Independent Auditor Concludes That Diocese of Buffalo Is in Full Compliance With Its Written Commitments to Child Protection

Buffalo, NY, June 18, 2024 – An independent auditor has concluded after a comprehensive and transparent audit of the Diocese of Buffalo “that the Diocese is compliant with all of the Commitments” which memorialize child-protection policies in the Diocese. The Diocese agreed to these Commitments with the New York Office of the Attorney General, as part of the settlement of a lawsuit in October 2022.

These Commitments confirm that the Diocese’s rigorous policies and protocols that it has put in place over the past several years are working to keep all children and vulnerable adults safe. These policies are published on the Diocese’s website, Diocese’s Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Young People and Vulnerable Adults, and have been developed by the Diocese since the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops mandated the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, in 2002.

The Compliance Audit Report, posted on the diocesan website, was drafted by the Independent Auditor Kinsale Management Consulting. Kathleen McChesney, Ph.D., who led the independent audit team, is a former Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national Office of Child and Youth Protection, as well as a former high-ranking FBI official and head of FBI offices in Chicago and Portland, Oregon.

In a statement in the report, Bishop Michael W. Fisher noted, “Their efforts have been thorough, and they have brought considerable professional skill and experience to this audit process.

“The auditor and her independent audit team interviewed the full range of Diocesan personnel who are responsible for executing the Diocese’s child-protection policies, every member of the Independent Review Board, and made several on-site visits to the Diocese’s administrative offices and to other locations throughout the Diocese.”

Dr. McChesney confirmed that the Diocese fully cooperated with the audit and there were “no limitations imposed on the auditor by the Diocese in any manner throughout the audit.”

The independent auditor included in the report a series of tables to detail the Diocese’s compliance with the Commitments. Appendix E to the report, titled “Dates of Alleged Abuse by Accused Clerics and Former Clerics,” shows that there were no complaints of abuse that occurred during the audit period— December 2022 through December 2023. Rather, all of the complaints that were addressed during the audit period concerned alleged abuse which occurred more than 20 years ago. This further confirms that the Diocese’s child-protection policies have been successful. These claims of past misconduct have all been treated seriously by the Diocese and in complete compliance with the Diocese’s child-protection policies, as the independent auditor found.

While the Independent Auditor’s Compliance Audit Report confirms the Diocese’s ongoing commitment to accountability and transparency in addressing allegations of past misconduct, the Diocese also continues to look forward to ensure that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

“The auditor’s conclusion that the Diocese is in compliance with each of the child-protection policies and procedures embodied in the [settlement agreement’s] 29 Commitments is an important step in the Diocese’s ongoing efforts to ensure that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. We will continue to support and provide assistance to those who have been harmed. We pray for their healing and forgiveness for what they have endured,” Bishop Fisher concluded.

The full Compliance Audit Report by the independent auditor, dated June 7, 2024, is available here, and Bishop Fisher’s letter is reprinted following page 66 of the report.

 

The St. Jude Center is listed for sale

Buffalo, N.Y., June 4, 2024 –  The Diocese of Buffalo has announced that The St. Jude Center has been listed for sale. The building, at 760 Ellicott Street in Buffalo, with an adjoining carriage house that serves as the current chapel, was purchased in late 1960s to found the professional pastoral care ministry in the diocese.

The 8,755 square-foot structure includes a residence, a chapel and a hall. The original structure was built in 1856 as the Victoria Hotel and a two-story addition was added in 1968. The residence continues to feature original amenities including five marble fireplaces and large pocket doors.

The structure on the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus is on a half-acre lot with an 18-car parking lot and a three-bay garage. The property is listed with Howard Hanna Commercial brokers Timothy Hourihan and David Doerr and is offered at $1.5 million. The brokers may be reached at 716 856-7107.

The St. Jude Shrine will be relocated to Saint Joseph Cathedral.

This property joins The Catholic Center, Christ the King Seminary, and the Buffalo State University Newman Center as diocesan properties currently for sale.

