Father Benjamin Fiore, SJ, has been appointed pastor of St. Michael Parish in downtown Buffalo. He returns to his second home after serving as president of Campion College in Regina, Saskatchewan, for the past eight years.
"It's really very good to be back here," he said. "I know the city, I know a lot of people, many people I taught at Canisius and a lot of people I've worked with there and in different organizations here in the community. It really is like coming home."
The New York City-born Jesuit taught at Canisius College in Buffalo for 25 years before being appointed to Campion. This is his first official parish position, although he did serve as a weekend assistant at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Depew for 20 years, while teaching.
The mission of the Jesuit-owned St. Michael's is mainly confessions, with liturgies and homilies, as well as the spiritual formation of people.
With seven Jesuit priests on staff, confessions take place several times each day. Parish priests from the diocese and even Ontario come to St. Michael's to help offer reconciliation.
The large staff of clergy allows for a rotating roster of celebrants for the 21 weekly Masses. Even if you attend every Sunday at 10 a.m., you would hear a different priest and get new perspectives and new ideas each week. Adoration takes place each day from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
"It's the center of Jesuit spirituality here in Western New York. That has to continue," Father Fiore said. "What I would like to see happen and which we are trying to do, little by little, is make the liturgies more in keeping with what the Vatican Council envisioned with music and participation of the congregation. I'd like to see us put more effort into welcoming people."
He would also like to see more adult education. He has started a Scripture study course on the Gospel of Mark, and hopes to draw people to St. Michael's who are not members of the parish. The parish is well known for its spiritual direction through Ignation exercises.
Since coming to St. Michael's last August, Father Fiore is enjoying being a pastor.
"It's a new challenge, a new kind of activity," he said. "I knew what the parish was like, although I had never worked here at all when I was at Canisius College. I know many of the people who are here because they had been at the college. I know the ministry. The ministry is pretty straight forward, so it's been good from that perspective. It was very well run and well organized under the former pastor, Father (Ronald) Sams, and the previous pastors before him, so there's no need for great changes or alterations of what goes on, because its been very effective."
Father Fiore has not forgotten his educational roots. He will teach Introduction to Religious Studies at Canisius and Latin at NativityMiguel Middle School, also in Buffalo.
"I like to support them in anyway possible, because that's really a great hope for kids who choose to go there. I think it should be supported as much as possible," he said.