Williamsville, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Faith Community Church in Williamsville is celebrating some extraordinary longevity -- specifically the 175th anniversary of its founding.
The Williamsville faith community bears the unique distinction of being the first parish founded by Father John Neumann, who emigrated from Bohemia and would become the first American priest to be canonized a saint in 1977 by Pope Paul VI.
Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church was founded by Neumann on July 13, 1836, one day after he had arrived in Buffalo after traveling from New York by way of the Erie Barge Canal. After founding Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Neumann would establish 49 other Catholic parishes in Western New York and throughout the Northeastern United States. Ten years later he became superior of the Redemptorist Religious Order before becoming Bishop of Philadelphia.
Neumann also became renown for his establishment of Catholic schools. Saints Peter and Paul School was the first of 100 schools to be founded by Neumann. The parish school is the longest continuously operating Catholic school in the Diocese of Buffalo. It currently has a student body of over 400 children with education programs in grades pre-K through 8.
The current church building was built during the American Civil War and dedicated in 1868.
Saints Peter and Paul Parish currently has a membership of 2500 families. In addition to the school, the parish offers a Religious Education program for another 500 students, Saint Ann’s Sodality, Social Action Committee, Saint Vincent de Paul Society and Knights of Columbus, along with scouting and other parish ministries.
The Most Reverend Edward Kmiec, Bishop of Buffalo, will lead the parish in a special Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, July 24 at 3 p.m. Of particular interest is that the four living pastors will be in attendance: The Most Reverend Donald Trautman, Bishop of Erie; Monsignor David Gallivan; Reverend James O’Connor; and Reverend Jerome E. Kopec, the current pastor.
After the Mass of Thanksgiving, a jubilee banquet will be held at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens.