Stained glass window from closed Buffalo church finds new life

Thu, Jul 23rd 2015 11:00 am
Staff Reporter
The stained glass windows inside St. Pacificus, Humphrey, are recycled from St. Monica Church in Buffalo. (Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer)
The stained glass windows inside St. Pacificus, Humphrey, are recycled from St. Monica Church in Buffalo. (Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer)

Last year, part of Buffalo history made its way to St. Pacificus Oratory in Humphrey.

St. Monica Church, which closed in 1995, was established in 1912, to serve the large population of Irish immigrants who called the Old First Ward of South Buffalo their home. Although the church has since been demolished, today its windows stand as a reminder of the history of the Diocese of Buffalo and a way for visitors to see the glass windows and enjoy their beauty.

One of those windows was installed in the St. Pacificus Oratory. On Mother's Day, Bishop Richard J. Malone made a pastoral visit to the Southern Tier oratory to bless its newly installed stained glass windows, originally part of St. Monica Church in Buffalo.

Bishop Malone's pastoral visit to St. Pacificus Oratory included a prayer of blessing for Mother's Day and a reception after the Mass. Father Ronald Mierzwa, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Parish in Ellicottville, of which includes the St. Pacificus campus, said a visit by a bishop to a small, rural oratory is an ideal occasion to celebrate. The visit from the bishop drew a full house of worshipers to St. Pacificus Oratory.

"Bishop Malone is fast becoming a familiar and friendly presence in the Southern Tier," Father Mierzwa said. "Visits by the ordinary of the diocese to St. Pacificus are few and far between. You could probably count them on one hand. I invited the bishop to come, and he graciously accepted our invitation and came and blessed the windows as part of the festivities. St. Pacificus is a mission church of Holy Name of Mary in Ellicottville, so they do not have a regular schedule of Masses on the weekend."

At St. Pacificus, Father Mierzwa says Mass only about seven times each year, making this occasion all the more significant.

"This was a special treat for everybody, and the bishop was most kind," Father Mierzwa said. "He's making a concerted effort to get down here and visit the parishes, so we're delighted to have him. We often feel neglected. We're, like, at the edge of the world."

In 2014, Father Mierzwa called attention to the old windows of St. Pacificus, which were in dire need of renovation. The building dates back to 1855, when Franciscan friars established it as a mission church, one of the oldest they founded. The windows especially showed their age.

"They were plain yellow glass. They were just plain," Father Mierzwa recalled of the old ones. "Some of the window panes were broken and some of the windows didn't open. Two of them were showing rot, so something had to be done. Then, it came to my mind that the chancery had stained glass windows that would be appropriate, from St. Monica Church, that had been in storage in the chancery catacombs."

Although St. Monica closed nearly two decades earlier and the building has since been demolished, its old stained glass windows had been salvaged and were all that remained of the Buffalo church. Since St. Monica's history dated back so many years, Father Mierzwa elected to keep this history alive by reusing the windows.

The windows had to be truncated in order to fit into the space height-wise, but they were wide enough to fit perfectly, so members of the community came together to help cover the cost of installing the windows. Those who helped pay to re-size the windows dedicate them to loved ones who had since passed away, so each window has a plaque with two inscribed dedications.

When asked about the significance of having St. Monica's old windows in St. Pacificus Oratory, Father Mierwza noted they had previously served a community of Irish people in South Buffalo, and now they are in a parish that was also originally founded for the area's Irish immigrants.

"We are delighted that they match the simplicity of St. Pacificus so well, and yet add a more reverent atmosphere, more of a sacred space for worship, prayer and devotion," he concluded.

Although regular weekend Masses are not held at St. Pacificus, the space is available for reservation for events such as baptisms, weddings or funerals. It has been in the care of Holy Name of Mary Parish since 2007, when its former pastor, Father J. Gregory Brennan, tragically drowned. Additionally, area residents are putting forth an effort to ensure the oratory remains in good working order.

"They are putting safety glass over (the windows), and volunteers from the faith community do check on things at St. Pacificus, particularly a lady named Mary Weber," Father Mierzwa said.  

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