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Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Photos: Christian Motorcycle Association fundraiser at Stan's Harley-Davidson

post by Howard Owens in batavia, faith, religion, Stan's Harley-Davidson

Local members of the Christian Motorcycle Association served up a pulled pork feast at Stan's Harley-Davidson today as a fundraiser for the group's various ministries.

Among the CMA's efforts is supporting overseas ministers, including buying them motorcycles for transportation (or horses or boats if that works better where they live). The group also supports a film project to spread the gospel through movies in remote parts of the world. The CMA also travels to the major motorcycle rallies and hands out water and other necessities as a way to open the door to sharing about Jesus.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Batavia's Father Ivan, with roots in South America, happy to see Argentinian elected pope

For Father Ivan R. Trujillo, today's election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had a special meaning and brought Trujillo a special joy.

Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis I, is the first pope from South America, and though Bergoglio is from Argentina and Trujillo is from Bolivia, it is a good thing for the church that a new pope was selected from the 455 million Catholics in South America, home to 42 percent of all Roman Catholics in the world.

"I'm very happy that they elected somebody from South America because most South Americans, most Latin American people, are Catholics, I'd say 80 percent" Trujillo said. "They are very happy. I'm very happy."

Trujillo is pastor of Resurrection Parish, which includes Batavia's St. Joseph's and St. Mary's. He was ordained in Jamestown in 1990 and became an assistant at St. Mary's in 1995. Four years ago, when St. Joe's and St. Mary's merged to form Resurrection Parish, Father Ivan was appointed pastor of the parish.

It was a Jesuit, like Pope Francis, who inspired Trujillo to become a priest. In Bolivia, while studying philosophy, the rector of the school was a Jesuit. The priest had a passion, as most Jesuits do, for working with the poor.

A good deal of Father Ivan's work in Western New York is with the poor and less fortunate. He works with the poor and sick in his own perish, ministers to inmates at Attica and Wyoming correctional facilities, and works with migrant workers in Genesee, Orleans and Niagara counties.

Pope Francis -- taking the name of St. Francis Xavier -- has a reputation for humility and caring for the poor, living an austere life in Buenos Aires. For a time, Bergoglio gave up riding in a limo and instead took public transportation around the city, but had to give up the practice for security reasons.

"I believe it is a great sign that he will be a pope for the poor and everybody else," Father Ivan said. "I’m pretty sure he’ll be trying to reach the most needy people."

Trujillo believes that Francis, coming out of the Jesuit Order, will be a capable administrator as well as a spiritual leader, which is something, he said, the church needs now.

"It's a good time to celebrate," Trujillo said. "I know there are many problems with the church, but knowing about Jesuits, I'm sure he's well organized and he'll be a good asset for our universal church."

Trujillo was returning from Wyoming when church staff called him to say that a new pope had been elected. He returned to St. Joe's in time to see Pope Francis introduced to the crowd in Vatican City and a worldwide television audience.

It was an thrilling moment, he said.

"At the moment I’m a little bit shocked and so glad," Father Ivan said. "I wish the best for the pope and the whole church. One thing that impressed me with him was that he asked first to be blessed by the people in Rome and after that he blessed the people. After he was blessed by the people, he blessed them. That was a very nice symbolism that he will be a pope for the people and at the same time he brings some order that we need."

Monday, December 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm

First Presbyterian Church in Batavia hosting service of remembrance and hope

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Churches, first presbyterian church, religion

First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia, is holding a special remembrance service at 6:30 p.m., Friday, to honor those who have passed in 2012 and also to pray for those touched by the recent tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Pastor Roula Alkhouri holds a service annually for those who have lost loved ones during the year, but this year, there's greater sorrow for the nation following the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

"We are reminded once more that Christmas can be a painful time for some," Alkhouri said. "In the face of loss, we struggle to find joy in this season. For some this may be the first Christmas without a loved family member who has recently died."

Alkhouri said she is reaching out to pastors and congregations throughout the county to join in this year's service.

"This will be a quiet service of remembrance and hope," she said. "We will light candles for the loss of loved ones. We will also light special candles for the victims of violence of last Friday’s tragedy. We will hear through Scripture and music that God’s presence is (there) for those who struggle and mourn and how God’s Word offers us strength as a light shining into our brokenness."

Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Photos: Dedication of restored St. James church tower

post by Howard Owens in batavia, religion, St. James Episcopal Church

Bishop William R. Franklin, the Episcopal bishop for all of Western New York, praised God and praised the efforts of the congregation of St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia today at a dedication ceremony for the restored church tower.

