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Catholic Life Features

Curé of Ars honors Father Seil and St. Vincent de Paul Society


The support of vocations is essential to the life of any Catholic diocese. Those involved in vocations, Catholic education and parish life, showed their support on Oct. 5 at the annual Curé of Ars Award Dinner held at Salvatore’s in Depew.

Mark Zirnheld, CEO of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Western New York accepts the Curé of Ars Award from Bishop Michael W. Fisher. The award recognized the St. Vincent de Paul Society for its work in healing people in need. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

“The support of vocations is essential, and it’s an essential part of the Renewal,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher. “We’ve spoken a lot about the Renewal bringing families together. But, the most important part of the Renewal is a spiritual renewal. Our diocese is in need of continual renewal, most importantly, spiritual, that we embrace that mission that Jesus Christ has given us, that mission to spread the Good News of the Gospel.”

The Curé of Ars dinner serves as an evening of celebration and support for the ministry of formation of priests, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers.

“I have met seminarians, deacons and lay leaders all in formation, and have conducted interviews with many of them. Some of the stories of their journeys are truly amazing; stories that will have a lifelong lasting impression,” said Nancy Gugino, executive director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo which organized the event.

The annual event honored Father Paul D. Seil and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Father Seil has served as a dedicated priest for 33 years. He currently serves as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Buffalo and as chaplain for the Buffalo Fire Department. As a priest, he served at St. Paul Parish in Kenmore, Our Lady of the Rosary in Niagara Falls, St. Amelia’s in Tonawanda, Holy Spirit in Buffalo, St. Lawrence Parish in Buffalo, and St. Bernadette Parish in Orchard Park.

Father Paul D. Seil, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Buffalo and chaplain for the Buffalo Fire Department, tells of his experience at the Jefferson Avenue Tops following a racially-motivated shooting. His work as a pastor and chaplain earned him the Curé of Ars Award, presented at Salvatore’s on Oct. 5. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

As a chaplain he has become a regular fixture of the Jefferson Avenue Tops Market where he was one of the first people on the scene after a racially-motivated May 14 shooting that killed 10 people and wounded three others.

Father Seil recalled receiving word over his police scanner that one person had died at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue, then two, then three.

“When I got there, there were three people outside covered with sheets with blood. Their hands sticking out from the sheets. I’ve seen this before, but never to this magnitude. I blessed the bodies with holy water, said the Memorare, which was my father’s favorite prayer, then began a domino effect that continued to envelop this community,” he said. “I felt grateful, in one sense, that I was able to be present to so many people that day and the following days.”

In a humorous and self-effacing commentary, Father Seil thanked his former parishioners from St. Bernadette’s for attending even though one parishioner started a petition to have him removed at the beginning of his 13 years at the Orchard Park parish.

Along with those present, he thanked his mentor, Msgr. Rupert Wright, and the crew of Daybreak TV Productions, which produced “Real to Reel” and “Our Daily Bread,” which he hosted.

“I remember all those people who have touched my life,” he said.

Mark Zirnheld, CEO of Buffalo’s chapter of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, accepted the award on behalf of the society, which celebrates 175 years in Western New York.

The society was founded in France in 1833 by two college classmates witnessing an attack on the Church, a great divide between rich and poor, and political unrest infused in everyday events.

“Indifference to simple human kindness (was) the order of the day,” said Zirnheld. “Sounds a little familiar.

The Curé of Ars Award Dinner drew a large crowd who show their support for local seminarians. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

Bishop John Timon, who had witnessed the works of the society in Paris, brought it to Buffalo at the early stages of the formation of the diocese.

 “The conditions that were responsible for the formation of the society seem to be evident in our world currently. Fortunately, also evident are the gifts of the grace from God – faith, hope and charity,” Zirnheld said.

“Today more than ever, charity needs to be more than a slogan or a hashtag. The members of the society of St. Vincent de Paul show us all, the need to evidence charity in every place we go, with everyone we encounter, and whatever we do, we do this by embracing empathy and are own humanity,” he concluded.

Zirnheld suggests we live by the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.


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