Niagara County parishes create family identity

The parishes of Lockport, Ransomville and Newfane now have a family name – the Central Niagara Catholic Family – and have made great strides in unifying its administration. The pilot family still has some ways to go, like finding a pastor.

Currently, Father Steven Jekielek serves as temporary administrator for St. John the Baptist in Lockport and Immaculate Conception in Ransomville, while Father Andrew Lauricella is pastor of St. Brendan on the Lake in Newfane and Wilson, and Father Daniel Ogbeifun is pastor of All Saints in Lockport. Those positions will change once a new pastor is named for the four parishes. Father Jekielek also serves as vicar forane for the Niagara/Orleans Vicariate.

The new name came from the administration pillar, one of six areas of focus during the formation of a Family of Parishes. The same group also redesigned the parish bulletins to form one weekly family bulletin, which bears the newly designed family crest.

“We knew we needed to have some sort of identification for the family,” Father Jekielek explained. During discussions, parishioner Barb Converso, who also works for Lockport High School, offered the school’s Cyber Lions graphic arts students. Four students took up the challenge. Tyler Halifax, Hanna Bakos, Nicholas Radwanski and Madisen Rosenberg were given the names of the four parishes and icons from each church, then asked to show unity in their design.

“The designs they came back with were incredibly professional,” Father Jekielek said.

With eight designs to choose from, the entire staff gravitated to one design by Halifax. Like a coat of arms, the logo is a shield divided into four areas. Inside each section is a symbol representing one of the parishes.

“I was trying to unite four different things. A lot of times when you look back through history, you see a coat of arms when you see a shield. So, that’s one way you can merge them together,” Halifax said of his design which incorporates a dove, a cross, St. Mary, and a wave of Lake Ontario.

The board liked the color scheme used by Hannah Bakos. So, the two ideas were merged into one.

“To me it was a royal color scheme (black and gold), something you’d naturally see around a church. That’s why I went with it,” she said.

This was the first project produced by the Cyber Lions to be used outside the school. The graphic can be used for T-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and currently appears in the corner of the parish bulletin. 

The parishes then worked with LPI to create a family-wide bulletin. Now the first two pages contain family news and information. Inside, each parish has their own page to promote their individual events. Everything is in alphabetical order so no parish gets preferential treatment. They also merged all the advertisers from the Central Niagara region.

“It’s working out really well,” Father Jekielek said. “It took quite a bit of time for our staff person who’s responsible for the bulletin to get everything organized. It took us a month longer than expected. But, as we go through it, we make little adjustments. I think it’s helping people understand that we are working together, things are going on, and we’re becoming one big family. It’s not easy, but they’re getting there.”

Father Jekielek, Father Lauricella and Father Ogbeifun rotate through the four parishes to celebrate Mass, so every parishioner in the family can get to know them. Deacon Howard Morgan, along with retired priests Father James Bastian and Father Joseph Dumphrey, OSFS, assist as well.

“It’s a slow transition because there are still things that have to be done, like the financial stuff,” Father Jekielek said.

Due to legal status as pastors, Father Ogbeifun and Father Lauricella still have to sign off on checks for their parishes.

“It’s a transition. There are always bumps in the road, but we’re working pretty well together. We try to keep moving things forward,” Father Jekielek added.

The family is currently waiting for the assignment of a pastor who will captain the four parishes. Families are led by one pastor overseeing all the parishes, with assistance from parochial vicars and deacons, as well as lay leaders who serve as pastoral associates, business managers, communication directors and administrative assistants.

The new hub office is in place, based at St. John the Baptist Parish in Lockport. The business manager and bookkeeper have been hired. Although they will serve all parishes in the family, each parish will retain their own identity and name.

“The groups that are working on the pillars, that have volunteered to be part of the pillar teams, are very much moving forward in the family,” Father Jekielek said.

Assessing the progress the family has made, Father Jekielek said, “I think we’re doing quite well. It was a little bumpy at the beginning, but in the last few months we’ve really taken great strides forward.”

Cattaraugus parishes won’t let the distance keep family apart

Bringing parishes together is nothing new to Father Dennis Mancuso, the new pastor of Family 25 in Cattaraugus County.  

