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St. Pacificus ‘Mother Church’ of the Franciscan Order to Unveil Statue

By Jeff Martin

A small Catholic church/oratory that has served as a place of worship for 158 years in Humphrey will finally honor its patron saint.

All are invited to St. Pacificus on Chapel Hill Road in Humphrey at 7 p.m. on April 10, 2013, as a 2-foot wooden statue, exquisitely carved by Italian artisans, will be unveiled. A reception will follow the Mass of Dedication.

Father Ronald Mierzwa, pastor of the oratory, said the unveiling and dedication will coincide with the birthday celebration of Father Gregory Brennan, the church’s former pastor who died in a drowning accident in 2007.

“The way this all fell together was quite wonderful, very beautiful,” Father Ron said.

It is believed that the Humphrey oratory and church is the only Catholic church in North America dedicated to St. Pacificus, who was born in San Severino in March 1653. Blind, deaf and crippled for 29 years of his life, St. Pacificus “bore his ills with angelic patience, worked several miracles and was favored by God with ecstasies,” according to information provided by the Catholic Church.

“He was extraordinary,” Father Ron said.

The addition of the statue underscores even more the church/oratory’s significance in Western New York religious landmarks. Considered the “mother church” of the Franciscan Order, it was the first mission church to be built by Italian Franciscan friars who traveled to Humphrey.

“Humphrey used to be called Chapelsburg,” Father Ron explained.

Open on a regular basis until Father Gregory died tragically in 2007, the church still attracts worshipers, but the scheduling for Mass and events aren’t set in stone. Father Ron, who also serves as pastor of Holy Name of Mary Church in Ellicottville, said Mass typically attracts 25 to 30 people when it is held — even more during Midnight Mass.

“It’s a country setting and people love that,” he said, adding the church underwent some improvements in 2005 during its 150th anniversary celebration, including the installation of a new canopy, new carpeting, select painting, new flower beds and a new sign.

The new statue, depicting the saint with crutches reaching toward Heaven, will be placed in a prominent area during the unveiling and then moved to beneath the alter and supported by two pillars. Holy Cards depicting St. Pacificus will be offered during the ceremony. The statue was paid for by the church trust fund, Father Ron said.

“People are very excited about it,” he said. “When we made the announcement during Lent that the statue was finished and ready, people became very excited.”

Father Ron paused.

“St. Pacificus honors those people who live with chronic pain every day of their lives,” Father Ron said. “We all know someone like that.”

For more information about the church and/or upcoming Mass and services, call the church at (716) 699-2592.

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