On Dec. 1, St. Louis Church, the oldest Catholic parish in Buffalo, became the new home for Buffalo's Weihnachtsmesse. That's German for Christmas Mass.
For 51 years, Canisius College has hosted the traditional holiday celebration conducted entirely in German for the German-American population in Western New York. When the Jesuit-run college lost its German program earlier this year, the Weihnachtsmesse sought out a new home.
Founded in 1886, St. Louis served the French and German communities in Buffalo, until the French formed a separate parish. St. Louis continued its German identity well into the 1970s.
"We're very happy to have the Weihnachtsmesse at St. Louis and keep that tradition going," said Michael Riester, a parish council member and coordinator of this year's Mass. "St. Louis Church is a church with German descent. We have strong ties to the German-American community, so it was kind of a natural things for us to say yes to this event."
Carols included "Stille Nacht," "O du Frohliche" and "Kling, Glockchen, Klingelingeling," performed by the German-American Musicians Association, also known as "Buffalo's Big German Band," under the leadership of Jeffrey Glaub. The St. Louis choir, led by Frank Scinta, accompanied the band.
Students from the former German program at Canisus and members of the Steuben Society of America took part in the readings and prayers. Father Daniel Jamros, SJ, a professor of Religious Studies at Canisius, served as celebrant at the Mass, which was followed by a light lunch and refreshments of German cuisine in the church hall.
"We're embracing this Mass as the opening of our Christmas season," said Riester.
Riester has been attending the Canisius Mass for 45 years. "It's been very important to me every year. It's the beginning of the Christmas season for me. As chairman of the event, I didn't want to see it disappear."