The restoration was a difficult financial undertaking for the congregation, but Franklin said the tower was an important symbol of hope in the community.

"When we look upward, we look to the future and it reminds us that the joy of God belongs to us," Franklin said.

The front doors of the church, which have been kept closed for years because of safety concerns from falling masonry, were once again reopened.

"We open doorways of hope," Franklin said. "We open our doors and go out into the community and give people hope."

Previously: Photos: St. James restoration project reaches pinnacle with placement of new cross

Monday, July 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Holy Family School was shining beacon for Le Roy, Western New York

Le Roy's Holy Family School closed its doors for the last time a couple of weeks ago, but the school will long be remembered for the outstanding staff and students who graced its hallways and classrooms, for the positive community atmosphere it enjoyed, and for what it meant to local families during its 123-year history.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hansen

There were 10 students in the final graduating class of the school at 46 Lake St., which was attached to Our Lady of Mercy Parish and served pupils in pre-K through eighth-grade. Students came not only from Le Roy, but also from elsewhere in Genesee County as well as Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties.

Photo courtesy of the Le Roy Historical Society

The school has seen a lot of changes -- including a change in its name -- since it was first staffed by the Sisters of Mercy more than 120 years ago (see the  timeline of milestones at the end of this story). Throughout all of these changes, its tradition of academic excellence and thriving school family remained much the same.

People who were part of the Holy Family community are filled with sadness, but also with fond memories and hope for the future.

Here are some stories that give an idea of just how special a place Holy Family was:

Michael Ficarella

Michael Ficarella, of Batavia, was hired as a sixth- through eighth-grade teacher at Holy Family School for the 2011-2012 school year. It was his first full-time teaching job.

"I couldn't have picked a better school to start (teaching)," Ficarella said.

He talked about the supportive team of teachers who welcomed and helped him throughout the year.

"From real early on, they were always coming by my room to see how I was doing, offering pointers on how to make this or that lesson better or how to make the classroom run smoother, etcetera."

In addition to teaching science and social studies, Ficarella also worked with younger students in the school's after-school program. During his brief time at Holy Family, he got to know a lot of kids.

"The students were great," he said. "They were well-mannered, very eager to learn and took pride in their school."

He mentioned the eighth-grade field trip to Washington, D.C., on which the kids were "phenomenal."

Despite losing his job his first year teaching, Ficarella said he is "absolutely 100 percent" glad of the experience and has no regrets.

The Hansen Family

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hansen

One of Ficarella's students was Alex Hansen, who was part of Holy Family School's final graduating class. He attended the school from kindergarten through eighth-grade.

"(The graduation) was bittersweet," said Kelly Hansen, Alex's mother. "What we were witnessing was never to take place at Holy Family School ever again."

"There were many 'lasts' over the past few months. It was very difficult for everyone as the adults tried to make the last days of school the best they could possibly be."

Hansen said that the decision she and her husband made to send Alex to Holy Family was "curious to some because we live in Batavia."

"The answer is never an easy one," she said, "but it always contains the same elements. The high test scores, great word-of-mouth, a place where God could be mentioned without fear of ridicule, not to mention a stellar reputation within the community for more than one hundred years."

She and her husband were also impressed with the parish to which the school was connected, which was called St. Peter's at the time.

"I'm not sure there would be a way to calculate the grand sum from the parish that has kept the school afloat for 123 years," she said.

Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Mercy Parish Secretary Sue Bobo

Of course, the school environment was also a major factor in the decision.

"We were impressed with what we saw the day we first visited," Hansen said. "Children holding the door for us as we came and went, walking down the halls and having students greet us without an adult to prompt them, students standing and greeting adults as they entered a classroom -- all this left us knowing that we were making the right decision for our family."

Second-grade teacher Patty Page is pictured with her granddaughter at a Halloween party at Holy Family School. Photo courtesy of Sue Bobo.

As for the teachers, their "commendable dedication" has left an impression on Hansen.

"Many teachers at (Holy Family School) have taught for 20 or more years," she said. "Catholic school teachers are state certified yet make a small fraction of what their public school counterparts do. They clearly are not in their chosen profession for the money -- it is something they do because they love it."

She sees this as part of a pattern of sacrifices that everyone involved in the Catholic school system makes for what they consider the greater good.

"Most families who choose to send their children to a Catholic school quietly go without things other families take for granted so that their children may reap the abundant benefits," she said.

