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Catholic Diocese to Close Eleven Niagara County Churches

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo will close 11 Catholic churches in Niagara County, including six in Niagara Falls. The latest round of church closings in a process the diocese is calling the "Journey in Faith and Grace" was announced by Bishop Edward Kmiec Sunday afternoon.

In addition to the Niagara Falls closings, two of the five Catholic churches in Lockport will close. In North Tonawanda, two churches are to close, leaving two Catholic churches in that city. Three churches will close in Lackawanna.

The closing information was delivered to affected parishioners at weekend Masses. The diocese is working to realign parishes in response to a dwindling Catholic population and a shortage of priests.

Parishioners in two churches said they will appeal Bishop Edward Kmiec's decision to the Vatican. Kmiec said yesterday he expects the diocese will prevail in any appeals.

More church closing announcements will be made in the coming months.

Eastern Cluster:

St. Mary Parish in Gasport will merge into St. John's Parish in Lockport. The buildings and property in Gasport will no longer be used and their disposition will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

St Patrick Parish in Barker and St. Joseph Parish in Lyndonville (Orleans Vicariate) will link for a year and then merge to form a single parish with a new name using both sites.

St. Stephen Parish in Middleport will merge with St. Mary Parish in Medina(Orleans Vicariate) to form a single parish, possibly with a new name, using both sites. The disposition of any unneeded buildings will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

Western Cluster:

St. Bridget Parish in Newfane, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Olcott, and Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Wilson will merge to form a single parish with a new name having two regular worship sites: St. Bridget and Our Lady of the Rosary. The rectory and office for the merged parish will be located at St. Bridget in Newfane. The rectories in Olcott and Wilson will be sold. St. Bridget and Our Lady of the Rosary will each have two Masses on the weekend. St. Charles Borromeo church will become an oratory where one Saturday Vigil Mass will be celebrated each weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day. During the summer, the pastor from Newfane will say one Mass in Olcott and the pastor of Ransomville will say one Mass in Wilson

Immaculate Conception Parish in Ransomville will continue to operate as a single parish but will develop a shared services relationship with the merged parish of Newfane, Wilson, and Olcott.

Lockport Cluster:

St. Mary Parish in Gasport will merge into St. John the Baptist Parish in Lockport (see merger information in Eastern Cluster above).

St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Mary, and St. Patrick parishes in Lockport will merge to form a new parish with a new name and using St. Patrick church as the primary worship site. St. Joseph's site will be retained as an oratory and city-wide religious education center. St. Mary and St. Anthony churches will no longer be used. The disposition of the remaining buildings and property will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

Good Shepherd Parish in Pendleton has participated in the planning process of the Northern Erie Vicariate. The recommendation for the parish will be included with that vicariate at a later date.

City of Niagara Falls Clusters:

St. Charles Borromeo and St. John de LaSalle parishes will merge to form a single parish, possibly with a new name, at the St. John de LaSalle site. The buildings and property at the St. Charles Borromeo site will no longer be used and their disposition will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

Prince of Peace Parish and St. Leo Parish will merge to form a new parish, possibly with a new name. Both church sites will be used.

Sacred Heart Parish will merge with St. Teresa Parish to form a new parish, possibly with a new name, at the St. Teresa site. Sacred Heart church will no longer be used and the disposition of the buildings and property of Sacred Heart Parish will be left to the discretion of the merged parish. It is hoped that the new parish will continue any social justice or outreach ministry that has been part of parish life at Sacred Heart.

St. Joseph Parish and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish will merge to form a new parish, possibly with a new name, but continuing to use both sites. The use of both sites will be re-evaluated in three years.

The following parishes will be merged into a single parish: St. Stanislaus, Holy Trinity, St. George, Our Lady of the Rosary, and Our Lady of Lebanon, using the St. Stanislaus site. It is suggested that the St. Vincent de Paul outreach ministry, currently at Our Lady of Lebanon, be transferred to another parish, possibly St. Joseph, which is a downtown parish in proximity to Our Lady of Lebanon. The disposition of any unneeded buildings and property will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

St. Mary of the Cataract will continue as an independent parish.

North Tonawanda Cluster:

The four North Tonawanda parishes, St. Albert the Great Parish, Ascension Parish, St. Joseph Parish, and Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, will merge to form two parishes. The two worship sites will be St. Albert the Great and Our Lady of Czestochowa. The North Tonawanda parishes should determine the best building location for North Tonawanda Catholic School. The disposition of the buildings and property that are no longer needed will be left to the discretion of the merged parishes.

Lewiston-Youngstown Cluster:

St. Bernard Parish in Youngstown and St. Peter Parish in Lewiston will remain independent parishes.

Holy Family Parish in Sanborn will remain open as long as the Barnabite Fathers can provide a pastor. When they are no longer able to do so, Holy Family Parish will merge into St. Peter Parish in Lewiston.

City of Batavia Cluster:

The ultimate goal should be one parish using the primary site of St. Joseph as well as a satellite site. Ideally, the parish will have a team of priests who will be available not only to the parish, but also to migrant ministry, prison ministry, and the schools. All unneeded buildings would be rented or sold.

As the first step toward the ultimate goal, Sacred Heart and St. Anthony parishes will merge to form a new parish with a new name using both church sites. St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes will also merge to form a new parish with a new name using both church sites.

Northern Genesee Cluster:

St. Patrick Mission in Wheatville will merge into St. Cecilia Parish in Oakfield. St. Patrick's site will no longer have Sunday Mass and will be given the option of becoming an oratory.

