One Jesuit Buffalo builds community, seeks to serve others

Fri, Jul 27th 2018 10:00 am
One Jesuit Buffalo members help to install the new Altar and Ambo at St Michael's Church. (Courtesy of One Jesuit Buffalo)
One Jesuit Buffalo members help to install the new Altar and Ambo at St Michael's Church. (Courtesy of One Jesuit Buffalo)

One Jesuit Buffalo is launching the inaugural "Iggy Fest" on July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

Kicking off with Mass with the Jesuit community at St. Michael Church at 5:15 p.m., a street fest will be held starting at 6:15 p.m. featuring food and live music. The festival will be held on the surrounding streets around St. Michael's (St. Michael's Place and Washington St.) Admission is set at $5 ($10 with a commemorative glass).

"Iggy Fest" is a capstone event for a group that has been steadily growing and engaging wider audiences over the last year. Throughout the Lenten season, St. Michael Parish on Washington Street in downtown Buffalo hosted a series of reflections each Sunday evening. Welcoming dozens to hear the reflections, it was not something unusual to see such large groups of people file into the downtown parish, operated by the Jesuits for well over a century. Just a few weeks later, on April 30, nearly 100 Jesuit alumni and friends, representing a good portion of the Jesuit colleges and universities from throughout the United States, gathered for a Theology on Tap at Big Ditch Brewing Company. And still a few weeks after that, nearly 20 Canisius High School students and Jesuit alumni volunteers gathered one Saturday afternoon to help load trucks for Ann Marie Zon's Nicaragua mission in Swormsville.

These three events are snapshots into the work of the recently formed One Jesuit Buffalo. With the expressed goal of connecting Jesuit alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends in the WNY region, the group has seen immense success in just a short amount of time. "Our success can be attributed to the three-pronged approach our core team has identified as critical to our mission," said John Tomczak, co-founder of One Jesuit Buffalo, "and those three areas are: community, faith and service." Tomczak, am alumnus of John Carroll University, noted that "OJB formed with the intent of engaging Jesuit alumni in the Buffalo area to offer opportunities for community and social engagement, to offer opportunities for prayer and spiritual reflection, and to engage one of the core tenets of the Jesuit tradition of 'being men and women for and with others' through service to the community."

Father Frederick G. Betti, SJ, associate pastor of St. Michael's and chaplain to One Jesuit Buffalo, has noted how diverse and engaged the group is within the Buffalo community. "In the U.S. alone, the Jesuits maintain 28 colleges and universities, nearly 50 high schools, and dozens of other ministries, including retreat centers and direct social service-oriented programs," stated Father Betti, "and to bring the alumni of those programs together not only provides a great wealth of talent and experience, but it also allows us as a pastoral team to better engage and serve the needs of that community here in Buffalo."

One of the key advantages of having an organization such as OJB, noted Tomczak, was that it not only allows us to create new programs and opportunities, but it can provide support for the four Jesuit ministries already being conducted in Buffalo: Canisius College, Canisius High School, NativityMiguel Middle School and St. Michael Parish. "Since 1851, the Jesuits have made a mark in the Buffalo community," stated Tomczak, "and an opportunity for alumni and friends to collaborate, build relationships, and serve others while promoting those works that have given so much to our community is a true blessing."

"Iggy Fest" is a collaborative effort made possible through the efforts of many hands in the Buffalo community. "This is an opportunity to celebrate," said Father Betti, "and on the day we celebrate our founder, St. Ignatius, it's only appropriate that we do so with the friends and alumni who have all been touched by this work." The event is made possible through the generous support of NativityMiguel Middle School Junior Board, Flying Bison Beer, Wardynski Meats, Tommy Rotter Distillery and The Buffalo Hyatt Hotel. All proceeds will benefit NativityMiguel Middle School and all are welcome to come.  

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