East Side celebration recognizes two special anniversaries
The East Side of Buffalo saw some celebrations this weekend as St. Adalbert Church turned 137 and its neighbor, Mother Teresa Home, observed its seventh anniversary. A joint Mass took place at St. Adalbert’s on Aug. 26.
St. Adalbert’s was born out of a need for another worship space for the growing Polish population. In 1886, Polish immigrants purchased a large tract of land bounded by Stanislaus, Rother and Sycamore streets and the New York City Railroad. Within three days, a small chapel was built by parishioners. This second Polish parish in the city of Buffalo was incorporated that year as St. Adalbert, and groundbreaking took place for a combination church and school. When the new building was completed a year later, the chapel became the convent for the Felician Sisters. However, when the new building burned in 1889, the chapel was again called into service as the parish church.
A new church was soon built and its design was a combination of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. The church was dedicated on July 12, 1891.
In 1901, a rectory was built and five years later the parish school building, with convent, opened. There were 900 students in the school. In 1907, St. Adalbert Parish was granted the privilege of being affiliated with St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Population shifts and a changing economy in the 1970s and 1980s had a significant impact on the Polish population in East Buffalo. Parish registration and school enrollment declined. The school closed in June 1985, but within 24 hours, the Response to Love Center was created. The center still stands, addressing the religious and social needs of the neighborhood population.
When the diocese undertook pastoral restructuring between 2005 and 2008, St. Adalbert Parish merged with St. John Kanty Parish and became an oratory reserved for limited use.
In 2016, the rectory of St. Adalbert Parish began a new life as the Mother Teresa Home, providing a safe and stable home for women who have experienced or been exposed to pressure in regards to their pregnancy. Over the past seven years, the staff has seen over 60 women receive an education, fight addictions, and learn the life skills needed to raise their children.
Mother Teresa Home has received people from across the country and, last Christmas, had a guest from Hungary.
At the beginning of Mass, Father Cole Webster offered a cheery greeting of “Good evening everybody. It’s wonderful to see you all, and come together into the household of God.”
He commented on seeing members of Buffalo’s Polonia from different parishes in attendance. St. Adalbert’s is part of Family #30, which consists of St. Stanislaus, Corpus Christi, St. John Kanty, St. John Gualbert, St. Katherine Drexell. The day was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Czestochowa, patron of Poland, as well as the birthday of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The Gospel reading for the day (Mt 16:13-20) referenced being given the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” In his homily, Father Webster recalled getting his first car as a teen. He knew holding the keys was a responsibility. Now as pastor of five parishes, he said, “I’ve never had so many keys in my life.”
Cheryl Calire, director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities which oversees the Mother Teresa Home, thanked those who support the home with their funds and their time. She gave a certificate of appreciation to the Knights of Columbus – Father Justin Council and the Justinettes.
“Remember, whatever you are doing today, that’s great. Take it up one more notch and you’d be surprised at what you can do,” she said to the nearly full church.
St. Adalbert currently holds four Masses a year. Last October, the Buffalo Common Council designated the church as a local landmark.