Buffalo Mass Mob, the popular social media-driven campaign that draws crowds to Buffalo's oldest churches every few months, is set to descend upon St. Luke's Mission of Mercy Sunday afternoon.
St. Luke's Mission of Mercy began in 1994 when Amy Betros and Norm Paolini took over the closed church building to provide ministry to the poor and disadvantaged. Sunday's Mass will begin at 1 p.m., and visitors are asked to bring donations of winter clothing for St. Luke's "Code Blue" program that helps give people warmth during the cold winter months. Tours of the facility will be available after the Mass.
The impact of St. Luke's has been felt across the Diocese of Buffalo. Students of St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore recently honored Paolini during a service presented by the second-graders.
The prayer service focused on the reasons to be thankful for the five components of "mercy" including welcoming, loving, including, praying and forgiving.
Paolini was honored for his passionate faith which has been a tremendous inspiration to the St. John's students over the past two decades. Paolini retired from his career as a research scientist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo to open St. Luke's Mission of Mercy which serves people in the City of Buffalo and beyond. While travelling on a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal, with Bishop Edward M. Grosz in the early 1990s, the seeds of St. Luke's were planted. Two years later, the facility opened its doors. For more than 20 years St. Luke's Mission of Mercy has been helping others.
Paolini shares special bonds with St. John the Baptist School. His wife, Linda, taught at the school for many years before leaving to teach at the newly established school at the mission. Additionally, St. John's junior high students provide hands-on assistance at the mission, including assisting with food and toy drives and summer camps. Throughout the years, the school has also engaged in other drives to assist the mission. Two of the Paolini grandchildren attend St. John's School.
Grandchildren Olivia and Josh Werrington spoke at the prayer service about their grandfather and his work.
"St. Luke's has helped our St. John's students grow closer to God, too," Olivia said. "Our seventh- and eighth-graders go to St. Luke's to help them pack food and goods at Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. Although our students help St. Luke's, our students always come back with blessings of grace and mercy from what they experience."
Principal Cynthia Jacobs was happy to have Paolini at the service, as well as his wife and several of his children and grandchildren.
"'Have Mercy' is our school's liturgical theme for the school year and admittedly, it could be vague for students," Jacobs said. "However, providing real examples of real people who are living Christ's command to be loving, prayerful, inclusive individuals brings our faith to life. What better example of living one's faith than Norm Paolini and his family, and what they've established with St. Luke's Mission of Mercy. Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am to have his example of being a true Catholic for my students."
Buffalo Mass Mob organizer Christopher Byrd is pleased to bring a crowd to St. Luke's Mission of Mercy, according to their announcement on the Mass Mob website.
"As the Catholic Church begins its year of mercy, Buffalo Mass Mob thought bringing our group to St. Luke's Mission of Mercy was an appropriate way to begin 2016 for our group and help draw attention and support to the inspirational works of mercy going on at St. Luke's," he said.