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.”