St. Mary’s Parish – Church Construction
St. Mary’s Church | 6919 Transit Road, Swormville, NY 14051
The facility seats 1,000, compared to about 450 in the old church. The design seats congregants no more than 60 feet from the altar, the distance at which adults can recognize faces, said Michael McNally, a parishioner and co-chairman of the Building Committee.
Bishop Edward U. Kmiec will lead the dedication, which is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday, June 5 at 6919 Transit Road near Stahley Road. The old church building will continue to be be used for daily Mass and weddings and funerals by request, said Rev. Robert Yetter, pastor of St. Mary’s.
Rev. Yetter said the church wasn’t just built for the sake of building, but to help accomplish its mission of reaching out to the Catholic community of the parish.
Details such as handicap accessible bathrooms, air conditioning, devices for the hearing impaired and more spacious pews may not be necessary for a church, but will benefit parishioners.
The vestibule, baptismal and altar, as well as the steeple of the old church, are in one line of sight, said Carl Montante Jr. of Uniland Development Co., which constructed the facility. The church vestibule is now much larger, allowing people to gather and interact before and after services.
Everything in the church is new except an 1866 crucifix from the old building and a tabernacle from St. Valentine’s, a now-closed Buffalo church.
Stained glass in the church was purchased from Pike Studio. The altar was created by Donald and Dan Herberger, members of a longtime parish family. Donald Herberger made the old altar in the previous church.
Plans to create athletic fields on the property are currently before the Town of Clarence Planning Board.
Rev. Yetter said that accommodating more people was an important consideration. The old church was built in 1866, when the area was farm country. Since 1970, the parish has been growing. In 1985 it contained 800 families, and there are currently about 2,500.
“The goal from the very first was to maintain the very warm and welcome atmosphere that St. Mary’s is known for,” said McNally.
He said the process of building a church is different from constructing a business because a greater number of people are involved in making decisions.
“It was a process of consensus. Literally hundreds of parishioners were involved,” he said.
A charter committee was formed in 2002, and anyone who wanted to be involved in the development process could be. Rev. Yetter said the estimated amount of money to be raised from parishioners was $2.8 to $3 million, but they ended up giving $5 million.
“The process, frankly, went relatively smoothly. The various committees from the church were well organized,” said Montante Jr.
He is a parishioner at St. Mary’s, and said it was especially gratifying for him to work on the building.
“This project was among our favorites for Uniland because of what it represents,” he said. The company usually builds offices, so the employees enjoyed constructing a place for people to worship, he said.
The bulk of the construction dollars went to Western New York, and some of the subcontractors thanked the church for providing them with a job in a difficult economy, said Rev. Yetter.
He said building a new church didn’t distract the congregation from assisting others in need. A quarter of a million dollars of tithe went to help merged parishes in the city remain open. The building project had already begun when The Journey in Faith and Grace, which merged a number of Catholic churches in the Diocese of Buffalo, was announced.
The church also supports a mission in India and paid for houses in Haiti and Biloxi, Miss., after the areas were hit by natural disasters.
It is also very involved in the Western New York community, said Rev. Yetter.
“We ’re not oblivious to helping the needs of the poor,” he said.
Property Use:Institutional — Faith Based