Our History & Church
Reverend Phillip W. Schwier Pastor 1954 – 1971
Reverend Joseph F. Magner Pastor 1971 – 1983
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Raymond F. Paa Pastor 1983 – 2003
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Frederick D. Leising, Ph. D. Pastor 2003 – 2015
Reverend Ronald Sajdak Pastor 2015 - Present
Significant events for our parish and school:
1952 – Land is acquired by the Diocese of Buffalo at Harris Hill Road and Main Street.
1954 – Bishop Burke appoints Rev. Phillip Schwier as the first Pastor of the newly formed Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish.
1954 – June 6 – The first Mass is celebrated in a large tent borrowed from the United German and French Roman Catholic Cemetery.
1955 – May 21 – Groundbreaking takes place for the combined church and school (the current school building).
1955 – December 4 – The first Mass is held in the new church in what is now Schwier Hall.
1956 – September 5 – Nativity School opens its doors for grades K through 6.
1959 – June 21 – The first class graduates from Nativity School.
1959 – A new wing is added to the school.
1964 – May 17 – Groundbreaking takes place for the new church.
1965 – November 14 – The first Mass is celebrated in the new church.
1967 – December 11 – The rectory is completed.
1971 – April 19 – Fr. Schwier passes away.
1983 – Fr. Magner retires.
1983 – August – Msgr. Raymond Paa is appointed as the new Pastor of Nativity by Bishop Head.
1984 – The parish commences the “Immediate Action Drive”.
1985 – The mortgages on all parish buildings are burned!
1985 – The RENEW faith enrichment program begins.
1995 – Msgr. Paa receives the Cure’ of Ars Award.
1996 – An $800,000 capital campaign to refurbish the church and school begins.
1999 – The newly renovated church reopens for the Easter Sunday Masses.
2003 – October 31 – Msgr. Paa retires after 20 years of service as pastor. He remains at Nativity as Pastor Emeritus.
2003 – Msgr. Frederick D. Leising is appointed as Pastor of Nativity by Bishop Edward Mansell.
2005 – The Wedgewood Room is rededicated as the “Monsignor Paa Social Center”.
2008 - February 21 - Msgr. Raymond Paa passes away.
2012 - October - Msgr. Frederick Leising receives the Cure' of Ars Award.
THE CHURCH BUILDING
The following excerpt was taken from a booklet published in 1965 to coincide with the opening of the new church.
Nativity's church was built in the style of architecture commonly known as Colonial. Uniquely American, this style is actually a blend of two European styles -- Georgian and Classical Revival.
The exterior of the church is "T" shaped. The side porches are an example of a common addition to many early Colonial churches, the purpose of which was to make it possible for the congregation to sit on three sides of the sanctuary.
The steeple, or belltower, is one of the hallmarks of Colonial churches. It visibly announces the presence of God’s house and calls our mind back to the sacred amid the secular world. The top of the cross on Nativity’s belltower is 115 feet from the ground. A single historic bell hangs in the steeple. This bell, a gift of an early parishioner, came from the last steam locomotive to haul freight through Western New York. Many of the bricks in the tower were donated by the children of the parish.
The façade of the church exhibits the less common narrow pediment on columns applied directly to the church structure, rather than having the large open porch typical of so many Colonial churches. This, along with the pilasters, the fluted Ionic columns, and the balustrade are examples of Georgian elements.
The large wooden Medallion in the tympanum (triangular space in the pediment) forms a parish coat-of-arms. The cradle suggests the Birth or Nativity of the Virgin Mary; the dove suggests her Immaculate Conception; and the crown indicates her Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth. The span between cradle and heavenly crown represents the lifetime of every parishioner.
The rooster at the far end of the roof adds a finishing touch to the exterior of the church. A weathervane was a human touch added to Colonial churches. Besides its obvious practical purpose, the rooster is a symbol of human nature, fickle in the wind of temptation. It is also symbolic of that rooster which reminded Peter the Apostle of his denial of Christ after he boasted that he would not.
The interior of Nativity’s church was originally built around the concept of the Sacramental Axis. This style of church building radiates parish worship around the Baptistry, where Christian life truly begins, and the Altar, where spiritual life grows in worship and is nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist. From these two sacred points, every other sacred place or act of the church should expand. Although now located near the Altar, Nativity’s Baptistry was originally in the back of the church in what is now known as Mary’s chapel.
The entire sanctuary area is elevated two steps above the congregation not only for better visibility but also to show its particular sacredness. The walnut paneling further draws attention to the altar by providing a visual break from the rest of the church décor. The white columns and pediment frame the area.
The Altar of Sacrifice was designed to have a strong table shape to recall the Last Supper and the home churches of early Christians. The carvings of the Chalice and Host on the base portray the high point of the Mass. The Tabernacle Altar stands directly behind the Altar of Sacrifice and is higher, allowing it to be easily seen from all parts of the church. The height also provides adequate emphasis for the adoration of the Eucharist when Mass is not in progress. The four and a half foot Crucifix visually links the sacrifice of the Mass with that of Calvary, as Christ did verbally at the Last Supper.
The wall behind the sanctuary contains six sacramental symbols (the Eucharist being portrayed on the altar table base). Baptism is represented with a pitcher and basin, Confirmation with a dove, Reconciliation through the keys to forgiveness, Holy Orders with the priest’s stole, Matrimony with wedding rings and a cross, and the Anointing of the Sick with the olive branch and crosses.
The windows of the church contain a scattered pattern of amber and blue tinted glass panels. The colors are symbolic. In the Christian tradition gold stands for heaven and blue for the Virgin Mary. In the Byzantine tradition gold also stands for heavenly light. The colors are intended to produce an atmosphere conducive to prayer. