An historical moment will take place on August 1 as Father Patrick Melfi will become the ninth resident pastor (in 142 years) and the second rector of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Also starting on that day, a new linked configuration of three local parishes will take place, effectively joining under the leadership of shared clergy the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels of Olean, St. John the Evangelist Church of Olean (where Father Melfi serves as pastor), and St. Philomena Church of Franklinville (where Father Melfi recently assumed pastorship). A new Mass schedule for all three parishes will be announced in the coming weeks and will commence effective the weekend after Labor Day.
This will be the first time since 1895 that only one pastor serves the Roman Catholics in the Olean community. In that year, St. John the Evangelist parish in Olean opened as a parish separated out from the territory of the original Olean Roman Catholic parish, St. Mary of the Angels.
Father Melfi is no stranger to this community. Born and raised in Olean, he was the youngest of seven siblings and attended the parochial school of St. Mary's Academy, Olean High School as well as neighboring St. Bonaventure Parochial School for his beginning formative years. Father Melfi comes with experience as pastor of two linked parishes in our Southern Tier area, Our Lady of Peace in Salamanca and St. Patrick's in Limestone. Father Melfi saw his window of opportunity to come back home when the position of pastor of St. John the Evangelist opened; he began his pastorship there in June 2017.
Linking the parishes together is a way to address the clergy shortage as part of the reconfiguration plan of the diocese's Journey of Faith and Grace initiative started 10 years ago, Father Melfi explained in his recent message to his congregations. The new configuration in the region also includes Sacred Heart of Portville as an oratory connected with the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. Under linked arrangements in the Diocese of Buffalo, Father Melfi wrote, each parish remains independent financially with its own separate Trustees, Finance Council, and Parish Council, but they are all pastored by the same clergy. The emphasis will be on sharing programs and uniting as a Roman Catholic community, he said. The main goal will be to bring people back to church, he explained, helping family and friends reconnect with the faith as well as reaching out to the next generation. Before becoming a priest, Father Melfi was a civil engineer and designed bridges. As pastor of the Olean Roman Catholic community, he hopes to build even grander bridges of communication and unity that will witness the love of God.
The Olean Roman Catholic community clergy team includes Father Melfi, regional pastor; Father Romulo Montero and Father David Tourville, regional parochial vicars; and Deacon Richard Matthews. This new configuration of linked Roman Catholic Parishes does not affect St. Joseph's Maronite Church or St. Mary's Byzantine Church which operate under a different canonical rite and are not under the auspices of the Diocese of Buffalo.
"As we move forward toward this new reality," Father Melfi wrote in his message to area Roman Catholics, "your patience, understanding and most of all, your prayers will make this a success. Together we can 'do all things in Christ, who strengthens [us].' Philippians 4:13."