St. Cecilia Parish in Oakfield and Our Lady of Fatima in Elba will link temporarily with a view to merge. When merged, the parish will have a new name. Southern Genesee Cluster:

St. Mary Parish in Pavilion and Immaculate Conception Parish in East Bethany will link and share a pastor. Sacraments will be available at both sites but activities and ministries should be combined to the extent possible.

Eastern Genesee Cluster:

St. Michael Mission in South Byron will merge into St. Brigid Parish in Bergen. The buildings and property at St. Michael's will no longer be used and their disposition will be the responsibility of St. Brigid Parish.

St. Brigid Parish in Bergen will link with St. Peter Parish in LeRoy. The Mercedarian priest who is pastor of St. Peter's will also serve as the pastor of St. Brigid's.

St. Anthony Parish in Lime Rock will merge into St. Peter Parish in LeRoy. The Lime Rock site will no longer be used and the disposition of the building and property will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

St. Joseph Parish in LeRoy will merge into St. Peter Parish following the retirement of St. Joseph's pastor, Msgr. Emil P. Zupa. St. Joseph will then become an oratory. The disposition of remaining buildings will be left to the discretion of the merged parish which will possibly have a new name.

Western Genesee Cluster:

St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Corfu will link with Holy Name of Mary Parish in East Pembroke when the pastor of Holy Name Parish, Father David J. Scheider, retires. This would be a first step toward an eventual merger of the parishes. A merged parish would continue to use both sites.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Darien Center will merge with Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Bennington Center using both church sites. The newly formed parish will have a new name.

The oratory of Our Lady Help of Christians in East Bennington will be closed, as requested by the Genesee Vicariate.

Lackawanna:

In the Lackawanna-Woodlawn Cluster of the Western Erie Vicariate, four parishes will merge into one, two parishes will link and one parish will remain independent for the immediate future. Following is the complete restructuring in the Lackawanna-Woodlawn Cluster of the Western Erie Vicariate:

St. Anthony Parish will link with Our Lady of Victory Basilica when the present pastor of St. Anthony's is reassigned. An additional parochial vicar will be assigned to the Basilica who either will be named administrator of St. Anthony Parish or be given special administrative responsibility for St. Anthony Parish. The priest will reside at St. Anthony Parish. Although St. Anthony Parish is relatively small, it is important that there be a vibrant Catholic presence in the First Ward of Lackawanna.

Our Lady of Bistrica Parish will continue to function as long as the Croatian Conventual Franciscans are able to staff it. If the time comes when that is no longer possible, the parish will merge into Our Lady of Victory Basilica.

The parishes of St. Barbara, St. Hyacinth, St. Michael the Archangel, and Our Lady of Grace in Woodlawn will merge to form a single parish with a new name at the St. Michael the Archangel site. St. Michael's will be the sole site for worship, residence, and parish activities. The disposition of the remaining buildings and property will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

Orleans Cluster:

St. Mary Parish in Holley and St. Mark Parish in Kendall will remain linked parishes sharing the same pastor. The oratory of St. Rocco in Hulberton will be closed and sold.

St. Joseph Parish in Albion and St. Mary Assumption Parish in Albion will merge to form a single parish with a new name, Holy Family, at the St. Joseph site. St. Mary Assumption will become an oratory.

St. Mary Parish in Medina, Sacred Heart Parish in Medina, and St. Stephen Parish in Middleport (Eastern Niagara Vicariate) will merge to form a new parish with a new name using the two sites of St. Stephen in Middleport and St. Mary in Medina. The St. Mary site will be the primary site. Sacred Heart Parish will become an oratory until the celebration of its 100th anniversary in 2010. The disposition of any unneeded buildings and property will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

St. Joseph Parish in Lyndonville and St. Patrick Parish in Barker (Eastern Niagara Vicariate) will link for a year and then form a new parish using both the Barker and the Lyndonville sites.

Tri-County Cluster:

St. Joan of Arc Parish in Perrysburg will merge into St. Joseph Parish in Gowanda. The buildings and property in Perrysburg will no longer be used and their disposition will be left to the discretion of the merged parish.

St. John Fisher church in South Dayton will close and parishioners will merge into neighboring parishes. The buildings and property in South Dayton will no longer be used. St. Joseph Parish in Gowanda will assume responsibility for the property in South Dayton.

The Mission of St. Mary in Little Valley will merge into St. Mary Parish in Cattaraugus. St. Mary, Cattaraugus, will continue to have a pastoral administrator, and sacramental ministry will be provided by the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Gowanda. The buildings and property in Little Valley would no longer be used and their disposition will be left to the discretion of St. Mary Parish in Cattaraugus.

St. Aloysius Parish in Springville will link with St. John the Baptist Parish in West Valley. The parishes should explore the benefits of merging but using both church sites. A pastoral associate should be hired to assist with the pastoral responsibilities of both parishes.

St. Jude Parish in Sardinia will have its own pastor until the current pastor is reassigned. St. Jude Parish will then either link with St. Joseph Parish in Holland or remain an independent parish under the leadership of a pastoral administrator with sacramental ministry provided by St. Joseph Parish in Holland.

The following parish situations were determined at an earlier date:

St. Isidore Oratory in East Otto has been closed and sold.

St. Martin, Langford; St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, New Oregon; and St. Frances Cabrini, Collins Center, merged into a single parish named Epiphany of Our Lord, located in Langford. The buildings and property in New Oregon and Collins Center have been sold.

Blessed Sacrament, Delevan; SS. Peter and Paul, Arcade; and St. Mary, East Arcade, merged to form a new parish named St. Mary using both the Arcade and East Arcade sites.

Holy Family Parish, Machias, merged into St. Philomena Parish, Franklinville.