Downloadable PDF

Diocese of Buffalo Announces Plan to Reshape the Number of Parishes through Merger

Buffalo, N.Y., May 28, 2024 – The Diocese of Buffalo today has announced that following a comprehensive and collaborative planning process directed by its Road to Renewal division, a plan was presented to Family of Parishes priests to merge approximately 34 percent of the diocese’s 160 parishes.

“The Diocese of Buffalo is facing multiple challenges including a significant priest shortage, declining Mass attendance, aging congregations and ongoing financial pressures brought about by our Chapter 11 filing,” explained Bishop Michael W. Fisher. “This plan resulted from the lessons learned as we brought parishes together in the parish family model and determined rather quickly that scaling back the number of parishes would best allow us to use our limited resources to help reenergize a spiritual renewal in the diocese.”

“These difficult changes associated with our renewal allow limited resources to be directed to the greatest needs in our community,” Bishop Fisher added, “The work of the Holy Spirit within our diocese and the support of the Western New York community has been an incredible blessing.”

The actual number of parishes merged will not be determined until clergy and parish leadership have an opportunity to review recommendations that will be proposed. They may either agree with the recommendations, or present an option for an alternative parish (or parishes) within their family for merger. Those determinations will be made between August 15 and September 1, 2024.

“To make the recommendations that will be presented to pastors, we examined parish demographics, sacramental participation, and financial support,” explained Rev. Bryan Zielenieski, Vicar for Renewal and Development, who leads the Road to Renewal effort. “We also looked at the variations of our urban, suburban and rural parishes because factors like poverty rates, availability of transportation, proximity and limited resources impact overall parish long-term vitality.”

The Road to Renewal in the diocese employs a collaborative model that saw the current 160 parishes grouped into 36 Families of Parishes which were announced in December 2021. An initial group of six Families of Parishes soon thereafter began the pilot phase. When the Road to Renewal process began, Renewal staff contacted dioceses throughout the country and 67 percent of dioceses responding were implementing, or had implemented, a collaborative model in their diocese.

Soon, pastors will be provided with detailed materials to lead consultations within their Family of Parishes. Once the parishes to be merged are identified and approved, the process to begin merging those identified parishes is expected to begin this fall.

The recommendations distributed the past two weeks to all vicariates of the Diocese of Buffalo were created utilizing the following process.

Renewal Team

  • Fr. Bryan Zielenieski, Vicar for Renewal and Development
  • Deacon Greg Moran, Strategic Planning for Renewal
  • Sara Osmanski, Project Coordinator for Renewal
  • Tara Potzler, Program Specialist for Renewal
  • Sr. Louise Alff, Evangelization and Outreach/Inreach Coordinator for Renewal

Renewal/Chapter 11 Task Force Group

  • Fr. Peter Karalus, Vicar General
  • Fr. Bryan Zielenieski, Vicar for Renewal
  • Jim Beardi, chair of Chapter 11 Task Force Group
  • Msgr. Robert Zapfel, Vicar Forane, Northern Erie Vicariate, Diocesan Finance Council
  • Karen Howard, Diocesan Finance Council
  • Fr. Mark Noonan, Pastor, ONE Catholic, Family #11
  • Rick Suchan, COO Diocese of Buffalo
  • Melissa Potzler, Chancellor, Diocese of Buffalo
  • Albert Gress, CFO Diocese of Buffalo

 

Process:

