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Parish History

Saints Peter & Paul Church in Williamsville NYOn the 12th of July, 1836, a twenty five year old recently ordained priest arrived in Buffalo. The young priest was eager to engage in the missionary life among the widely scattered Germans of the area.

His name was John Nepomucene Neumann and he had been sent to take charge of the mission outside Buffalo - to establish headquarters in Williamsville. Here Father Neumann found a mission of about forty families, some living in the village, with others scattered throughout the surrounding district.

Some years before, the people had determined to establish a church in the village. The project had been encouraged by the resident pastor in the Buffalo area, but the necessary impulse to begin the project was lacking. Finally in 1834 Mr. Oziel Smith, a non-Catholic wishing to establish a community church in the village, offered to donate a small parcel of land for that purpose upon condition that the church would be built of stone. The land was situated at the western corner of Main and Grove Streets; the offer of it was accepted and everyone helped in its construction.

When Father Neumann arrived in July of 1836, the walls of the church were already erected, though the building could boast neither roof nor floor when the services were first held within the unadorned walls. A temporary altar and a few rough benches showed that the church was being used.

Finally, towards the end of the year, the church was completed. The young pastor, seeing the need of the children for both secular and religious instruction, now assumed the duties of a teacher. He held classes first in the home of a parishioner and then in a small rented building. His pastorate continued here until the autumn of 1840, at which time he joined the Redemptorist Society. He took official leave on October 9th, 1840.

In 1977 this humble and dedicated priest was canonized a saint by Pope Paul VI. His feast is celebrated on January 5th.

In the years immediately following Fr. Neumann's pastorate, a number of priests served for 2 or 3 year periods, including at one point, a Jesuit community of four priests.

By 1856, the need for a new and larger church was recognized. A plot of land was purchased from Betsy Grove in 1857. The present church now stands on it.

Mrs. Grove's home was moved to make way for the construction of the church. This house then served as a school. The dedication of the new church took place in 1866. It is interesting to know that the stone for the church was taken from a quarry then at Main and Kensington. Two large bells for the church tower were purchased in 1868 for the clock tower. They joined a smaller bell which had been cast in Strasburg in 1806 and which is currently positioned next to the flag pole on the west side of the church.

The building committee decided to purchase a clock for the tower which gave excellent service for fifty-nine years, and was so missed when it no longer functioned, that a replacement clock was purchased in 1926.

During the pastorate of Msgr. George Zimpfer (1945 1973), the church was renovated. At this time, another tower bell was donated by Msgr. Zimpfer and the parishioners.

Under Monsignor David Gallivan, old rectory quarters in the school building were changed to parish offices and meeting space to accommodate growth. A house was purchased on Glen Avenue, which serves as the current rectory. Monsignor Gallivan was in the new rectory just a few months when Rev. James O'Connor arrived in 1999. Under Fr. Jim's pastorate, the interior of the church was repainted to reflect the beauty of her gothic architecture. Fr. Jim also had the church steeple re-shingled and the Neumann Center rooms under the church renovated for parish use.

Our current pastor, Rev. Jerome Kopec, began his pastorate on January 22, 2005. Fr. Jerry is delighted to be part of a large parish and school. He looks forward to enabling each member of our parish family to use fully the gifts God has given each one of us.

The years have brought many changes in the growth of our parish and school, along with the appropriate renovation. Throughout these years however, we have seen the same spirit of enthusiasm, dedication and loyalty evidenced by both pastors and parishioners.

We at Saints Peter and Paul are very proud of our rich heritage and are deeply indebted to all who have been a part of it. We invite each of you to become active in the on-going faith life of our parish.