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  • News 4 Buffalo

    Where will the ministries go? Faithful worried amid more recommended closures

    By Dillon Morello,


    DUNKIRK, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Tuesday evening, the Buffalo Catholic Diocese announced the recommended closure or merging of St. Anthony, Our Lady of Loretto, St. Mary, along with four other churches and six separate worship sites in the Southern Tier West Vicariate.

    Vicor for Renewal, Father Bryan Zielenieski, said breaking the news to parish families doesn’t get easier.

    “You’re talking about people’s spiritual lives,” he said. “This does not get any easier anytime and it hits people differently in each of the different areas of our diocese.”

    Tonight’s recommendations now bring the total number of churches to either merge or close to 40. Churches have until July 15 to make a counter proposal.

    “It’s got a rich history and of course we need to make sure we preserve the history and that there’s a future in this part of our diocese as well and that we are concerned of the Catholic presence throughout all eight counties in Western New York,” Zielenieski said.

    Across the diocese, parishioners News 4 has spoken with said they are concerned that a majority of the churches recommended to close have daycares and ministry services, like food pantries.

    “They give us so little time to prepare, you know, any kind of alternative,” parishioner Glenn Morlock said. “We’re all kind of in that position. We’d love to keep our church open and we think we can do that financially, but they have to give us an opportunity to do that.”

    This is also a concern Fillmore District Buffalo Common Council Member Mitch Nowakowski shares.

    “These churches do more than just provide services,” Nowakowski said. “They are after school programs. They are soup kitchens. I’m a confirmed Catholic as well and this is the city of Buffalo, this is western New York, and so these churches provide more than just services. They really are our culture, identity.”

    Nowakowski said the diocese needs to do more to ensure the surrounding communities aren’t hurt by these closings. He suggested revamping some of the locations and providing “outreach potential and opportunities.”

    “We really have to stand up as a community and push back against the diocese, that they have a moral and social responsibility to the neighborhoods that these churches are in,“ he said.

    Parishioner Patrick Gorman told News 4 that the parishioners pay for the bills themselves and do not depend on the diocese for anything.

    “We have a growing population,” Gorman said. “It’s disheartening that you want to destroy an entire neighborhood.”

    “You are a house of worship, you are not taxed, so we shouldn’t really be looking at this as a business decision,” Nowakowski said. “We need to be looking at this as a social decision.”

    There are three meetings left. The next one is on Wednesday and will discuss the Genesee Wyoming Vicariate at St. Joachim and Anne Church.

    To view a full list of recommended closings, click here. To see News 4’s full coverage of the Buffalo Diocese restructuring, click here.

    Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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