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St. Casimir Parish - Buffalo NY
A parish history from the 1975 Jubilee Book
Since its inception, St. Casimir's has been permeated with a spirit of industrious zeal and dedicated fervor. Consequently, for 85 years the successful mingling of the ideals of a cohesive society with those of a religious oriented community has produced a compatible entity vibrantly responsive to the needs and wishes of the parishioners who comprise St. Casimir Parish. A dedication to the service of worshipping God and of caring for their fellow man has been the guiding principle characterizing the past accomplishments of St. Casimir Parish, Buffalo, New York.
The proud history of St. Casimir's begins in the 1880's when a group of hard working Polish immigrants responding to the advantageous industrial employment opportunities found on Cable, Weimar and Gorski Streets decided to settle with their families in that area and begin life anew in their adopted home. Experiencing the usual obstacles faced by those embarking on a new life, these early settlers had a resiliency which was evident in their attempt not only to fulfill the temporal needs of their families but also to tend to their spiritual needs and obligations.
About forty families under the leadership of Teofil Sittniewski presented their petition for spiritual assistance to His Excellency Bishop Stephen Ryan. Included among these early founders of the parish were: Joseph Labunski, Teofil Strzelecki, Konstanty Grzendzieki, Stefan Wisniewski, Jan Wisniewski, Teofil Kajtanowski, Walenty Poturalski, Jan Horwat, Jan Zolciak, Fred Leitch, Jan Wojcik, Franciszek Klarowski, Marja Wisniewski-Melka, Stanislaw Splett, Wojcieich Lewandowski, Jan Czubaj, Jan Drzewucki, Stanislaw Kominarek, and the families of Piotrowski, Zalikowski, Nowicki, Sittniewski, Rudzinski, Maciejewski, Szczublewski and Gardon.
In answer to the petition the Bishop provided a series of commuting priests who were to come for Sunday obligations of Mass as well as emergency services to whom the dedicated founders of the parish were grateful. Among the priests who administered to the affairs of this new parish in its first years were: Rev. John Pitass, Rev. Jacob Wojcik, Rev. R. Zaleski, Rev. Thomas Flaczek, Rev. Francis Krzesniak and Rev. Valentine Swinarski.
Finally in 1890 the prayers of the early founders of St. Casimir's were answered. Bishop Ryan appointed a full-time pastor to minister to the community. Reverend E. Wider was commissioned to undertake the task of organizing this group of Catholic Families under the mantle of a parish.
The construction of a parish center, where the seed of St. Casimir's could nestle in a fertile surrounding, was of paramount importance to Father Wider. His dream was realized when the construction of a combination church, school and rectory was initiated on a stretch of land donated by City Judge Daniel J. Kenefick, on Casimir and Weimar Streets.
This first structure was wide and long and constructed of wood at a cost to the parish of $12,000. It was affectionately referred to as "Noah's Ark". On November 16, 1890, a Solemn High Mass was celebrated to officially commemorate the genesis of St. Casimir Church.
Following the transfer of Father Wider to Pennsylvania in 1891, the pastorate of St. Casimir's was assumed for brief periods of time by Rev. Francis Krzesniak, Rev. J. Gajduszka, Rev. Valentine Swiniarski, Rev. J. Siupek, and Rev. Michael Dyminski. In this span of less than ten years, the parish experienced a period of vital growth with a temporal and spiritual maturation resulting in a tenacious and cohesive entity.
The appointment of Reverend Francis Kasprzak to this church in 1900 ushered in a new chapter in the aggrandizement of St. Casimir's. The youth and exuberance of Rev. Kasprzak was injected into the mainstream of thought throughout the parish. St. Casimir's had triumphantly overcome the embryonic stage of development. Equipped with this sturdy foundation the church displayed an outlook of self-confidence sufficient to meet the demands of a new century. It was during this period that the whole of the Diocese of Buffalo would become aware of the parish of St. Casimir. Father Kasprzak's adeptness at leadership would provide the impetus necessary to achieve this goal.
