Three Buffalo Catholic Churches to Merge

February 20, 2011 Updated Feb 20, 2011 at 7:40 PM EDT

By WKBW News

February 20, 2011 Updated Feb 20, 2011 at 7:40 PM EDT

BUFFALO (WKBW) Kaisertown in Buffalo is a community with deep roots and plenty of history. But it may be losing two of its oldest Catholic churches in the near future. The Diocese of Buffalo, citing dropping attendance, a shortage of priests, and financial concerns, is now taking steps to merge three local parishes.

Under a proposal from the diocese, Saint Bernard's parish in Buffalo will close its doors for good. Sunday morning, parishioners reacted to the news.

"I sort of knew it was coming, but I didn't want it to happen. We've been parishioners here for 40 years. I love the church," Matilda Weigand said.

Paul Pacer had his first communion, confirmation, and was married at St. Bernard's. "It's just sad to see a lifelong church, a staple in the community, being closed," he said.

Under the Diocesan proposal, Saint Casimir's, also in Buffalo, would become an oratory. It would be open for one weekly mass and for special occasions only.

Mary Anne Gardon and her family have more than 100 years of history at St. Casimir's. She described hearing the news of the church's merger. "It was just devastating. I couldn't even think about it anymore. When they said about it closing, I would almost get physically ill," she said.

The merged parishes will now become one, as they all join Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in Cheektowaga. Parishioners there said they are ready to open their doors to those from the other two churches.

Dan Lowicki, a parishioner at Our Lady of Czestochowa, said "I really truly hope that we can come together as one family under God." Another parishioner, Laura McCann said, "I wish them the best and we're ready to welcome them. We have to remember that we are Christians and worship together and be together, and hopefully everything will prosper and be very good in the future."

The merger of the three parishes is expected to take place in late spring or early summer.