including the Venerable Father Nelson Baker from Rochester who Blazosky said is “on the fast track” to sainthood.
    Many associated with the saints say that the effects of local sainthood have not reached the area in its full potential, but it will not be stagnant forever.
    Currently, only a handful of groups have come to tour where St. Marianne worked and lived, but the Rev. Richard Dellos of St. Joseph & St. Patrick said he expects that number to grow. There are two church groups from Oxford and Greene that will tour the city in July, he said.
    There is “no question about it” that future events honoring the local saints will put Utica on the religious map, said Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri.
    Page 2 of 2 - “To have a saint who basically has roots in the city of Utica speaks entirely not only about our community but what she stands for,” he said. “We’re very blessed, and I’m looking forward to being a part of a destination.”
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