History Of St. Matthew Church
Christianity was introduced into this area in the late 1600's when missionaries entered into the region. A Jesuit Mission for the Seneca Indians was established at St. John, near Lima. A monument for this is located on 15A about two miles north of the Village.
With the advent of permanent settlers in the 1800's, a church was erected in Lima. Here the pioneer Catholic families of the Livonia area attended Mass until 1848 when Father O'Connor, pastor in Lima, made Livonia Center a mission. The mission was St. Michael. Mass was regularly said in the home of John Whalen. In 1852 work began on St. Michael and a church was completed in 1857 with Father McGuire as pastor. The church became affectionately known as "The Little White Church On The Hill".
Rochester split from the Diocese of Buffalo in 1868. On November 3, Pope Pius IX formally established the Rochester Diocese and named the Most Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid founding bishop.
On June 27, 1871, Bishop McQuaid appointed Father Nicholas Byrne as the first resident pastor of St. Michael in Livonia Center with missions at Honeoye and Conesus. His first rectory was a rented house on Linden Street in Livonia Station (now Livonia). Three months later the rectory in Livonia Center was purchased and he took up his residence there on October 1, 1871.
Four years later on July 26, 1875 the Rev. William Seymour succeeded Father Byrne and St. William's Parish was organized as a mission of St. Michael. There were only eleven families to assist him. Father Seymour and William Egan, a lay leader of the Conesus Catholics, worked together as an energetic team to launch a plan to purchase land and build a church. Now, there were twenty families. They obtained efforts of the mill workers and small farmers to buy 166 rods of land from Laura Hitchcock for the church site and material for a building. The combined property came to $625; $425 owed to Long and Watkins and $200 to William Egan. Work began on the church in 1876 and was completed in 1877 with Father Murphy becoming the pastor. The debt of $425 was cancelled on November 30, 1878. Incorporation took place May 1878.
In addition, during Father Seymour's tenure in 1877, St. Michael was enlarged and moved across the street to the corner of what is now 20A and Livonia Center Road; and the property for St. Michael's cemetery was purchased.
On July 11, 1898, Father Malachy Garvey became pastor of St. Michael. Meanwhile Livonia Station, with the advent of the Erie Railroad through the village, had become a thriving community with numerous Catholic families. They attended Mass at St. Michael in Livonia Center. This meant a walk of about two and one-half miles up hill, very difficult in winter. Some rode in a carryall called "Happy Hours" owned by John Morrissey, Sr. As the number of Catholics increased they finally petitioned Bishop McQuaid to build a church in their own town. Acquainted with the hardships that the people endured in their efforts to attend Mass, he readily granted them the privilege to start a building fund.
Some of the funds toward the founding of the new church were obtained by operating food concessions at the Hemlock Fair, and by a bazaar held in January 1910. Gross receipts totaled $3,000. The property on Washington Street was purchased for $2,300, of which $1,800 had been raised. On November 4, 1910, a certificate of incorporation was filed. On November 24, 1910, Thanksgiving Day, the clearing of the grounds began to build the church. St. Joseph was dedicated on March 24, 1912 by Bishop Hickey.
In 1907, St. Margaret's chapel (named after a local resident) was built and established as a mission of St. Michael. It was constructed right on the edge of East Lake Road. The first mass was said on July 7, 1907. In 1923, more land was purchased for parking and the church moved away from the road to its current location to allow for parking. Also, additions were made to the church.