"In all my 54 years of life, I've never felt so welcome so soon," said the Rev. Joseph Rogliano, who is four months into his new assignment as pastor of St. Mark's Catholic Church.
Father Joe, as everyone calls him, was featured Tuesday night at the annual meeting of Buffalo's Parkside Community Association in a segment called "New Pastors of Parkside."
The meeting and its preliminary potluck supper were in the cafeteria of St. Mark's School, which enrolls 402 youngsters, many from the neighborhood. And Father Joe, who grew up in Elma, admitted, "I've been a North Buffalo groupie, fan, supporter most of my life."
Cathy Dempesy, the other new pastor, has been rector of the nearby Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd for a few more months. A transplanted Chicagoan who has lived in Parkside since 2003, she remarked that Good Shepherd, like St. Mark's, serves as a community center, hosting ballet lessons, dog-training sessions and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, plus community association events.
Working with the culinary program at nearby St. Mary's School for the Deaf, she noted, the church has opened a cafe on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
"We welcome the neighbors in," she said. "The coffee is good, and the pastries are probably sinful. And we're probably going to have to start an aerobics class."
Also new was Ben Johnson, the association's executive director, who comes from Boston, Mass. He started Dec. 1, and many were seeing him for the first time.
In the business meeting, members unanimously re-elected attorney Candace Lynn Bell to her third term as president, which she promised would be her final year. "We have so many amazing new people," she said.
Her successor was not in doubt. Monica Cichon was elected vice president/president elect, and Michael Ahern was elected the other vice president. Eric Harvey was elected secretary and Jessica Pirro, treasurer.
Beautification awards were presented to International Wine & Spirits on Main Street and homeowners Gregory Bonk and Patrick Monteforte for their transformation of a home on Russell Street.
Parkside Partner Awards went to St. Mary's School for the Deaf and Richard Griffin, an attorney who helped found the association in 1963. He read a report he wrote then, advocating diversity of neighbors and quality of life that would make Parkside "a model of responsible urban life."
"I think," he said, "it describes what you have done."