  1. Data from parish yearly financial reports for the last ten years was reviewed and presented to the Renewal Team by the finance and audit departments of the Diocese.
  2. Data from parish yearly sacramental reports was shared from the research and planning department of the Diocese with the Renewal Team.
  3. Census data, demographic data, geography, historical parish relationship data was all compiled by the Renewal Team
  4. Use of Catholic Leadership Institute data collected from each parish in the Diocese analyzing age, contribution levels, activity levels and spiritual life of people and parishes.
  5. All data and trending was analyzed by Renewal Team and recommendations took a rough draft form
  6. Bryan engaged in conversations with each Vicar Forane to discuss rough drafts, and ask for further insight and recommendations from their expertise in the vicariates.
  7. Bryan modified recommendations putting them into a more final version with justifications for the recommendations.
  8. Share the process and recommendations with other Diocese who have gone through this for their input and guidance.
  9. The recommendations were shared with the Renewal/Chapter 11 Task Force Group for review and modifications.
  10. Bryan made modifications to recommendations and justifications for final draft version to be presented to Vicariate meetings with Priests, Deacons and Trustees.

FAQs on Rightsize & Reshape

A final number has not yet been determined. This will be determined by September 1, following a careful and consultative process involving the diocese and respective parish families. 

Road to Renewal will provide data (including numbers of registered households per parish, how many of those registered households are actively contributing, and numbers of sacraments and new Catholics initiated through faith formation) to priests, and will offer recommendations for possible mergers. It is important to note that recommendations will not be made exclusively by financial factors, but geographical considerations and strategy will also be part of the recommendations 

As explained originally by Road to Renewal (as seen on the website’s FAQ page), this program was designed to revitalize parish life by creating a parish family model. In our early communications it was stated that the Renewal was not about reducing parishes. When looking at our parishes today and the circumstances of our Diocese, it is apparent that changes need to be made. A process is now being put into place that will help families of parishes rightsize and reshape appropriately for the future.  

Since Road to Renewal began in 2019, we have measured and observed trends, including registered households per parish, sacramental events, operating balances of parishes, the number of available priests to lead in ministry, and the level of participation by parishioners, all of which significantly compound the issue. The statistics are telling. Nearly half of parishes throughout the diocese are seeing declines in registered households, while more than half of our parishes average just one Baptism per month. Only 12 percent of our parishes initiated new Catholics this past Easter Vigil.  

Our Diocesan Chapter 11 reorganization is also helping us to take a hard look at what properties and resources are really needed as the Diocese moves into the future. The infrastructure we have is not scaled appropriately to the current populations, trends or data we have for today moving into the future.  

Parishes, legally, are not “closed.” Historically, when church buildings closed, the parish was absorbed by another existing parish, enlarging the latter.  

No, but Chapter 11 is helping us to take a hard look at ourselves to determine what our future needs to look like. The reorganization, along with the Renewal will help us to continue the mission of the Diocese of Buffalo and its parish families, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as robustly as possible, and to continue to be responsible stewards of our available resources, including people.  

As we continue this consultative process with parish families, parishes with existing elementary schools will be evaluated just as parishes without schools will be evaluated. There is also a Catholic Schools Strategic planning group that is helping guide our schools and Catholic Education into the future, working very closely with the Road to Renewal

Is a parish community introducing people to and helping them encounter the person of Jesus Christ? Is active outreach happening to nurture and grow the Catholic community and others? For example, are they celebrating baptisms on a frequent and regular basis? Do they engage youth with programming aimed at bringing them together to share and discuss their faith, including evangelization? Do they engage seniors with similar programming? Does the parish community accommodate Bible study groups? Is the parish community utilizing faith formation initiatives to welcome, educate, and support people who seek to become Catholics?  

Like every institution in our community, we are all always in a state of renewal and evaluation. It is our sincere hope that this reshaping of the diocese will successfully reinvigorate the Catholic faith in Western New YorkBut, as with all complex and involved processes, we will continue to monitor family of parish vibrancy and assess the trends which have led us to these recommendations. Our Church will always be relevant, and we will continue to spread the Gospel to all eight counties of Western New York. 

Buffalo State University Newman Center is listed for sale

The Diocese of Buffalo has announced that the Newman Center of Buffalo State University has been listed for sale. The building, at 1219 Elmwood Ave., has housed the Catholic campus ministry of Buffalo State for decades.

