Catholic Charities of Buffalo celebrated the opening of its new Health Care Center on Buffalo's West Side with a dedication and blessing. Designed to be a "one-stop shop" for refugees, the center will offer primary medical, dental and educational resources in the former Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, school and rectory on Herkimer Street.
The Nov. 16 opening welcomed partners, clergy and concerned citizens who have worked with refugees.
"The completion of the Health Care Center is the realization of a dream several years in the making, and we are thrilled to be able to share it with the community, and most importantly to expand services on site tor refugees," said Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.
The clinic provides primary medical and dental care for refugees who are arriving through Catholic Charities and other resettlement agencies. Mobile Primary Care and Baker Victory Dental Services will operate in the former church.
"We are grateful to provide this medical and dental service to the newcomers in our country but also to anyone in the neighborhood," said Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities.
Adult education in English and practical skills training, such as operating household appliances, will take place in the former school with help from the Buffalo public school system. The former rectory now holds the offices of case managers, employment counselors, volunteer coordinators and financial assistance managers.
President-elect Donald Trump has called for immigration reform that will serve the best interests of America and its workers. This may close the doors to many refugees who are fleeing their homelands due to war or political upheaval. Walczyk addressed the issue by promising to continue to support others and act in solidarity with refugees and immigrants.
"We ask our government leaders, and all of you as people of good will to join with us in working with all who struggle for a better life, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, and to respect the dignity of all as a long-standing American tradition," he said.
Catholic Charities resettles 600 refugees annually and provides services to another 400 immigrants. Over 250 students learn English as a second language at the health center.
Walczyk thanked all the partners involved in the project including, the John R. Oishei Foundation, Cummings Foundation, and Wendt Foundation. The site represents another in a long line of re-uses of former church buildings. Development partners were McGuire Development, architects Lauer-Manguso Associates and R&P Oak Hill Construction.
Nativity closed its doors when the parish merged into Our Lady of Hope Parish in 2008. The former pastor, Msgr. Angelo Chimera, along with all those who served at the parish, was honored with a plaque, reading, "In loving memory of the men, women and children, clergy and women religious who made Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary their spiritual home from 1898 to 2008."