“I have done a lot of this before in my former parishes,” he said, pointing out that all of his previous assignments had involved overseeing multiple parishes at one time. “So, I’m used to this.”

His experiences have helped draw three parishes into one united family that will share resources and ministerial programs, but it also showed him how much effort it takes to make things work well. “I think we’ve moving in the right direction,” he said. “There’s a growing understanding that we have to work together and our mutual survival depends upon working together.”

Father Mancuso has been dealing with the administration of the parishes, while other transitional team members work on the six pillars of Liturgy, Spiritual Life, Forming Disciples, Outreach/Inreach, Stewardship and Administration.

Family 25, which consists of Holy Name of Mary, Ellicottville; St. Philomena, Franklinville; and Our Lady of Peace, Salamanca, covers a lot of area in the Southern Tier. A drive between parishes could take up to 27 miles. That makes it hard for some of the older members to get out to early Masses. It also prevents the two priests serving the family, Father Mancuso and Father Moses Ikuelogbon, from spending time after Mass talking to the parishioners, as they have to run from one parish to the other to make it in time for the next Mass.  

“A very important pastoral thing is talking to people while they’re there,” said Regina Kuhn, from Holy Name of Mary. “It’s very hard. We can’t fix it.”

One suggestion offered is to have “Come and Talk to Father Dennis” nights where Father Mancuso would spend time at each parish once a month just to meet with the parishioners. 

The Family of Parishes model sees one or two priests serving a small group of parishes. The model keeps all the churches open to serve the local community even with just 121 active priests to serve the 161 parishes. To make this work, sacrifice is needed. 

“Everybody is used to having a Saturday Mass, or at least two Sunday Masses. When you get down to where you don’t have the coverage, everybody has had to eliminate Masses. That’s been a big obstacle – trying to figure out what are fair times for everybody,” said Jeff Peterson, from St. Philomena’s, adding that Father Mancuso and Father Ikuelogbon are “running ragged because they’re trying to cover everything.” Deacon Mark Hooper and Deacon Michael Anderson also serve the parishes.

Peterson, who serves as finance committee chairman at St. Philomena’s, sees the other big challenge for the emerging family is figuring out how to share expenses. Each parish will still pay their regular bills, such as utilities, but they also have to determine how much each parish will contribute to the shared expenses, such as pay for the parish staff now that the family shares one office.

Kay Buffamante, a trustee at Our Lady of Peace, became a eucharistic minister and lector back when lay people first took on those roles. She’s been serving the parishes ever since. 

Now as a member of the administrative pillar, she works collaboratively with the members of the other two parishes to create a consolidated look of the family, from producing one bulletin to sharing finances. She will also help get through the elements of organizational change that “will need to be in place in order for us to remain viable churches in our region.”

Her team has found a number of differences in the way each parish deals with staff issues such as employee responsibilities, vacation days, and pay.

“It probably feels like there are more differences than there are, but they’re hard,” she said. 

Kuhn agrees. “Each church is unique in how they handle everything. We don’t have a lot of commonality,” she said.

Uniformity among the three parishes would make it easier for lay ministers to step from one parish to another to help out. If Communion can be distributed the same way in every church, a eucharistic minister can easily fill in at any worship site.

As one of six pilot families, the Cattaraugus family keeps working on smoothing out the rough edges of their new dynamic, trying to remind people that working together is a necessity for the survival of all the parishes in the diocese. 

“My take with the people I’ve talked to is that they’re accepting of it. Most of them feel that you almost have to be accepting of it,” said Peterson.

“I think the thing our transition team keeps foremost in mind is our shared commitment to the Catholic faith and to doing our level best to keep a presence of that Catholic faith in our parish regions, because it has been shrinking,” said Buffamante.

New Vicars Forane Announced

The Diocese of Buffalo is changing the structure of one of its primary advisory bodies to Bishop Michael W. Fisher in order to streamline how the diocese supports its ministry in Western New York.

As demonstrated by the diocese’s Road to Renewal effort that groups parishes into “Families of Parishes,” the diocese is changing its vicariate structure to complement the Road to Renewal. The new vicariate structure will take effect Feb. 1.