"We’ve had the same car over the course of all nine years (of Alex attending Holy Family School). It is a bit rustier and a lot noisier. It has driven from Batavia to Le Roy hundreds of times, often carrying multiple students to one event or another."

"To pay for education that could otherwise be obtained for free at a public school is a bizarre choice to some," she said. "But for us it was the only option we could imagine. Anyone familiar with Catholic education knows about the sacrifices made in order for it to be possible."

The Winters Family

Photo courtesy of Bryan Winters

When first-grader Anna Rose Winters learned that her school would be closing, she was very sad. But then the first question that came out of her mouth was: "What are the uniforms like at St. Joe's?"

Anna Rose, like other Holy Family students, will attend St. Joseph School in Batavia in the fall.

"She went through the normal grief stages," said her father, Bryan Winters. "There were tears, but then she very quickly started to incorporate St. Joe's."

Winters was on Holy Family School's Finance Committee for several months, which put Anna Rose in a "unique situation."

"She's a smart kid -- she could read the writing on the wall," he said. "We were honest with her from the beginning that her school could close, but we'd try our best."

And try they did. According to Winters, who makes his living raising money for the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, the committees formed by parents to help save the school "were doing all the right things."

"It's remarkable how much money we were able to raise with the time constraint," he said. "But there were a lot of needs-based scholarships (and other expenses that could not be met with the current student enrollment)."

Like his daughter, Winters also went through the grieving process. But he has a "very great feeling" about St. Joe's and is optimistic about Anna Rose's future.

"(Of course), there are families who have been at Holy Family for three or four generations," he said. "Their grieving process is probably longer, and that's understandable. But I need to think of the best interests of my daughter. We're going to get fully involved in St. Joe's."

Bryan and Kate Winters moved to Le Roy from Monroe County a few years ago. Holy Family School was the main reason for their move.

Having just started a family, they wanted to move to the country to give their kids (they have two younger children in addition to Anna Rose) some "breathing room." But they also wanted to make sure the kids received a Catholic education.

"We looked around Western New York and the Finger Lakes region," Winters said. "We toured different schools in Livingston and Monroe counties, and even some in Erie County."

They were very selective in their search, because everything in their lives is a "distant second to our kids."

When they went to an open house at Holy Family, "that sealed the deal."

"That was where we knew we felt at home (at Holy Family)," Winters said. "We learned about the different programs and the curriculum -- they had a very rigorous program. We liked the student-teacher ratio. It was primarily for that reason that we moved to Le Roy."

With three years as a Holy Family parent under his belt, Winters still sings the school's praises loudly.

"It blows my mind that there were people around here who didn't send their kids to Holy Family," he said. "They must not have known what we had there."

Pictured Principal Kevin Robertson with Mrs. Page's second-grade class. Photo courtesy of Sue Bobo.

Like Ficarella and Hansen, he touted the supportive atmosphere the school offered.

"We could call or email any time, and (the issue) was taken care of," he said. "There was a real family feel, whether it was students with teachers or families with teachers. It was an open community."

Part of this openness was the teachers' willingness to share personal stories with their students.

"Every once in a while Anna Rose would share a story at dinner about a teacher's dog, or about Mrs. So-and-So's son getting into a certain college," Winters said. "The fact that these teachers would recognize (for example) that a first-grader wants to hear stories about a dog means a lot. It goes back to that feeling of family."

Winters' wife is a teacher, so the two of them "have a pretty good pulse on what a good teacher is."

"And these teachers -- they had it," he said.

And the students weren't bad, either.

"The Holy Family slogan was 'Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders,' and I think that's what they were doing," Winters said.

He commented on how the kids would hold doors for people and demonstrate politeness in other ways.

"All that stuff goes above and beyond two plus two," he said. "It was about more than just standardized testing; the focus was on growing the student as a person. It was built into the curriculum."

Anna Rose is excited about going to St. Joe's, but she and her family will always have fond memories of Holy Family School.

STORY CONTINUES after the jump (click the headline to read more):

Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

150 years later, Indian Falls United Methodists are still a community of faith

With prayer and praise, members of the Indian Falls United Methodist Church, celebrated the congregation's 150th anniversary Saturday with an outdoor service led by Rev. Karen Grinnell.

The service circled around the building with stops for a message from Grinnell, prayer, singing and Old and New Testament readings.

"We wanted to not only rededicate the building, but rededicate the congregation," Grinnell said.

The Indian Falls congregation is an active one and Grinnell said it's always had a strong sense of its mission.

