As Western New Yorkers enjoy sunshine and warm weather during the summer, there are two upcoming outdoor Masses that will be celebrated in the Diocese of Buffalo in early August.
Hundreds of people are expected to join Bishop Richard J. Malone on Sunday, Aug. 6, Transfiguration Sunday, at 10 a.m. for a special outdoor Mass at St. John XXIII Parish, 1 Arcade St. (corner of Harlem Road), West Seneca. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs. This will be the only Mass at the parish on Sunday, Aug. 6.
This year, the parish is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the present-day church building. It was on Aug. 11, 1957, that Bishop Joseph A. Burke, bishop of Buffalo at the time, consecrated the new building.
The parish has a long history of outdoor Masses. In 1937, the pastor, Msgr. Francis Growney, began celebrating outdoor Masses for the ill and aged. An outdoor altar, Mount Calvary, was built and parishioners would drive up in their cars and fill the surrounding land.
According to Father John E. Stanton, current parish administrator, "These outdoor Masses were so well attended that the money from the Mass offerings built the current church."
This year's Mass won't include cars, but will include West Seneca police directing traffic, a professional sound system and programs for the special Mass.
St. William Parish, the name by which it was known for more than 80 years, was established in 1926 to meet the needs of the Catholic population at the time. The parish's first worship space was in the upper floor of the rectory and then in the Winchester Fire Hall. The Great Depression brought years of struggle for the parish and it was slated for closing. Msgr. Growney, who was the parish's temporary administrator and later pastor, had bigger plans. Under his guidance and with the end of the Depression, the parish flourished. The school, which had closed in 1936, re-opened in 1946 and the parish was looking to building a bigger space to accommodate the parishioners.
In 2008, as part of the diocesan restructuring plan, St. William merged with St. Bonaventure Parish, West Seneca. The St. Bonaventure worship space was closed and the merged parish took the name Blessed John XXIII, which was changed to St. John XXIII following Pope John XXIII's canonization in April 2014.
St. Mary of the Lake in Hamburg will also host an outdoor Mass at Hamburg Beach at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5. All are invited, and Father Ted Jost is suggesting attendees bring a chair and a dish to pass.