Church Roots – The 70’s and 80’s

Father William Bailey was with St. Patrick’s until 1971.  The search committee found a seminarian willing to bring his young family with 4 children to Cheektowaga, and they jumped at the chance.  Father Abuid Sam remembers his and Hannah’s first visit with the committee.  He actually passed the church the first time, as he didn’t think it was a church, but a fire hall.  When he came in, he had thoughts of turning down whatever may be proposed.  He didn’t think this was the place for him.  After the meeting he informed Hannah that this was the place he would be for many years.  He felt the “call” already and was looking forward to starting as the 2nd vicar.

The church and hall were used often during the early 70’s, until May 1974 when the hall was destroyed in a fire after a square dance sponsored by the church.  The cost of replacing the hall was seen as prohibitive and then the diocese reluctantly informed Father Sam, the current vicar, that there was no loan or funding available through the diocese.  Father Sam informed the congregation of this and challenged them to fund it and build it themselves.  The people responded generously, some even taking a second mortgage on their homes to help pay for the hall.  The energy that Father Sam infused into the parish family was contagious, and many in the community stepped up to help.  Many of the experts who were helping were from outside the parish and donated their services.  Churches in the area offered their meeting space for events, with the Baptist church only stating that no dances were permitted!

The groundbreaking took place in 1975 on the new hall and everyone was eager to begin.  Many parishioners had a hand in the building of the hall; with a lot of hammered fingers and slivers pulled.  The men, women and children of the parish all chipped in to help whenever and wherever they could.  There were many evenings when the workers were still pounding nails and painting until well after dark.  When the roof was finally completed on the hall, Ed Straker, one of our founding members, climbed up and put the old cross on the top of the building.  The carillon started to ring just then and everyone stopped what they were doing to look at the cross and listen to the bells.  Tears and prayers were plentiful, thanking God for His blessing on the new building, built by many, many people of God and for God, with their own happy and hopeful hands.

The hall was finally complete and dedicated in a moving ceremony on November 6, 1976.  There is a plaque on the outer wall with the name Hannah Hall, so named for Hannah Sam, for her wonderful support of Father Sam, and the rest of the church family, during the construction of the hall.

Father Sam’s Syrian Bread (now called Pocket Bread) was developed into a fruitful business during the time Father Sam spent with us.  He went from baking the bread in a garage to a multi million dollar location in the City of Buffalo a few years ago, spending time in North Tonawanda for a while.  This is the bread that we still use today when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  I remember in those years, that many types of bread were used for communion, all baked by members of the parish.  I also recall that my mom made an especially delicious wheat bread.

The latter part of the 70’s and the early 80’s found a revolving door in the vicarage, as priests came and went fairly quickly. 

In 1978 Father Sam announced that he had accepted a call to St. Mark’s in North Tonawanda.  He felt that he had completed what he set out to do here at St. Patrick’s and it was time for a very reluctant parting of the ways.  So in late fall 1978 Profile and Search Committees were formed and activated.  Father John Mears came to St. Patrick’s as Interim Priest until the search committee could find a more “permanent” priest.

In 1979 Father John Cadwallader was called and started as the 3rd vicar.  He and his wife Patricia, an ordained deacon, served St. Patrick’s until 1981, when he left for retirement in Florida.   

At that time the Search committee was reactivated and called Fr. Albert Montanari to St. Patrick’s to begin on November 1, 1981.  He and his wife Mary were with us during the process of changing from a mission to a parish, taking him from being a vicar to a rector.  This was a very exciting time in the life of the church and a lot of good work was started.  Fr. Montanari announced his retirement in 1989 and the search for a new priest was on. 

*Some dates may be incorrect, due to the limitations of our collective memories. 


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