In the former structure, 12 vicariates supported the Buffalo Diocese’s 161 parishes throughout the eight counties. Under the new structure, seven geographic vicariates have been established along with another vicariate that will support campus ministry.

With the establishment of the new vicariate structure, new vicars forane, who head the vicariates, have been appointed and will work collaboratively with the 36 Families of Parishes.

“This new structure will allow more efficient reporting and better communication throughout the diocese,” explained Bishop Fisher.  “The vicars forane, who report directly to me, support the administrative and pastoral needs of pastors of Families of Parishes.  And consequently, the pastors of the Families of Parishes report to and are directly supported by the vicar foranes.”

The new vicariates and the vicars forane include:

  • Buffalo Vicariate – Rev. Ronald Sajdak
  • Genesee/Wyoming Vicariate – Rev. Bernard Nowak
  • Niagara/Orleans Vicariate – Rev. Steven Jekielek
  • Northern Erie Vicariate – Rev. Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel
  • Southern Erie Vicariate – Rev. Sean DiMaria
  • Southern Tier West Vicariate – Rev. Todd Remick
  • Southern Tier East Vicariate – Rev. James Hartwell, interim
  • Campus Ministry – Rev. Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM

For a map of the new vicariate structure along with the full list of the 36 Diocesan Families of Parishes, visit

Phase two parishes examine issues and solutions in family meetings

The middle of Chautauqua County used to have six independent parishes spread out along the lake. Due to the shortage of priests the six worship sites still stand, but now as part of three parishes having only two pastors. Each site can only have one Sunday Mass. 

This is an example of the need for the Road for Renewal plan.

Family 5 includes St. Mary of Lourdes Parish in Bemus Point and Mayville; Christ our Hope in Sherman and Clymer; and St. Dominic in Westfield and Brocton Parishes.

Those three parishes will become one family as part of Phase 2 of the Road to Renewal. Jim Wehrfritz is one of two Renewal representatives for St. Mary of Lourdes Parish. He represents the Bemus Point worship site, while Ann Akin reps for the Mayville site. They are the lay representatives that bring information about the Renewal into the parish through meetings and parish bulletin announcements.

They also led the Disciple Maker Survey earlier this year, which received a high level of participation in the parish.

“That was very successful. We got over 130 people to participate in the survey and we got some really good, I think, statistically valid results. We completed the analysis of that for our parish,” Wehrfritz said.

The family will take part in the Catholic Leadership Institute “to see what the similarities and differences are coming out of the survey.” The CLI program provides bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay persons with pastoral leadership formation and consulting services that strengthen their confidence and competence in ministry, enabling them to articulate a vision for their local church.

As a 35-year employee for ExxonMobil, Wehrfritz has had experience in reorganizing and learning from pilot programs. He also sees a need for it, especially in his area of the diocese.

When the parish family members first met, they found that some of the ministries, such as Holy Name Society and the Knights of Columbus, are in only one parish in the family, and now will be accessible to everyone in the family.

“(The Renewal is) really a good thing,” Wehrfritz said. “As we come together as a family, I think our parishioners are going to have more opportunities to participate in more ways.”

They are examining ways to work around the obstacles the new family format may bring. One issue that concerns them is travel between parishes. Some elderly parishioners may not be able to drive 20 miles in the snow to attend an event or meeting in a far-off church. The survey showed that most parishioners tend to be seniors. “That’s a specific challenge that we’ll have to figure out, but it’s fixable,” said Wehrfritz.

Wehrfritz admits there is some skepticism in his parish about what the final changes will be. He was not living in Western New York during the Journey of Faith and Grace, when St. Mary’s worship sites merged into one parish, but has heard some stories from people unhappy with the results.

“There are some questions relative to what’s this really going to mean. Because I think there were some hard feelings about how some of that was done or how it came down. So, there is a little bit of skepticism and concern,” he said.

Wehrfritz, himself, is happy with the information he receives from the diocese. Although he admits it can be slow coming, but he has spoken with Sarah Osmanski and Deacon Greg Moran, and feels he could call Father Bryan Zielenieski in the Renewal office if necessary.

“All the information is not always flowing out as quickly as some of the questions that are raised in my mind, but I’ve always been able to get what I needed one way or another,” Wehrfritz said.