The 5,068 square-foot, brick two-story structure is believed to have been built in the 1940s, with a rear addition added in the 1970s.

The ground floor and the upper level served as offices and a residence for the campus ministry director.

The lower level was converted to a chapel. The property is with Howard Hanna Commercial and is offered at $649,000.

Howard Hanna brokers who represent the property are Timothy Hourihan and David Doerr who may be reached at 716 856-7107.

A search is underway for a new location for Buffalo State’s Newman Center. This property joins The Catholic Center and Christ the King Seminary as diocesan properties currently for sale.

Diocese of Buffalo Catholic Center is listed for sale

The Diocese of Buffalo has announced that the Catholic Center, the diocesan central office building since 1986, has been listed for sale. The building, purchased in 1985 by the diocese, was the former home to the Courier-Express that ceased publication in September of 1982.

Built in 1930 for the Buffalo daily morning newspaper’s offices and printing operation, the structure was designed in the Art Deco style that mirrored Buffalo City Hall, as well as the Central Terminal. The building’s architects are listed as Monks & Johnson, of Boston, with Henri D.A. Ganteaume. The decorative motifs on the facade and the interior are medieval and Celtic logos feature famous printers and printing processes.

Following the purchase in 1985, renovations began to house all diocesan offices serving the faithful of the eight counties of Western New York in one location. Staff from 20 departments of the former Catholic Center at 100 South Elmwood Ave., as well as the Chancery office staff on 35 Lincoln Parkway, and four other offices moved to the new site in the spring of 1986. An open house and civic dedication of the Catholic Center was held on September 21, 1986.

The sale includes the 95,000 square foot building at 795 Main St., an additional two-story building at 801 Main Street, and an adjacent garage structure on Main and Burton Streets. Three adjoining parking lots

on both the east and west side of Main Street also are included in the listing.

Hanna Commercial Real Estate brokers representing the property are Timothy Hourihan and David Doerr who may be contacted at 716 856-7107. The parcel is listed for $9.8 million, and its boundaries include Main, Goodell, Virginia and Washington streets. The two-block collection of properties is contained within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. This offering represents the second diocesan property listed for sale. Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y., was placed on the market in November 2023.

St. Andrew Parish and St. Andrew Country Day School to close on or before June 30

St. Andrew Parish and its grammar school, St. Andrew Country Day School, in the Town of Tonawanda, will close on or before June 30, 2024, the Diocese of Buffalo has announced. 
 
The parish and the school have been plagued by financial challenges over the last few years, and in recent months, the financial crisis reached an untenable stage. The decision to close both the parish and the school was reached by clerical and lay leadership of the parish and in close consultation with the diocese.
 
Announcement of the closings of the parish and school began today and will continue through Sunday, Feb. 18 Masses.
 
“The decision was very difficult, but necessary to continue to provide for the pastoral and educational needs of the faithful and our elementary school students,” explained Bishop Michael Fisher. “We will rally together with the family of Parishes in Tonawanda, Kenmore and Grand Island to both welcome and satisfy those needs within our other parishes.
 
St. Andrew is a member of Family #17 in the Family of Parishes which includes Blessed Sacrament, Tonawanda, St. John the Baptist, Kenmore, St. Paul, Kenmore, St. Timothy, Tonawanda, and St. Stephen, Grand Island.
PDF of the News Release

Christ the King Seminary is listed for sale

Town of Aurora, N.Y., Nov. 2, 2023 – The Diocese of Buffalo has announced that Christ the King Seminary located on 117 acres on Knox Road in the Town of Aurora has been listed for sale with the Buffalo office of Hanna Commercial Real Estate. The sale price is $5.3 million.

The seminary, closed in 2020, features renovated classroom and office space, a 460-seat auditorium, a chapel, a large library, six dormitories, a large commercial kitchen and dining hall, a recreation building, and a full gymnasium building. Hanna Commercial Real Estate brokers representing the property are Timothy Hourihan and David Doerr who may be contacted at 716 856-7107.

