St. James R.C. Church was established on June 8, 1910. Msgr. James Carra, founder, served as the first pastor to the largely Italian immigrant parish. Masses were held in a purchased wood frame house on Victoria Ave. and the sisters of Mercy arrived to teach school there in 1912. The house was replaced by a large new stone church in 1915. In 1918, St. James School was moved to the basement of the church until 1953 when the brick building on nearby Prospect Ave. was built. The present church at 27 Allen St. was built in 1968.
St. James was blessed with the continuity of longtime pastors: Msgr. Carra, 1910 to 1927; Rev. Austin Billerio from 1927 to 1940; Msgr. Pasquale Colagioia, 1940 to 1973; Rev. Louis Della Neva, 1973 to 1978; and Msgr. Antoine Attea, from 1978 to 2007. Upon the death of Msgr. Attea, Rev. Dennis Mende served as interim pastor until 2008, when parochial vicar Rev. Robert Stolinski became pastor, assisted by Deacon Michael Lennon as financial administrator. Rev. Darrell Duffy became pastor in December, 2009.
St. James School operated until the merger with SS Peter 81, Paul School on N. Main St. in 1977, (recently renamed the Catholic Academy of the Holy Family). The building was used for a variety of church classes and community activities, including St. Susan’s soup kitchen and preschools. When the cost of upkeep exceeded income, the school building was sold to Walgreens Pharmacy in 2006 and demolition was finished in 2007.
Since our 100th anniversary celebration in 2000, lay staff have continued to assist the pastor with programs and day-to-dayoperation. Lay volunteers also serve in a variety of ministries, including lectors, liturgists, musicians, hospitality ministers,ushers, Eucharistic ministers and bearers of the Eucharist to the homebound. They Visit the sick and bereaved, cook and bake for parish functions such as our annual St. Joseph’s Table and Summer Festival, chair committees that raise money for charities as well as the parish’s own needs, work in the ecumenical soup kitchen, staff the parish thrift store, provide supplies for food baskets and other community needs as well as writing letters to effect just changes on a global scale or volunteer other skills andtalents.
Parishioners serve as catechists, Liturgy of the Word for Children leaders and RCIA assistants. They also lead Bible Studies,Âsponsor parish missions or renewals, work with marriage preparation and hold seats on parish council. Newest additions to St. James lay ministries since 2000 have been Our Daily Bread meals to the homebound, summer Bible study, and intergenerational, lifelong faith formation programs.
In 2004, St. James was one of only two churches designated an “Outstanding Community of Salt 8:. Light” by Catholic Charities, Buffalo, for work accomplished by the Parish Outreach, Parish Food Pantry, the St. James Thrift Store, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Peace and Justice Committee, and involvement with St. Susan’s Soup Kitchen. Our youth have also been involved with volunteering and ‘many have received diocesan awards over the years.
Although a complete list has not been kept, a number of vocations to the priesthood and sisterhood have come from St. James and the most recent honor was for our parishioner and volunteer, Samuel Pellerito to have been ordained a Deacon in 20 10. Through the 100 years that St. James has existed, it has been guided by the tireless love of its pastors and almost 70 assistant priests. For more than 50 years it was blessed with the Sisters of Mercy who taught in the parish school as well as for religious instructions. Other sisters came to implement the first ministry of Parish Outreach in 1980, later staffed by lay women, which has served the community until the present.
Due to the shortage of priests experienced in the last decade, through the Journey of Faith and Grace process in the Diocese of Buffalo, churches have needed to merge or link to combine services and strengthen existing programs. Our Lady of Victory Church, Frewsburg, having been linked with and sharing a pastor with St. James since 2003, was welcomed and merged into the parish in 2008 during a special Mass of unity, increasing St. James existing membership from 1,000 families to 1,100 and bringing new and younger families into our parish. May God continue to help us grow in faith and service.