Barb Weingart, the parish representative from St. Dominic’s in Westfield and Brocton, sees a need for change in the parish structure.

 “I think we’re all OK with the concept,” she said. “We need to work together. We need to be a team. We need not to be selfish, and put our own needs first.”

The area recently lost Father Todd Remick when he moved to Jamestown after the death of Father Dennis Mende. Father David Tourville and Father Romulo Montero now cover six churches.

“They’ve had to adjust the Mass schedule. The guys are over worked but it’s gone well,” Weingart said.

Father Tourville has been pro-active and has talked about it. Barb and her husband, Don, have given a presentation regarding the Disciple Makers Index Survey.

“We have to be fair and we have to think of the priests. They can only do so much,” she said. “I think we all need to work together. We all need to give. We need to not be selfish with our needs. We need to think of other people. We need to be fair to other people.”

South East Buffalo celebrates past, looks to future

On a brilliantly sunny fall day – with the strong wind reminding everyone of the weather to come – the Diocese of Buffalo celebrated its 175th Anniversary Mass for the Vicariate of Southeast Buffalo with Bishop Michael W. Fisher presiding.

The vicariate that encompasses 14 parishes on the East Side of Buffalo, South Buffalo and Cheektowaga was celebrated in Mass and song on Oct. 2 by a beautifully voiced choir with the full force of a traditional pipe organ at Our Lady of Charity Parish’s, Holy Family worship site.

Bishop Fisher took time out to praise the quality and power of the choir and remarked on the many contributions that these vicariate parishes have brought to the diocese since its founding in 1847.

Father Gregory Dobson, a retired diocesan priest, teased the congregation that his homily would be lengthy and consume most of the afternoon. He told them to settle in as nervous laughter filled the church.

His words outlined the history of the area, and he related how that history ties to the Road to Renewal program currently in effect in the diocese. Father Dobson spoke of the late Paul Fitzpatrick, renowned Bishop Timon High School football player and longtime coach, who said whether he played in a practice, a scrimmage or a championship game, “Coach I’m all in.”  Father Dobson then turned to Bishop Fisher and said, “Bishop, when it comes to the renewal, I’m all in.”

Father Dobson said the vicariate parishes are a microcosm of the diocese – rich in diversity, tradition, custom and service.   

“Our history here gives us some lessons on the road to renewal,” Father Dobson related. 

Originally the land of the vicariate was Seneca Nation territory and following their forced resettlement, Buffalo city fathers wanted to open the frontier to the south and east for development. Craftsmen of German and Polish descent came from Buffalo’s East Side to build the roads and sewers of this new frontier on the city’s south side. A large farm, Tifft, dominated the landscape at that time. In deference to the Senecas, area streets have such Native American names as Oschawa, Tuscarora and Minnetonka. A streetcar ran down Seneca Street and in the early days of development, many German-owned businesses thrived, Father Dobson continued. German names adorned many thoroughfares in the neighborhoods including Hammerschmidt, Duerstein, Hayden, Norman and Zittel. The former St. John the Evangelist church on Seneca Street has German crosses on its stone floor built before the symbol was appropriated by the Nazis. 

Father Gregory Dobson delivers tells Bishop Michael W. Fisher and the diocese that is all in on the Renewal. Father Dobson delivered the homily at the South East Buffalo Vicariate’s anniversary Mass on Oct. 2 at Our Lady of Charity’s Holy Family worship site. (Photo by Joe Martone)

Father Dobson explained that as the area grew, large numbers of Irish Americans moved from Buffalo’s 1st Ward, Italian Americans came from Swan Street and a new influx of Polish Americans and German Americans resettled from the Kaisertown area of the city. 

“It was an incredibly diverse area and such a Catholic community,” Father Dobson said. Many religious orders provided support to the people of the neighborhood. As time passed, a new sense of affluence emerged as residents secured good jobs in city hall, in the schools, the postal department, police and fire, recreation and streets departments.  

“These residents had a commitment to the community and to the church. And they looked beyond the community marked by their hard work and sacrifice,” he continued. 

