Father Ronald P. Sajdak will be embarking on what he calls an "exciting venture."
Bishop Richard J. Malone has announced that, on July 30, Father Sajdak will become pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Harris Hill, while maintaining his position as pastor at St. Martin de Porres and St. Lawrence, both in Buffalo. Msgr. Frederick D. Leising, the former pastor, retired April 6 and Msgr. W. Jerome Sullivan is serving as the parish's temporary administrator.
"This is an unusual and creative arrangement which has great potential," Bishop Malone said. "Positioning Father Sajdak as the spiritual leaders of these three parishes will allow the faith lives of parishioners to be enhanced in ways many may have never imagined. It also offers new evangelization opportunities that can be replicated in many of our parishes."
"I think this opportunity, with Nativity, St. Martin de Porres and St. Lawrence, is unique in its timing and has incredible potential," Father Sajdak said.
St. Martin de Porres and St. Lawrence both have had sister parish relationships with Nativity. Parishioners from Nativity have assisted in the food pantry at St. Lawrence; Nativity and St. Martin held a joint concert with their choirs.
Nativity has offered guidance and funding for adults working with youth in the city parishes and they've often assisted some students to attend the annual youth convention. But, as Father Sajdak explained, the relationship can be strengthened.
"There's often the question, on the part of all involved, 'What do the city parishes have to contribute to a parish that has more resources than they do?' The way I'd like to think about that," he said, "is that the city parishes have a pastor they may be willing to share. I look at this as a way of the two parishes who share me now saying, 'we will share what we have.' And, I'm willing, as pastor, to take on that responsibility, however not alone."
The issue of logistics and workload became the topic of discussion with the pastoral staff of all three parishes and the result was to use a team concept. Father Sajdak, who is also a member of the sub-committee for international clergy looking for placement in the Diocese of Buffalo, will be pastor of all three parishes and two international priests will serve as parochial vicars in all three parishes.
This model is in use currently on Buffalo's West Side where an order priest, Father Quilin Bouzi, OMI, is pastor of Holy Angels, Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope parishes. Two additional priests from the missionary society serve as parochial vicars. In the Nativity situation, Father Sajdak explained, this would be the first time the model would be taken across vicariate lines.
"We would be building on a sister parish relationship that has begun already and taking it a little farther," he said. "And, this model offers the possibility for two international clergy members to have a rather wide experience of ministry. You're with the African-American and African community at St. Martin's, you're with a transitional urban community at St. Lawrence, and you're with the suburban community at Nativity, all at the same time. It will provide all the clergy with a rich ministerial experience."
Father Sajdak described that this parish organizational structure can also help to train new clergy for city ministries and the uniqueness of city ministry.
"We're called on, as city pastors," he said, "to be involved in things that people in the suburbs don't think about all the time, like depressed neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, failing schools, as well as street violence. We're also called on to give hope to the community."
The details of which priests will be named parochial vicars and where the priests will live will be determined at a later date.
Father Sajdak, a native of Sloan, began his work at St. Martin de Porres in 2002, when Bishop Henry J. Mansell, appointed him to his first pastorate. His previous assignments were as parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist, Buffalo, and at St. Bernadette Parish, Orchard Park.
In 2010, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec named him director of the Office of the Propagation of the Faith. The mission of that office is to assist the people of the diocese, young and old, to develop an authentic missionary spirit by encouraging the support of missionaries throughout the world with prayers and sacrifice, assisting them financially and welcoming them on visits home. A successor to Father Sajdak in the Office of the Propagation of Faith will be named soon.
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located on the border of Williamsville and Clarence and has 2,200 registered families. St. Lawrence and St. Martin de Porres have approximately 600 families combined.