Road to Renewal - Diocese of Buffalo

LETTER  FROM  FR.  JAMES  VACCO, O.F.M.   -  December 4-5, 2021

TO:  The Parishioners of St. Bonaventure Parish

FROM:  Fr. James Vacco, O.F.M.  -  Pastor

RE:  The Family of Parishes


     For the past year the Diocese of Buffalo has been researching how to best approach the future of ministry in the diocese, especially on the parish level.  A decision was made to re-structure the organization of parishes around a model called:  Family of Parishes.  After a year of research, dialogue and consultation on Wednesday, December 1st Bishop Michael Fisher accepted and approved the recommendation of the Road to Renewal Committee to initiate the Family of Parishes structure within the Diocese of Buffalo.  With this acceptance and approval the stage is set to begin the local plan of re-structuring.  Over the last few months the parish bulletins have frequently informed you of this re-structuring and with Wednesday’s confirmation the three parishes of St. Mary’s, St. John’s & St. Bonaventure will now begin preparing for the formal activation of our Family which is designated to begin sometime near October 2023.

      This collaborative model among our parishes maintains the individuality of each parish, but formally opens us to joint and collaborative  programs, ministerial services, shared clergy & lay staff, and the development of programs and forms of ministry that can reinforce the Catholic presence in the Greater Olean and Allegany area, especially through commissioning more ministries facilitated by the laity. 

     This collaboration will entail adjustments and changes in the way we have functioned as parishes.  The mind set and focus will be on mutual sharing of resources, personnel, and adjustments in the way we minister and serve the local community in outreach, religious education and worship.  Changes in scheduling of Masses, the number of clergy that will be available to serve our Family, and re-assessing of the type of lay personnel needed to function in the operation of this Family will be taking place.  This will all happen with the involvement and consultation with the present parish & finance councils within the three parishes and the parish members in general. 

     Within the next few months a process will begin to move us toward the ultimate activation of our Family prior to October 2023.  More information with be forthcoming in the early months of the new year in the parish bulletins and posted on the parishes websites, as well as at public meetings.  At the present time if you consult the following diocesan website -  -  you can find further details concerning the Families of Parishes model.

     Change is always jarring.  Yet the hope which stirs within the Christian spirit orients us towards the discovery of opportunities, where change and adjustments do not become threatening but renewing and life-giving.

     The Advent season draws us through a time of waiting, to a time of birthing, to a time of awareness and growth, and ultimately to the day of resurrection.  The witness of Jesus displays for us the surprise of God who journey’s with us on the road of renewal, to the discovery of grace and into a maturity of mission as members of the Body of Christ.


Article in the Olean Times Herald  -  Friday, December 3, 2021

Diocese of Buffalo announces finalized parish family model

  • By KELLEN M. QUIGLEY Olean Times Herald -   Dec 3, 2021

A new family model for Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo to work closer together has been announced.

Following consultation with clergy and laity, the Diocese’s 161 parishes will be grouped into 36 Families of Parishes. Of the 36 families, six will begin a pilot-phase implementation of the families model in January.

It’s all part of the Diocese’s “Road to Renewal” effort, which hopes to reinvigorate the Catholic faith, fully optimize parish and diocesan resources and increase the reach and impact of ministries throughout Western New York.

In the Olean area, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and St. John Church as well as St. Bonaventure Church in Allegany make up Family No. 24 and will be part of phase two beginning October 2023

Also in Cattaraugus County, Our Lady of Peace in Salamanca, Holy Name of Mary in Ellicottville and St. Philomena in Franklinville make up Family No. 25 and will be a part of the pilot phase next month.

“The pilot introduction of the Family of Parishes model represents an important milestone on our Road to Renewal,” explained the Bishop Michael W. Fisher.

A Parish Model Task Force and a Diocesan Renewal Task Force were started more than a year ago with the effort to look at best practices regionally and nationally. Members learned how other dioceses facing similar challenges of diminished financial resources and reduced church and school attendance have successfully continued operating in their regions.

The renewal task force is a collaboration of clergy and laity who studied, gathered input and documented recommendations for the diocese. After an extensive process of collaboration with clergy, parish leaders and educators, it was determined that renewal could be accomplished by bringing parishes together into closer collaboration for a larger good known as “Families of Parishes.”

This model of grouping parishes together to share resources is forming the foundation for similar efforts across the nation.

Fisher said the insights the task force gained from the pastors, deacons, lay leaders, educators and parishioners across the region have informed this decision. He said the role of Catholic faith and ministry is essential in addressing so many needs across Western New York, including educating younger generations.  “In combining our resources and refocusing our efforts at the parish level, I am confident that we can be even more impactful in the years ahead in fulfilling our mandate to spread Christ’s Gospel and fulfill our essential mandate of service,” the bishop said

Input gathering included 26 listening sessions with more than 800 participants, an online survey with more than 1,300 contributors and many meetings, emails and letters, a draft recommendation for parish families was presented to diocesan leaders in early December 2020.

In March, the Rev. Bryan Zielenieski, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Swormville, was named the episcopal vicar for renewal and development and tasked to lead the renewal effort by Fisher.

“We have had tremendous consultation and collaboration for the Renewal effort,” Zielenieski said. “The family model of parishes intent is truly an intentional discipleship that will bring the best practices and resources to our parish families by the clergy and laity working together. We will learn to minister together to increase our impact on our parishioners with a focus on Jesus.”

Following the six pilot families, phase one includes 10 families that will begin working together in October 2022. Phase two with 11 families is scheduled to begin in October 2023 and phase three with nine families is slated to begin in October 2024.

In the rest of Cattaraugus County, St. Joseph in Cattaraugus and St. Mary in Gowanda are with several Erie County parishes in Family No. 27 and part of phase two. St. John the Baptist in West Valley is in Family No. 33 with Springville, Sardinia and Arcade’s parishes and part of phase one.

In Allegany County, Our Lady of the Angels in Cuba, St. Patrick in Belfast and St. Patrick in Fillmore make up Family No. 2 and will be a part of phase one.

Family No. 1 consists of five other parishes serving most of Allegany County — St. Mary in Bolivar, Holy Family in Belmont, Immaculate Conception in Wellsville, SS. Brenden and Jude in Alfred and St. Mary in Canasaraga — and Blessed Sacrament in Hornell, the only Steuben County parish in the Diocese of Buffalo. They will also be a part of phase two


For the full list of the 36 families of parishes, as well as the six pilot families, visit