What does this mean for the Road to Renewal? Let’s respect the past and acknowledge this diversity of this community and the diversity of parish traditions within it. Let’s extend it beyond Seneca Street, and beyond the East Side.

He encouraged attendees to get involved in the Renewal effort.

“We need your joy, we need your effort, we need your love, we need your leadership and organizational skills, your talent, and your support.”

And like Paul Fitzpatrick, Bishop, we are all in.

We are all called to pray for the Road to Renewal Our Lady of Mercy. 

Knots begin to untie at second annual Renewal Mass

The Diocese of Buffalo is cruising down the Road to Renewal and picking up speed. During the second annual diocesan Renewal Mass, held Aug. 28 at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Olean, Father Bryan Zielenieski, vicar for renewal, gave an update on the progress.

Several families of parishes have begun working together, sharing programs and holding gatherings. A Southern Tier family hosted a “Reunion Mass” with 250 guests. Pilot and Phase One families have started Life in the Eucharist programs. The Alpha Catholic program has come to Cheektowaga and Amherst.

“Creating understanding and enthusiasm is needed for our renewal and people in the parishes are realizing what the fruits of working together can be – better programming, greater participation, shared costs, greater understanding of the body of Christ at work,” Father Zielenieski said. “When we look at our presbyterates – our priests – we look at the growing conversation about future assignments. And what priests themselves have revealed to us is that they are actually excited and looking forward to renewal.”

Father Zielenieski also revealed some positive findings from the Disciple Maker Index survey that 19,000 people from the Diocese of Buffalo participated in over the summer. Eighty-seven percent of the people surveyed believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Eighty-eight percent believe Scripture is the living word of God. Eighty-six percent would recommend their parish to others.

“That means they find life and vibrancy in their faith communities. We need to know this in our diocese,” Father Zielenieski said.

On a sadder note, only 42 percent share their personal faith story with others, and 88 percent have never encouraged someone to consider the priesthood or religious life.

The afternoon Mass was preceded by praying the rosary. Parish representatives brought a length of rope that they knotted last year to mark the struggles of abuse, indifference, mistrust, faithlessness and isolation, then untied one of the five knots.

“The untying of a single knot is not identifying any one struggle and saying that it is resolved,” Father Zielenieski explained. “The untying of a knot is symbolic, signifying that the effort the body of Christ in our diocese has made throughout this past year. The people of God have prayed, sacrificed and served, so that the Diocese of Buffalo can be better and experience true renewal. That effort is recognized in the untying of our first knot.”

Bishop Michael W. Fisher served as main celebrant of a Mass along with 11 priests and two deacons joining him at altar. “Today our commitment to the renewal challenges us to put aside our pride and our selfishness and to do things different in order to make sure all are welcome and have a room at the Eucharist table,” Bishop Fisher said in his homily. “All of us are to be given an opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation, evangelistic sharing with others, the joy of our faith. Isn’t that what draws others to the table? Our joy, improving the ways we do things, and not letting our pride keep us from the inclusion of others, and opportunities to teach, to preach to sanctify, a wider group with our work. In collaboration with one another. Whether we belong to the basilica whether we belong St. Bonaventure Parish, whatever parish we belong to, we are one Church. We are a church of God. We are Catholic Church. We are church here in Western New York. Renewal is not easy. It challenges our pride in not allowing us to function only by ourselves. We’re dependent on any one person except for Christ. We continue to call upon that wonderful example of humility in our lives and in our Church, as we call upon our Blessed Mother, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. Pray for us.”

Following the Mass, many attended a reception and socialized with friends and made new acquaintances. 

Bob Schumacher attends Holy Trinity in Medina, part of a Phase 1 family. He said things are going “pretty good.”

“We’re coming along. We have some difficulties here and there. Some of the older people have a hard time with the change,” he said, adding there are concerns that parishes may close.

The family met at a vicariate meeting. “We were talking about the things that we do. A lot of people thought some good ideas from us. We got some really good ideas from (the other parishes). So, I think it’s going to work out pretty well,” Schumacher said.