Residential construction reflected the increase in the demographic statistics of the parish. With the help of a great deal of financial planning and sacrificing, many of the residents of the community had become homeowners, Their pride of community was reflected in their expectations for St. Casimir's, Together with his parishioners, Father Kasprzak saw the construction of an addition to the parish building to accommodate an influx of new parishioners and also the building of a suitable residence for the priests.
During this same time the addition of an associate pastor reflected the surge of growth that the parish was experiencing. In 1903, the congregation totaled 1,200 members or about 250 families and the parish school had 93 pupils taught by two lay teachers, Mr. F. Mazurowski and Mr. Sienkiewicz. Recognizing the importance of a Catholic education for the youth of his flock, Father Kasprzak secured the services of the Felician Sisters as instructors in the school. In 1904, two sisters commuted daily from the Provincial Motherhouse to St. Casimir's. However, this lasted only until 1905 when with the completion of the new rectory, the original priests' quarters were converted into a convent for the sisters.
With the increasing population the pastor commenced plans for a combination school and church facility. By 1906 a three-story building project was begun with the lower floor housing the church, the second floor the seven classroom school and the third floor a parish hall. This structure was completed at a cost of $78,000 and dedication ceremonies were held on November 24, 1908.
As was typical of the amicable spirit of community service that pervaded our parish at this time, it is recorded that the parishioners of St. Bernard's Church used St. Casimir's Church to celebrate 9 o'clock Mass on Sundays from 1903 until 1905 when their own house of worship was completed.
After eleven successful years at St. Casimir's, Father Kasprzak was transferred to Transfiguration Parish in Buffalo, New York. But the spirit of cooperation and the desire to advance St. Casimir's which he had fostered continued.
The next pastor, Rev. Thomas Stabenau, Ph. D was influential in developing a community beautification program for the parish. Unfortunately until this time growth in the area had been quite haphazard. Therefore Father Stabenau undertook the task of improving the surrounding neighborhood. One of his major projects was securing the City of Buffalo's interest in a street paving program. The pastor's sincere interest in the well-being of his parishioners instilled even more vigor into the community.
Upon the transfer of Rev. Stabenau in 1913 to Holy Trinity Parish in Niagara Falls, Rev. Bartholomew Swinko spent his last two years administering to the needs of St. Casimir's. Then after a two-month assignment in 1915, which brought Rev. Bernard Bentkowski briefly to St. Casimir, the Chancery made an appointment that was to influence the progress of St. Casimir's Parish for the next forty years. Rev. Anthony Majewski was appointed pastor by Rev. Msgr. Nelson Baker on June 23, 1915 who was serving as administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo following the death of Bishop Carl Colton.
The first important order of business that Reverend Majewski undertook was the paving of Weimar, Casimir and Cable Streets. Without these streets the neighborhood's growth would have been severely curtailed. To expedite matters, Rev. Majewski contacted the appropriate public agencies communicating his plea to provide the parishioners convenient access routes to all parIsh buildings.
When this street construction was completed his next project was the partial demolition of the old parish structure, long vacant, which detracted from the beauty of the general parish compound. Once the decision was made to demolish a part of this structure, the lumber was sold to the parishioners and the portion left standing was remodeled into a school annex adding four more classrooms to the seven already existing, thus keeping pace with an expanding school enrollment.
The third plan of action of Rev. Majewski was to landscape church grounds, lay sidewalks, pull up old, dried trees and provide the school children with a pleasing play area.
With the help and cooperation of the parishioners, the pastor's Parish improvement program was completed much to the delight and approval of all parishioners, and long-awaited church building repairs were next on his agenda. These consisted of roof repairs, installation of sewers, painting of the church interior and remodeling a livestock barn into a garage for the priest. The old school, which had been allowed to fall into disrepair, also benefited from this renovation drive, 'as did the church itself. The interior was again painted, and for the first time in the history of St. Casimir an organ was installed to add richness to the religious experience of the parishioners. The end result of all these programs was an increased valuation placed on the real estate of the area. The Parish of St. Casimir had become an attractive neighborhood attracting many new families to the community.