Christ the King Seminary originally began at St. Bonaventure University in 1857 when it was founded by the Franciscan Fathers of the Order of Friars Minor. In 1974, the seminary moved to Aurora, where it replaced St. John Vianney Seminary. The Diocese assumed sponsorship and administration of the seminary in 1990.

The diocese and seminary board elected to close the seminary to contain costs while allowing students in formation to experience the advantages of larger, more diverse classes and offerings afforded through St. Mary Seminary, Baltimore and St. Bernard’s School of Theology, Rochester.

Investigation by Diocesan Internal Audit Department Reveals Alleged Financial Impropriety at Parish

Buffalo, N.Y., September 28, 2023 – As a result of a review by church and diocesan officials, an employee of St. Amelia Parish in the Town of Tonawanda was placed on administrative leave from the parish on Friday, September 15.

Following further review from the Internal Audit Department of the diocese, the employee was relieved of her duties on Thursday, September 21.

Parish and diocesan officials have turned over evidence to the Erie County District Attorney’s office for investigation of potential financial improprieties.

New York State Catholics to gather for Eucharistic Congress

September 22, 2023 — Thousands of Catholics from across the state will gather at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, NY on the weekend of October 20-22, 2023, for the New York State Eucharistic Congress. This congress, organized by the eight Catholic dioceses in New York, is part of the three-year national Eucharistic Revival sponsored by the bishops of the United States.

The Congress, which will feature Mass, talks in both English and Spanish by nationally-known Catholic speakers, music, Eucharistic Adoration, and opportunities for fellowship and socializing, will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 20th, and conclude at Noon on Sunday, October 22. Attendance at the Congress is free, but registration is required at Registration. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Bishop of the Diocese of Albany where the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs is located, said, “Think of the Eucharistic Congress as a personal invitation from the Holy Spirit to a mini-retreat, a springboard for your own reflection on the Eucharistic presence of Jesus in your life and in His mystical body, the Church, of which you are a beloved member.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said “Our Lord loves us so much that He chooses to remain with us in the Holy Eucharist. I pray that through this Eucharistic Congress, many will come to better know, love, and serve Him, by strengthening our love and faith in this wonderful gift of His real presence.”

Among the featured speakers at the Congress will be Bishop Joseph Espaillat, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, famed youth minister Mari Pablo, and Sirius XM Radio host Katie Prejean McGrady.

Mari Pablo, currently serving parishes and universities across the country with The Evangelical Catholic and one of the featured speakers at the Congress, said, “We are in need of a revival, to be reminded why the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and how our lives are continually transformed by His presence. I am looking forward to gather as the Church on such holy grounds with people from all over the state of New York who desire to encounter the Lord.”

The two highpoints of the Congress promise to be the celebration of Mass on Saturday, October 21 at 11:00 a.m. by Bishop Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, and on Sunday, October 22, at 11:00 a.m. by Bishop Scharfenberger of Albany, which will mark the end of the Congress.

Diocese of Buffalo Announces Priest Placed on Administrative Leave

Buffalo, N.Y., September 11, 2023 – As the result of an accusation of inappropriate conduct with an adult, Bishop Michael Fisher has placed Rev. Joseph Rogliano on administrative leave, and an investigation of the claim has begun.

Rev. Rogliano is temporarily relieved of his pastoral and administrative duties as pastor of the family of parishes that include Blessed Trinity, SS. Columba-Brigid, St. Lawrence and St. Martin de Porres churches in Buffalo. These responsibilities will be distributed among the other priests serving within that family of parishes.

Rev. Rogliano also has been removed from his role as coordinator of the Priests’ Personnel Board.

Please note that this administrative leave is for the purpose of investigation and does not imply any determination as to the truth or falsity of the complaint. If you have any information specific to clerical sexual abuse you would like to share, please contact Jackie Joy, our Victim Assistance Coordinator, who may be reached at 716 895-3010.