"We like to be a strong, faithful presence in the community," Grinnell said.

The chuch was organized June 9, 1862, when Indian Falls was known as Tonawanda Falls, in the Robinson schoolhouse by 12 men as the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The current building was first erected in 1945 and added to over the years.

Faith is what has enabled to church to survive through 150 years of changing times and still be vibrant today.

"This is a very strong farming community and you see God at work in nature all the time," Grinnell said. "The descendents from the original 12 men had a strong faith and that faith has been passed down from generation to generation and this is what we have today."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 12:59 am

Mandala being created by monks at GCC meant to symbolize love and compassion

post by Howard Owens in art, GCC, religion

A group of Tibetan monks are at Genesee Community College this week creating a sand mandala as part of the inauguration ceremony celebration week for new college President Jim Sunser.

Sand mandalas are created using colored sand and the art form goes back at least 2,500 years.

Once created, mandalas are destroyed in a ceremony and the sand dispersed in the nearest body of flowing water.

On Friday, at 10 a.m., the monks will sweep away the sand of their painstakingly created work of art, take the sand in bags to the Tonawanda Creek and dump it into the flowing water.

Spokesman Tanzin Nawang said the process reminds us that life is just temporary.

The monks are members of the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Tibet.

Besides the mandala being painted by the monks, students and members of the GCC community are also working on mandalas in order to learn about the art form.

Every mandala has symbols with various means. Nawang said the mandala being created by the monks visiting GCC is about love and compassion.

"Everybody by nature wants to be happy and live in peace and harmony," Nawang said. "They do not want to suffer, so it is important to devote love and compassion, and when you devote your life to love and compassion, you will receive love and compassion.

If you're unable to view the slide show below, click here.

The video below of Monday's opening ceremony was posted to YouTube by Karen Reisdorf.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

International pilgrimage statue comes to Batavia

St. Mary's Church, of Batavia, got a visit from the Blessed Virgin Mary Monday night. The church at 20 Ellicott St. was one of her last stops in Genesee County as she tours the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

The International Pilgrimage Statue of Our Lady of Fatima has been crisscrossing the Western Hemisphere for the past 64 years (there is another statue made for pilgrimages in the Eastern Hemisphere). It was sculpted in 1947 by Portuguese sculptor Jose Thedim, who based it on descriptions provided by one of the children who received visions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in the summer of 1917.

According to Carl Malburg, one of the statue's custodians, the Bishop of Fatima commissioned the Pilgrimage Statue 30 years after the three children -- Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco -- received the visions.

"The idea came from the message," Malburg said. "It was meant for all the world, not just the people of Fatima."

"Fatima is not over," said Malburg's fellow custodian Patrick Sabat (pictured below), referencing Pope Benedict XVI. "There is a continued need for prayer and penance."

Addressing the people who attended Monday's service, he added: "Pope John Paul II said the message of Fatima is more urgent and more relevant now than it was in 1917."

Much of the content of the Fatima visions -- which began on May 13 and occurred on the 13th of every month until October -- deals with the harm that human sins do to the world, leading to war and destruction. The Virgin Mary reportedly told the children that if enough people carried out her instructions, there would be peace on Earth.

"Pope Benedict XV (who was Pope at the time of the Fatima visions) called Mary the Queen of Peace," Sabat said, adding that her intercession would work "when all human efforts at peace had failed."

Malburg, of Indiana, and Sabat, of the Philippines, escort the Pilgrimage Statue in its travels on behalf of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Foundation, which is based in Munster, Ind. With permission from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, they are making a 21-day trip through the Buffalo diocese.

Interestingly, the Buffalo diocese was the first place the statue visited in the U.S. on her very first pilgrimage in 1947. One of her stops was Our Lady of Fatima Church in Elba.

"And we thought, 'Why not bring her back?'" said Sally Ross, Ph.D, a member of St. Padre Pio Parish (which includes Our Lady of Fatima in Elba and St. Cecilia's Church in Oakfield).

Ross was the one who came up with the idea of bringing the statue back to Western New York for a pilgrimage. It all started when she, as a member of Our Lady of Fatima, did some research into how her church got its name. She learned three interesting facts about the Elba church:

1. The Pilgrimage Statue's visit in 1947.

2. It is the oldest church in the U.S. to bear that name.

3. The knoll in front of the church on which the Fatima Shrine is now located was once used by the Ku Klux Klan as a place to burn crosses.

Fact number three is especially interesting if you think about the Fatima message.

"Our Lady wants all her children to live together in peace and harmony," Malburg said. "She said that if we follow her instructions, there will be peace."

