On May 3, St. Philip the Apostle Church was able to celebrate the feast day of its patron with the saint himself. The Cheektowaga parish presented a first-class relic of St. Philip. Rows of people lined up to venerate the small chip of bone over the weekend.
The road to Cheektowaga was no smoother than the road to Cana. In 2017, the tombs of St. Philip and St. James the Lesser, which rest in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Rome, were opened for the first time in 600 years. Such tombs are only opened when there is concern for the structure. The Church is under the care of the Conventual Franciscan Friars.
Father David J. Borowiak, longtime pastor of St. Philip's, requested a relic to celebrate the parish's golden jubilee in 2017. He wrote a letter of request. Because this is the relic of an apostle, a letter from Bishop Richard J. Malone was also required. Father James McCurry, minister provincial of the Conventual Franciscans' Our Lady of the Angels Province, delivered the letters while visiting Rome.
Inside St. Philip's grave was a foot complete with a nail hole caused by his crucifixion. The relic is a bone chip from that foot that traveled with Jesus to Cana, helped deliver the loaves and fishes, and was washed by Jesus.
The relic did not make it to the church by the parish's anniversary. It was finally presented to Father Borowiak by Father Alex B. Cymerman, OFM Conv., last July. It is now housed in a reliquary provided by the Richard Cymerman Family.
St. Philip was born in Bethsaida, Galilee. He was a disciple of John the Baptist and is mentioned as one of the Apostles in the lists of Matthew, Mark, Luke and in Acts. Aside from the lists, he is mentioned only in John in the New Testament. He was called by Jesus Himself. Philip participated in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, accounting for his symbol of medieval art of loaves. Just before the Passion, Jesus answered Philip's query to reveal the Father, receiving the answer, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father." No further mention of Philip is made in the New Testament beyond his listing among the Apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. According to tradition he preached in Greece and was crucified upside down.
St. Philip the Apostle Parish was formed in 1967, when Bishop James A. McNulty decided that the enormous growth of South Cheektowaga required the formation of new parish. Father Borowiak became pastor in 2008.