Second Renewal Mass in August

The faithful of the Diocese are invited to the second Renewal Mass which will be taking place on August 28th at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels at 3:00 p.m. All representative are asked to bring their knotted ropes from the first Renewal Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine as we will untie one knot. The undoing of a knot symbolizes the renewed life and hope of our diocesan renewal. If you have any questions or concerns please reach out to the Renewal team at

Pastors sought for new Families of Parishes

The new Families of Parishes model will bring with it a new role for priests and laity serving in the Diocese of Buffalo. Currently, the diocese is seeking applications for pastors who will lead the 36 Families of Parishes. Currently, the diocese has 161 parishes.

The application to become a pastor of a Family can be found in the Clergy Portal at The fillable PDF can be submitted to Applications should be turned into the Priest Personnel Office by Monday, May 23 at noon. The priests that apply for a family will be interviewed by the Priest Personnel Office. This follows current procedures for naming a pastor.

Once pastors are assigned to a Family, the application process for parochial vicars and specialized parochial vicars will begin. Families will be posted with their respective pastor, so parochial vicars will know with whom they will be working.

The number of parochial vicars serving each family will vary. “Several factors were used to determine the number of priests per family – number of Catholics per priest, mileage expected to cover, and there were some specialized families with particular ministries,” explained Father Bryan Zielenieski, vicar for Renewal and Development.

Specialized parochial vicars who have a specific area of responsibility, such as the Catholic School in the family or the faith formation program, will also be named.

t is important to note that filling the role of pastor in the pilot Families is a top priority, so the pastors of those families will be announced first.

A very important note for all applying as a pastor of a Family is that the priestly compensation scale is currently under review. It has been recognized that with the expectations of a pastor in a Family, there needs to be fair compensation. The dialogue on this is currently underway and the Priestly Life Committee of the Renewal is working on this in conjunction with the vicar general and a recommendation will be made to the Temporalities Committee of the Presbyteral Council. The term for a pastor will be six years.

Priests can access data on each Family in the Families of Parishes Playbook found in the Clergy Portal. All information presented reflects the information submitted by parishes in a recent request. The Renewal Team has found that historical data on file with the diocese since Covid is not reliable or accurate. Some parishes do not have Mass times listed in the profile. It is recommended that for specific Mass times of parishes that you look at parish websites. It is important to note that in the Renewal, Mass times will be changing. Sacramental, financial and the other data provided is more important at this time.

Phase one of the Families of Parishes will begin this October.

Renewal training committee meet in prayer; prepare for ‘Life in Eucharist’ program

Led by Sister Joanne Suranni, CSSF, and coordinated by Theodore Musco, the event saw the training committee come together in prayer, much like the Families of Parishes will do when they participate in the Life in the Eucharist Program. The six pilot families will be given a training session at the end of May to learn how to implement Living the Eucharist into their parishes.

“Life in the Eucharist: Sacramental Reflections” is a five-session program that presents five specific themes framed in the categories of Celebration, Contemplation and Communion with the Suffering. Topics include God’s Love as nourishment in Jesus Christ; God’s love as Reconciliation in Jesus Christ; God’s love as Transformation in Jesus Christ; God’s love as Abiding Presence in Jesus Christ; God’s love as Mission in Jesus Christ. Meetings will take place on campus in the church or parish hall and are meant to create a bond among members of the new parish families through prayer.

Each family is required to participate in the Living the Eucharist program and a service project.

“It’s really to get them to come together; to bring the parishes together to unite under a common theme,” explained Musco, director of Renewal Mission, Evangelization, and Lay Formation. “We chose Life in the Eucharist because here in the United States we’re going to have the National Eucharist Revival starting at the Feast of Corpus Christi. So, it really fits in nicely.”

Over three years, every Catholic diocese, parish, school, apostolate, and family is invited to be a part of renewing the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

This Revival launches on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 19. Over the next three years, dioceses will host Eucharistic Congresses and processions. Parishes will increase or begin Eucharistic Adoration. There will be a revival of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness – the ars celebrandi. Families and friends will gather in small groups to learn and pray together. Missionary disciples will go to the margins, recognizing the mystery of Jesus’ presence in the poor.

All of this will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years held July 17-21, 2024.

Progress in Key Areas

Since our first round of Renewal Gathering for Parish Lay Leaders in December 2021, we’ve been moving along the Road to Renewal, attending to the pastoral guideposts of mission, evangelization and lay formation. We are sharing this update as a means of demonstrating progress due to the dedication of many. 

