Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Cheektowaga celebrates centennial
Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Cheektowaga began in humble settings, in a room above a grocery store. One hundred years later, it remains a place of worship that has overcome many obstacles in its century of existence.
A special anniversary Mass was held Oct. 8 at the church, which was officially established on Dec. 10, 1922, in a hall above a grocery store, in the home of a couple identified by church historians as Mr. and Mrs. I. Krawczyk.
“The past 100 years, Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish has been one of challenge and change. We would like to express our gratitude to those who laid the groundwork for our parish,” said Timothy Halas, the parish council president, who spoke briefly of the parish’s history before the start of Mass.
The church was established by Father Francis Guzy, who was commissioned to organize a new parish for the local Polish community. Soon after the Krawczyks allowed used of their space for Masses, Father Guzy acquired property at Clinton Street and Willowbrook Avenue, where a horse stable was converted into a church and two classrooms. Masses were held there beginning on Easter Sunday in 1923. Another building was converted into a convent.
A combination church-school building was next, in 1928. The current building where Our Lady of Czestochowa Church exists was completed and opened in 1973.
“But that’s the physical church. The spirituality of our parishioners of the state community is what we celebrate today,” Halas said. “Our parish has been blessed with many outstanding pastors, priests, nuns, religious and laity. The parish would not have become the resilient religious community it is today without the tireless work of these dedicated and faithful people. We enjoy the fruits of their work today, and because of their efforts, we are equipped to face the challenges of tomorrow.”
The parish’s population and student body both peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Approximately 700 families were registered with the church, while up to 350 students were enrolled in the school. Both numbers began decreasing in the late 1960s.
Some families moved out of the city into the suburbs by the late 1960s. Church historians suggest another factor was the construction of the New York State Thruway, which cut through the parish neighborhood, affecting parish registration.
The school, facing shrinking enrollment in the years to follow, closed in 2003.
But yet, the parish has persevered. Bishop Michael W. Fisher, during his homily, acknowledged the parish’s role serving families over multiple generations.
“In 100 years, your fathers and your mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, friends, and neighbors have gone through births, deaths, weddings and funerals, baptisms, confirmations, First Holy Communions. Each of these events are measured in the time, in the history of the people of this parish, in our community here in the Diocese of Buffalo,” the bishop said. “Today in our Mass, we rejoice in 100 years of faith and struggle to continue the mission of our Lord in the proclamation of the Good News, celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the education of our children so that they may be, and continue to be, productive citizens and a holy people of God.”
Our Lady of Czestochowa’s Mass schedule includes one held Sundays at 10 a.m. in Polish. A century after it was founded, the parish remains fueled by Polish heritage. Bishop Fisher acknowledged this, and the Polish community’s contribution to the “mosaic” of the Buffalo-area community. He noted that the same desire for freedom and opportunity is in the hearts of people who are coming to Buffalo today, from other parts of the world.
The weekend’s Gospel focused on thankfulness, recalling the story of Jesus healing 10 lepers, with only one returning to offer thanks.
“We are thankful, certainly for the legacy in the history that they have presented to us, but this is our time,” he said. “This is our time to shine in our faith, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. To let the world know that it will not be defeated by evil and hate, but by love in the Good News of the Risen Lord. God bless you and congratulations on 100 years of our Catholic faith, here at Our Lady of Czestochowa.”