To that end, Sabat called everyone to be "Prayer Warriors."

"This is a different kind of war," he said. "It's a war of reparation for the sins of the world."

According to a pamphlet from the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Foundation, fighting this war includes making each of one's daily sufferings a sacrifice in atonement for sin, praying the Rosary every day, and wearing the brown scapular as a sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Miracles and favors have been reported in areas the statue has visited over the years. One of the most famous of these miracles is the "Miracle of Tears," which refers to reports of the statue crying human tears in more than 30 instances.

While there may not have been any tears in Western New York so far, people have been affected by the statue. The pilgrimage isn't over yet, and Ross has already gotten some follow-up calls.

"I wish I could have recorded them, (as they talked about the message)," she said. "Even just the timbre of their voices...it's just incredible."

As much of an impact as the statue has had, Sabat and Malburg were both very clear that Catholics do not worship Mary or statues.

"A statue's just a piece of wood," Malburg said. "And the person it represents (Mary) is not divine. But we do talk to her and ask her to pray for us."

He also said that he sometimes meets fundamentalists who object to giving this type of honor to Mary. To this he replies, "You have a guardian angel, don't you?" His point is that Catholics talk to Mary the same way most Christians might talk to their guardian angels.

"Mary is still the greatest catechist (teacher of the faith)," Sabat said. "She's a role model for all Christians, and we continue to imitate her virtues. Our goal is to be as close to Christ as possible, and she was the closest person to Christ there ever was."

St. Joseph's Church welcomed the Pilgrimage Statue at Mass this morning. It is heading to Orleans County today, but will return for a visit to the New York State Veterans' Home on Aug. 19. All total, it will make seven more stops throughout the region before the pilgrimage concludes on Aug. 22.

For more information, go to www.pilgrimvirginstatue.com.

Supplemental Video: Malburg and Sabat on local news show in Cincinnati

 

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Photos: Service to remember departed loved ones at Northgate church

post by Howard Owens in batavia, photos, religion

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Hundreds of local residents gathered at Northgate Free Methodist Church in Batavia on Wednesday evening for "A Service of Prayer and Remembrance."

The annual service sponsored by funeral home company H.E. Turner and Co., is a chance for people to remember loved ones who have passed and light a candle in their honor. The candles can then be taken home and relit on Christmas Day.

Rev. Greg Brotzman and Rev. Donald Shirk (pictured at the microphone below) participated in the service, which included music and a memorial sermon.

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Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

'Peaceful Genesee' hosts St. Bonaventure professor's nonviolence workshops

post by Daniel Crofts in peaceful genesee, religion

Peaceful Genesee, a coalition dedicated to making Genesee County a nonviolent community, launched the first in a three-part series of workshops on nonviolence last week at the Office for the Aging.

Each workshop is taught by Barry Gan, Ph.D, above left. He's talking to Rev. James Renfrew of First Presbyterian Church of Byron, and Ed Minardo, center, of Genesee Justice.

Gan is a philosophy professor and the director of the Center for Nonviolence at St. Bonaventure University. He is also the co-editor -- with Robert L. Holmes -- of the book, "Nonviolence in Theory and Practice."

Outside of academia, Gan's experience includes taking part in a nonviolent protest in New York City about 10 years ago, after the police officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo were acquitted of murder.

He also participates in conferences and interfaith dialogue groups, and has travelled around the world to places that are, for one reason or another, important in the history of nonviolent philosophy.

Recently, the whole violence/nonviolence issue hit somewhat close to home. One of Gan's students -- interestingly, a student in his course on the peaceful philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi -- was beaten up recently by a group of thugs.

"I was talking to him (in the last week)," Gan said, "and I asked him, 'Do Gandhi's words still ring true for you after what you experienced?' He said: 'Yes, because I would have made it worse by resisting them.'"

Questions not only of how to end community violence, but also of how to deal with violence when it occurs are very important to Peaceful Genesee (see April 29 article).

William Privett, a Peaceful Genesee member and regional coordinator for Pax Christi, talked about his hopes for Gan's workshops this way:

"I hope we have a movement expand, over time, where the primary way of thinking (in Genesee County) is to be peaceful and nonviolent. In other words, it wouldn't be just a secondhand thought -- we would like people to look to nonviolence, instead of dominating other people, as a way of transforming society."

How people do this is not an easy question to answer. Gan told everyone, in so many words, right at the outset that he did not intend to oversimplify such a complex matter. 

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