Included in these areas is outreach to young adults including college and university students, youth and youth ministers, parish catechetical leaders including directors and coordinators of religious education for youth and adults, parishioners, those exploring the Catholic Church, and those interested in learning more about how to best evangelize and renew our Church.

We are glad to report the activity that has taken place in the following three areas:


A Lenten Morning of Reflection, led by Sister Louise Alff, OSF, consultant for evangelization, was held on Saturday, March 19,  at St. Joseph University Church in Buffalo. The theme for the morning was “May the dust of the Master cover you.” During the morning the group engaged in the theme through prayer, discussion and reflection. Additional times of reflection will be provided throughout the year in various locations throughout the diocese and will be promoted on our new formation website soon to be activated.

These times of reflection are available to everyone who is on the Road to Renewal, reminding us of the mission we have to follow Jesus.


Father Frank DeSiano, CSP, president of the Paulist Evangelization Ministries, has collaborated with me to develop a diocesan evangelization framework and a schema for evangelization. 

This framework provides the parish/family of parishes with a basic overview of principles of evangelization and missionary discipleship. Every parish/family of parishes implementation of this framework will be unique, based on history, resources and culture. The diocese and others will provide opportunities to learn more about implementation of this framework in the parish/family of parishes over a period of time so that the love of God becomes ever more present. 

The schema for evangelization indicates parish and family of parishes as well as diocesan level activities, initiatives and goals all based on the discipleship model.

Soon, we will begin to implement various initiatives such as ALPHA Catholic that will assist in bringing new people into the life of our Church as well as providing a place for anyone to share their faith. 

ALPHA is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith, typically run over 11 weeks. Each talk looks at a different question around faith and is designed to create conversation during the day. ALPHA is run around the globe and will become a major evangelization initiative in the diocese.

Currently, a pilot ALPHA program consisting of a meal, viewing of a video, and discussion period is taking place at St. Margaret Parish in North Buffalo, and on May 5, an orientation workshop will be offered for all parishes and families to learn more about the benefits and practical implementation of the ALPHA program. 

Please refer to the website for more information.  It is the work of everyone to fulfill the mission to “Go make disciples.”  

The establishment and formation of evangelization teams throughout the Diocese is a priority. Father Frank DeSiano, CSP, president of Paulist Evangelization Ministries, Washington, D.C.,  will be instrumental in helping us accomplish this goal. My experience so far has been that many parishioners are looking for ways to assist others reconnect or connect for the first time with the community of faith. We have several tools that will be able to assist us in this regard.

Lay Formation

The Young Adults Group meets regularly to discuss involvement in the parish, family of parishes, and diocese; service on the diocesan Pastoral Council; assistance to the Communication Department and the Renewal Office; and preparation of a Theology on Tap series.  

Youth ministers have gathered to share information regarding upcoming programs and events, network with other youth ministers, and collaborate with me regarding the formation of a Youth Council with two groups (students in grades 6-8 and students in grades 9-12) as well as a Youth Advisory Board made up of selected adults who will serve by providing formation and consultation. Planning for World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2023 is currently underway. 

Catechetical Leaders met both in person and by Zoom with Lisa Benzer, diocesan director of Faith Formation, and me to discuss a number of important issues related to their ministry.  During the afternoon presentation, we considered the value of working collaboratively with those in associated ministries, using the Encounter, Accompany, Community and Send model for evangelization among families in the parish and eventually in the family of parishes, and working to implement the goals of the Renewal.  

In mid-May, we will be proud to present the new adult faith formation platform aptly named On the Road. The website will be located at Once activated, this site will be the center for faith formation and training opportunities organized under six headings: Becoming Catholic; Sacraments; Bringing Faith to Life; Parents, Teachers, Learners; Priests, Deacons, Religious Women and Men; and Families of Families, Family of Parishes, Catholic Center.  Anyone seeking faith formation or training will be able to create an online account, where a transcript will be established; allowing the learner to track progress and the learner’s transcript can be shared when necessary.  

We look forward to providing an update each month. Please continue to join us on the Road to Renewal and invite others as well.