In concert with the material improvements, spiritual growth and development of the parish also received Father Majewski's serious attention. With his encouragement, programs of secular education and spiritual enrichment were initiated for the youth of the parish. Under his leadership, Father Majewski introduced a school library to enhance the educational development of the "total child" and he introduced "Regents Examinations" into the school's program.
Pupil enrollment at St. Casimir's continued in an upward trend. And once again, as in times past, the existing buildings did not meet the growing academic needs of the students. As a temporary solution to this problem, the third floor parish hall was divided into classrooms. But with the enrollment surpassing 1,000 students, a major building program had to be in the near future for St. Casimir's.
With pupil enrollment increasing, so did the number of nuns on the faculty and a new convent too was necessary to house the sisters. Plans were drawn and submitted to the diocesan office for the construction of a convent in 1924. By the end of that year, twenty nuns were suitably housed in a convent for which the total cost of construction and furnishings was $50,000.
Once the church grounds were put in order, Reverend Majewski contacted the Commissioner of Public Works, to again improve existing streets and to provide additional ones for the area. Because of the drowning of several children he was influential in initiating the flood control program for the Buffalo River, solving a problem that had been a nemesis for the St. Casimir community for quite some time.
The year 1926 proved to be monumental in the history of St. Casimir's. It was during that year that the chancery, recognizing the potential of St. Casimir's, instructed the parish to consider the construction of a permanent church.
Rev. Majewski took a very personal interest in the architectural designs for this new church. Discontented with customary church designs, he desired a "one of a kind" edifice which would be inspirational to the parishioners and would become the pride of the diocese. Rev. Majewski's plans were influenced by churches he had seen during his European travels. He had in 1923, visited Europe and the Near East for the purpose of studying the magnificent beauty of the churches there and to bring back to Buffalo ideas which he intended to incorporate in the construction of St. Casimir's Church.
The new church was dedicated on May 5, 1929 with His Excellency Bishop William Turner presiding.
This new church building provided the parishioners with a magnificent place of worship while the old church also proved to be of great benefit to the people for within it, additional classrooms were constructed to overcome the lack of schoolroom space.
Even the financial burdens during the Depression of the 1930's did not dampen the parishioners zeal to ease the parish's financial obligations with a new church and a remodeled school.
The achievement of these monumental tasks allowed the parishioners of the 1940's and 1950's to not only concentrate on the internal affairs of their church such as celebrating the parish's fiftieth anniversary on October 30, 1940 but also on the whirlwind of events of a tumultuous world. But even though St. Casimir's had matured into an institution with an awesome church structure and a notable educational facility and had deservingly acquired an honorable position among the parishes in the Buffalo diocese, she would not be content to rest on her past laurels.
On April 14, 1955 an era sadly ended in the annals of St. Casimir's. The forty-year pastorate at St. Casimir's had drawn to a close. The epithet of Rev. Majewski for the parish that he so diligently served, was certainly the continuation of his vital and unwavering faith in St. Casimir's ability to achieve.
A stabilization period for St. Casimir's was the state of affairs for the parish during the pastorship of her next two ministers. Rev. Msgr. John Paul served St. Casimir's from 1955 to 1959. He was responsible for initiating the construction of the present rectory, although completion of this structure was accomplished after his death in 1959. Msgr. Paul was also deeply interested in the teenaged youth of the parish and in response to this interest he assisted Fr. Francis Swiatkowski in the reorganization of the Catholic Youth Organization.
Msgr. Paul's pastorate was followed by Rev. Bronislaus Majerowski whose term lasted from 1959 to 1972. During that time, the constant need for repairs of the parish buildings kept the interest of the pastor and parishioners of Saint Casimir's high. Remodeling, repairing and repainting were a necessary undertaking to maintain the image of the parish. The financial obligations of the parish also required the attention of Rev. Majerowski. Under his leadership the reduction of parish debts involved in the construction of the church and school buildings became a reality.
Since 1972, St. Casimir's has been enjoying a renew2d surge of spiritual and physical growth and expansion under the guidance of Rev. Msgr. Edward L. Kazmierczak. Upon his transfer from St. Valentine's Parish in January 1972, Msgr. Kazmierczak's foresighted decision making capabilities combined with his sincere devotion to St. Casimir's, has resulted in the challenge of a number of events of monumental importance to the essence that is St. Casimir's.
