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Parishioners at St. Andrew’s in Sloan celebrate 100th anniversary

The Roman Catholic calendar indicates that Oct. 25, 2015, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but things will hardly be ordinary at St. Andrew Church in Sloan.

Parishioners will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a 3 p.m. Mass at the familiar landmark at the intersection of Reiman and Crocker streets.

Bishop Richard J. Malone will preside over the Mass and celebration, which is called “Passing the Spirit from Age to Age.” The Mass will be concelebrated by 21 priests.

A reception and dinner follows at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga at 5 p.m.

Nearly 230 people are expected for Sunday’s dinner and among those expected to attend is the parish’s oldest member, 103-year-old Celestine “Sally” Szemenciak.

Sunday’s celebration is just one of more than 20 that have been held throughout 2015; last week the church hosted a reunion for the folk group that was a fixture at St. Andrew from 1970 to 1990.

The anniversary happens to coincide with Deacon Dave Clabeaux’s first year with the parish after he was appointed pastoral administrator.

For Clabeaux, the parishioners are one of St. Andrews’ strongest attributes because they treat each other like family.

“Sometimes I hear of a parishioner who’s ill, and then I’ll overhear someone who’s a neighbor talking about how she’s going to the store for that parishioner,” Clabeaux said. “You see a nurturing, family atmosphere.”

That family likely started when Sloan residents would make a weekly trek to a church on Buffalo’s East Side.

The parish was established in 1915 after Bishop Charles Colton recognized a need for a parish in Sloan when the Rev. Andrew Garstka told him about dozens of people who walked or took the streetcar to St. John Kanty’s every Sunday for Mass.

“He told Rev. Garstka to start a parish in Sloan,” said Clabeaux. “And he did, renting space at a Protestant church in the village.”

The cornerstone for the first church was laid on Oct. 3, 1915, by Monsignor Nelson Baker, and the first Mass celebrated March 26, 1916.

At that time, St. Andrew listed 69 families.

As the village grew, so did St. Andrew and a need for a larger church. The current structure was dedicated in May 1956, and a school was added in 1961.

By 1965 the church had 995 families.

The parish reached its peak in 1989 with 1,050 families. Today it has 650 families.

Entering its next 100 years, St. Andrew appears to have situated itself well.

Clabeaux was appointed pastoral administrator at St. Andrew after the Rev. Fabian Maryanski retired in 2014. Maryanski still has a connection to the parish as pastor emeritus.

“He went to retire in November but there wasn’t another priest available,” Clabeaux said.

Another retired priest, the Rev. Jim O’Connor, often performs masses at St. Andrew. When he isn’t available, Clabeuax reaches out to one of many other retired priests.

“It’s been easy because we’re near the city,” Clabeaux said. “There are a lot of retired priests and they love to say Mass.”