(Editor’s note: On Saturday July 25, 2020, a celebration of Holy Angels Church in Buffalo, NY was held as the Oblates officially closed the parish after being there since 1851. Prohibitive costs to provide a badly-needed renovation to the 100+ year-old building, and a lack of personnel have dictated that the Oblates let go of the venerable institution. The text below contains the remarks delivered at the event by Fr. James Brobst, OMI, Vicar-provincial for Mission and Ministry, who, along with Fr. Arthur Flores, OMI, Vicar-provincial for Personnel, and Fr. James Chambers, OMI, Provincial Treasurer, represented the U.S. Provincial Administration.)
Fellow Oblates, friends, and members of Holy Angels Parish:
THANK YOU for giving me this opportunity to say to you the most important thing Oblates can say, which again is, “THANK YOU.”
On behalf of our provincial, Fr. Louis Studer, I offer these thanks in this difficult time of the Covid-19 virus.
It has placed terrible limitations upon our health, our economy, the safety of air travel, and our ability to come together as freely and safely as we would want.
Certainly, Fr. Lou would be here if it weren’t for these limitations. Since Oblates by nature are “close to the people we serve,” we must also have leadership present in several other locations during this same time. For Covid reason alone, we are not all here today.
The conclusion of this 150-year mission at Holy Angels greatly saddens all of us in the U.S. Province and beyond. It is because we have been so richly blessed by Holy Angels’ parishioners that we are so saddened at this difficult, but necessary & timely decision. But far more important than any explanations, is our expression of our gratitude to all of you.
First of all, we are grateful for having been able to walk with many, many thousands of parishioners at Holy Angels over these one-and-a-half centuries.
We are grateful for every student that has come through Holy Angels school, and with the many students, sisters and staff at D’Youville College.
We are thankful for those we have had the privilege to serve in the many other schools and surrounding ministries over these years. One could never count the number of souls whose faith, trust, love and support have helped to shape us as Oblate pastors, teachers, missionaries, brothers in the faith.
We are grateful to you for your support of the many vocations to the Oblates who were found and formed within these halls and sanctuaries. Many of you are Oblate Lay Associates, Partners, Youth, Mission supporters – all members of our great Mazenodian Family. Your spiritual blood runs in our missionary veins.
We are also grateful that we can remain with the people of Buffalo, in this area surrounding Holy Angels.
We thank your local Oblate leaders, Fathers Greg Gallagher, Paco Gomez, Steve Vasek, Jim Loiacono, and Tuan Pham. They remain with the challenging task of ensuring healthy transitions in ministry here on the west side of Buffalo.
We thank the people of Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope Parishes, receiving those who continue in these new spiritual homes. We are grateful as well to any other parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo who open their doors with understanding, warmth and welcome, especially to the poorest and most abandoned.
On behalf of all Missionary Oblates, I hope that through these many years, we have served you worthily, however imperfectly.
We are all made of the same human clay which Jesus Christ came to save. Only through God’s grace, shown in your support, have we been able to serve you. You have most definitely blessed us. Whether or how we have blessed you is not ours to say – that is yours alone.
Lastly, and most importantly, I want to acknowledge everyone’s need to be thankful to God, whose great work began in our world long before there was Holy Angels Parish, or the Oblates, before any Parish or Congregation or Diocese ever existed.
We are grateful that Jesus has called each of us, along with St. Eugene and his struggling band of missionaries, to leave home and comfort to address new needs in difficult places, then and now.
We are grateful that The Spirit who accompanies each of us in our grief also provides solace and support for God’s great mission to continue – within us, among us, and beyond us.
Praised be Jesus Christ, and Mary Immaculate.