Buffalo Diocese recommends merges, closures of 15 churches

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Diocese has recommended 15 churches across Erie County be closed or merged.

News 4 WIVB obtained the list at a meeting among church officials and parishioners at St. Anthony’s on Thursday night.

The diocese is currently going through a challenging period due to financial troubles from declining numbers as well as payouts to settle child sexual abuse cases.

You can see the full list below:

Family No. 20

Holy Spirit (Dakota Street): merge with St. Margaret (Hertel Avenue)

St. Mark (Woodward Avenue): merge with St. Margaret. School to remain.

St. Rose of Lima (Parker Avenue): merge with St. Margaret

All Saints (Chadduck Avenue): merge with Assumption (Amherst Street)

Family No. 21

St. Lawrence (E. Delavan Avenue): merge with Blessed Trinity (Leroy Avenue)

SS. Columba Brigid (Hickory Street): merge St. Stanislaus (Peckham Street)

Family No. 22

St. Anthony of Padua (Court Street): merge with St. Louis (Edward Street)

St. Michael (Washington Street): merge with St. Louis

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (O’Connell Street): merge with St. Louis

Family No. 23

Coronation of the BVM (Dewitt Street): merge with Assumption

Family No. 30

St. John Kanty (Swinburne Street): merge with St. Stanislaus

St. John Gualbert (Gualbert Avenue): merge with St. Stanislaus

Family No. 31

St. Martin of Tours (Abbott Road): merge with Our Lady of Charity (South Park Avenue). School to remain.

St. Thomas Aquinas (Abbott Road): merge with St. Teresa (Seneca Street)

Family No. 32

St. Bernard (Clinton Street): merge with Our Lady of Czestochowa (Willowlawn Parkway)

The first group of churches set to be closed or merged comes amidst announced plans by the diocese to cut approximately one-third of Western New York’s 160 parishes.

“This is a natural part of life, change unfortunately change can be difficult, there’s always hope that’s why we are a faith filled people,” said Rev. Bryan Zielenieski, with Vicar for Renewal.

The diocese has been under financial challenges, with declining numbers of both priests and parishioners, compounded by an October announcement that it will cost the diocese at least $100 million to settle nearly 900 cases of child sexual abuse. Nearly 600 of those cases involve clerics, some of them with multiple allegations against them.

Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher was not present at Thursday’s meeting.

Some parishes have already announced plans to close, including St. Lawrence in Buffalo and St. Andrew’s in Tonawanda. As it stands right now, 76% of churches have less than one baptism per month and marriages have decreased by 24%. Current trends also point to only having 38 priests available to break bread by 2040.

“In all of our recommendations were looking at the data of people of households, of sacraments, the finances of the parish itself. There was not taken into consideration resale value of properties,” Rev. Zielenieski said.

Buffalo’s churches have been organized in a family model since 2022 to help optimize resources, rotating masses and priests through nearby churches in “families” of three to six (a list of families can be seen by clicking here).

The diocese went through a similar process over 15 years ago, which led to the closure of over 70 worship sites across eight counties by 2011.

More churches are set to be closed or merged over the future weeks and months. The full list to cut down from 160 to 106 is set to be finalized by Sept. 1, with mergers beginning in October.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work 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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