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Parish Life

Bills fever sweeps Buffalo parish

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 A sea of red and blue fill the seats behind Blessed Sacrament School to watch the Bills play the Dolphins. The Buffalo parish invited parishioners to watch the game together to reunite the community.

“Any Bills fans out here today?” Father Joseph Porpiglia asked while looking at a sea of football jerseys and T-shirts bearing a charging Buffalo logo. “I didn’t know blue and red were liturgical colors.”

The casual dress at Buffalo’s Blessed Sacrament Parish was due to a Bills tailgate party held at the church grounds Sept. 19, as the Bills took on archrivals the Miami Dolphins. Father Porpiglia and the parish council wanted to use the game to re-energize the parish distressed by 18 months of Covid isolation. A picnic with hotdogs and hamburgers, and activities for the kids preceded the game, shown on a 13-foot video wall behind the school.

Father Joseph Porpiglia offers blessing for the Buffalo Bills before Sunday’s match against the Dolphins. The parish, located in the Elmwood Village, hosted a tailgate party to root for the Bills and reunite parishioners separated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was part of our parish council, part of parishioners coming forward and trying to do something to kick off our ‘Church on Fire’ series that we had to cancel due to Covid a year and a half ago, and try to re-energize and get people together again in a safe way,” Father Porpiglia explained. He saw the game as an opportunity to renew ourselves after “all that we have been through.”

Ideally, everyone could come back to Mass and other indoor parish activities without masks or other limitations. “I don’t see that happening right away. We need to still be cautious,” he said. “But, I would still encourage and people to come back to church and go forward in a healthy way as we continue to minster, continue to celebrate God’s good news through the Gospel and at Mass.”

Michael Pitek, president of the parish pastoral council, knew that something special had to happen to get new and old parishioners to gather again. And it worked. Fifty-four people volunteered to set up and serve food. Half of those volunteers were young people from Nardin Academy, Canisius High School and Blessed Sacrament’s confirmation class.

The Elmwood Village parish has 10 months of programming planned in an attempt to reach out and connect with all people in the area.

“We’re trying to have a broad-based program of learning about God, having spiritual experiences with God, loving God through social interaction with others such as this, and doing works of mercy,” Pitek said.

They are bringing back the “Church on Fire” speakers series that had to be canceled last year. Speakers include Eileen Warner and Deacon William Hynes this Sunday, Sept. 26, who will speak on “The Laity and Vatican II: Go Forth and Announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking” and St. Bonaventure University President Emeritus Sister Margaret Carney, OSF, will speak this spring.

The rest of the year will offer something for everyone.

Scott Horrigan plays a game of catch with his son, Billy, at the Blessed Sacrament Tailgate Picnic on Sept. 19. The parish offered games and food before watching the Bills play on a giant video screen. (Photos by Patrick J. Buechi)

“They’re meant specifically for all ages, gender, the conservative Catholic, the progressive Catholic, and different ethnic groups. We are here in an abundant, vibrant community surrounded by people of need. And we’ve got to reach out,” Pitek said. “We do have parishioners who are traditional conservative. We’re having exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We’re having adoration, benediction. We’re having the rosary as a family. We have a Bible study class for five weeks on the Mass. We have to give opportunity for all to engage. We don’t know what’s going to engage everyone, but if you don’t have broadband and thoughtful programing, what are they coming to?”

“We’re getting a reputation of being a really warm parish,” Pitek said.

During the past 18 months, when churches were seeing huge drops in attendance, Blessed Sacrament welcomed 20 new families.

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