The time is the early 1890s… the membership at St. Stan’s on Buffalo’s East Side was over 20,000, and the journey to worship there was a long and difficult walk, passing through the New York Central Rail Terminal and crossing dangerous train tracks, which took many lives.
Rev. Jan Pitass, pastor of St. Stanislaus, decided to divide his parish and formed another faith community. The corner of Broadway and Swinburne streets was chosen by Bishop Stephen Ryan as the site for the new Polish-American parish: St. John Kanty, and in July 1891 the cornerstone was set in place. The first Mass and blessing of the church was in early January 1892, and today, St. John Kanty is preparing to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
The year-long observance will start with Mass at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20, celebrated by Rev. Louis Klein, a graduate of St John Kanty School (Fr. Klein is pastor of Queen of Martyrs Church, Cheektowaga).
The Mass will be concelebrated by graduates of the school along with those priests who have faithfully served St. John Kanty during the past three years that it has been without a full time priest.
A very special part of this Mass, which takes place on Christ the King Sunday, will be the blessing of a new crown for the Infant of Prague by Fr. Michael Parker and Deacon James Waggoner (of St. John the Baptist Church, Kenmore), who were instrumental in the purchase and transportation of the crown from Rome to Buffalo.
The crown was purchased with funds raised from a parish bake sale as well as a special contribution from the piggy banks of Gabrielle and Marielle Dela Cruz, who wanted to donate some of their own money to replace the former crown, which was in poor condition.
On Nov. 20 Gabrielle and Marielle will carry the crown. In addition, the song “In This Place,” centered on the anniversary theme of “We Remember – We Celebrate – We Believe,” composed by music director Lawrence Maguda, will debut at this Mass.
Additional events planned in celebration of the anniversary year include a visit by Ludowa Nuta, the Polish Canadian folk choir of Hamilton, Ontario, at Mass on Dec. 4, and following that Mass, the annual Christmas Cookie Sale.
Weekly presentations during Advent will take place on Sundays following Mass. A Polish platter dinner is planned for January, a fish fry for March, and a concert by Ars Nova Musicians Chamber Orchestra in April.
And although not an anniversary event, the annual homemade pierogi and placek sale will take place all weekends during Lent.
An outdoor procession to The Mary Garden, located on the corner of Broadway and Brownell and followed by the crowning of the Blessed Mother, is scheduled for May (The Mary Garden is a project completed in May 2014 through the generosity of our alumni and friends and included a new statue and garden enhancements).
June will feature our annual Summer Festival with a polka Mass with Rare Vintage, and a special Mass will take place on July 16, which is the 250th anniversary of the canonization of St. John Kanty, followed by refreshments in Kanty’s “Secret Garden,” weather permitting.
The traditional Triduum to St. Anne will be in July, and the 2nd annual meat raffle will take place at the Matthew Glab Post in August. Another annual tradition has become the golf fundraiser at the Broadway Miniature Golf & Driving Range during September. October will feature the annual Alumni Mass/Polka Mass & Harvest Dinner.
A closing Mass will be the culmination of the anniversary year and will take place on Nov. 19, 2017. Bishop Richard Malone will be principal celebrant. Dinner and dancing will follow the Mass at The Millennium with music provided by Rare Vintage. Commemorative coffee mugs and pint glasses with the church logo will be sold at all of our anniversary events.
Some History on Saint John Kanty Parish
Now… here is some interesting history about St. John Kanty Church: In 1891 construction of the new church suffered a setback when heavy winds caused the west wall of the church on Swinburne Street to collapse, making it necessary to strengthen the foundation and begin rebuilding.
There have been 13 pastors of the church, but since 2013 Masses have been offered by both active and retired clergy from the Buffalo Diocese and the Jesuit order.
The life size Last Supper sculpture, made of wood and now set in front of the choir loft, was originally set in the main altar. This carving was initially destined for Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal, Quebec, but due to the $4,000 duty at the border crossing, the purchase fell through.
There have been two fires in the church: in 1948, causing minor damage, and in 1955, when a fire occurred in the crčche, causing extensive damage. Windows were destroyed as were the main altar piece, the side altars, the murals and statuary. Miraculously, The Last Supper carving was spared.
The life size Crucifix, added following the fire of ’55, is made of Italian marble and if not the largest, one of the largest, figures of Christ in the WNY area.
During the over one-year period of reconstruction, the auditorium of the lyceum functioned as the church where Masses, weddings, funerals, first communion and graduation took place.
Local ecclesiastical artist Jozef Mazur created not only the stained glass windows but also the paintings in the sanctuary. The rose window, original to the church, bears the signature ‘Buffalo Stained Glass Works 1892’, and includes as its central theme Saint John Kanty ministering to a beggar.
The Barckhoff organ was installed early in the church’s history, has been maintained and updated, and is listed on the pipe organ database of the Organ Historical Society.
The lyceum, a four-story building extending the width of the block between Brownell and Swinburne streets, opened in 1931 and was envisioned as a center for the ‘moral, physical and spiritual development’ of the community. The main hall could hold 2000 people for concerts, movies, dances, plays and meetings and was equipped with the latest sound and lighting equipment.
The lyceum was ‘home’ to the 40 parish societies and organizations, including Boy Scout Troop 107, which is still going strong today. During the ‘40s and ‘50s the Lyceum was a popular gathering place for dances, featuring the ‘big band’ sound.
In 1967, the lyceum was renovated into a new school building and the original school, which opened in 1894, was demolished. Enrollment in the original parish school was 325 children with a staff of three Felician Sisters and three lay teachers. By 1925 enrollment peaked at 1,524 students.
In 1990, St. John Kanty School merged with five other parish schools to become a new regional education complex (Kolbe Catholic Regional School).
In July 2007, as a result of the Journey of Faith and Grace initiative by the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Kmiec announced the merger of St. Adalbert with St. John Kanty, naming St. John Kanty as the primary worship site. On Sept. 18, 2011 the closing Mass at St. Adalbert, also celebrating the 125th anniversary of the church, took place. (St. Adalbert celebrates four Masses a year and is used for services such as funerals and weddings.)
We at St. John Kanty Parish community extend a warm welcome and invitation to graduates of the school, former parishioners and anyone with bonds to St. John Kanty to share in as many of our anniversary celebrations as you can!
Thank you to our 125th Anniversary Sponsors!
Colette & Robert Frysz – Pietszak/Orlowski-Pietszak Funeral Homes
Edward Blenski – Rev. Louis S. Dolinic – Fr. Benjamin Fiore/St. Michaels – Daniel R. Smolarek Funeral Home
Ideal Concrete Inc. – Rev. Walter L. Matuszak – Response to Love Center – Henry Staszak – Kathleen Stelmach Karla – Mr. & Mrs. Edward Zmuda
Chopin Singing Society – Century Architectural Sheet Metal LLC – Julia Jarnot – Mari-Beth Kruzynski Zaccagnino – Robert Mark Audio – Helen & Joe Ziembiec