A religious order of priests that staffed St. Rose of Lima Parish for the past seven years will leave the North Buffalo church.
Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo will appoint a diocesan priest to serve as pastor, but the move by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate means a net loss of two active priests in the eight-county diocese, which already is feeling the effects of a priest shortage.
The Rev. Harry Winter, the current pastor, and the Rev. Martin Walsh, parochial vicar, will leave July 15 for other assignments. The Oblates were recruited by the diocese in 1998 to help re-energize the parish, which had falling membership and struggled to meet its financial obligations. Membership in the church, located at Parkside and Parker avenues, has since grown from 500 families to 850 families, and church finances are stable again, Winter said.
Parishioners also are more active in the church now, he said.
"The parish is viewed by its parishioners as being a linchpin in the neighborhood," Winter said.
Like most dioceses and religious orders in the United States, the Oblates are struggling to maintain staffing at their mission sites.
Oblate leadership and Kmiec determined it was more crucial to keep Oblate priests at Holy Angels and Annunciation parishes, both on Buffalo's West Side.
"They're leaving because their ministry takes them to parishes in need," said Kevin A. Keenan, diocesan spokesman. "The mission of the Oblates is to go to the underserved."
Keenan described St. Rose of Lima, which operates a parochial school with 155 students, as a vibrant parish with an active group of parents.
The pastor opening will be advertised to diocesan priests along with openings at St. Anthony and St. Joseph parishes in Lockport and St. Andrew Parish in the Town of Tonawanda, he said.