Of foremost concern to Msgr. Kazmierczak has been the fulfilling of the spiritual obligations and need of St. Casimir's parishioners. Msgr. Kazmierczak's interest in the youth of the parish has been nurturing values necessary to mirror the image of an exemplary Catholic life style in a modern society. In keeping with this ideal, the children of the parish have been encouraged to prosper from the many gifts and graces afforded them through attendance at the celebration of daily Mass and the frequent reception of the sacraments. In a time when religious observance and training have fallen into neglect, St. Casimir's has been spared this ignorant infliction.
Liturgical changes initiated by Father Majerowski were expanded to reflect significantly in the lives of the parishioners. Their adherence to and acceptance of the exemplary doctrines of Vatican II have been manifested in the increasing attendance at the religious services, thus allowing the parishioners to be the recipients of the many graces found in the faith.
All of Msgr. Kazmierczak's work and enthusiasm is reflected in the attitude of the parishioners today. In the last few years reception of the Holy Eucharist has doubled along with an increased membership in the Church's choir thus illustrating the parishioners deep desire to actively proclaim the glory of their God.
Man's innate pursuit of the purest form of devotional fervor is perhaps best expressed in the composition and performance of his music. St. Casimir's has been fortunate to be the recipient of a heightened interest in liturgical music. Under the talented guidance of Mr. Thaddeus Polowy, Polish and English musical traditions were aptly incorporated into the total liturgical service of St. Casimir's. Since Mr. Polowy's tragic death in an automobile accident, the post of Director of Music Liturgy has been held by Mr. Hans Stock. Through his musical expertise, a degree of proficiency in the realm of instrumental and choral compositions of the world's musical masters has been attained in St. Casimir's. The renovation of the organ, costing $20,000, has also intensified the solemnity of the Parish's liturgical rites. Msgr. Kazmierczak's awareness of the importance of music in the liturgy has led to his active encouragement of the choir's musical endeavors. The knowledge of this encouragement has been the motivating force to stimulate the additional pursuit of increased sophistication in the field of church music.
The recent addition of devotion to St. Anne de Beaupre, the Grandmother of Our Lord, has resulted in near capacity attendance at this annual pilgrimage.
Physical changes in the church structures are also evidence of the continuing spiritual awareness. The rearrangement of existing and the acquisition of new statuary has been recent development in the church. In the sanctuary, the statues of Sacred Heart and the Blessed Mother have been relocated from the side altar shrines to grace the main altar, while statues of St. Joseph and St. Ann reside in places of honor at the side altars in the nave of the Church.
For decades, the passageways of this "house of learning" had been saturated with vivid memories for all those who had filled its halls, and with the fall of each section many memories were rekindled. An unfortunate incident, though, shaded the fond remembrances. On the fourth level of the school building was cradled a 11,000-lb., 32" by 37" bell valued at $8,000, which had tolled for close to sixty years. This herald had beckoned parishioners to church services and its echoing tones had marked the passing of time for the whole Clinton Street area. This bell was to be laid to rest in a place of honor in a grotto to be built on the grounds of the old school, but to the dismay of the parishioners on the day set aside for its removal, the bell's absence was discovered. Its whereabouts are to this day still a mystery.
The tradition-laden legacy that St. Casimir's has bequeathed future generations is a result of its unwavering dedication to the preservation of the God-given gift, "life".
For 85 years this "pursuit of life" has delineated every breath and waking hour of the parish's existence, In recalling a proud past, in assisting in a vivacious present and in evoking God's blessing on a hope-filled future, the parishioners of St. Casimir's Parish have resolved to uphold that spirit which is uniquely theirs. Stemming from traditions of successful mingling of community service and religious fulfillment, our hopes for the future will most assuredly be fulfilled.
HISTORICAL INFORMATIONFirst Baptism
October 6, 1890
Rev. R. W. Zaleski
January 8, 1901
Rev. F. Krzesniak
November 6, 1892
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Last Updated on October 19, 2011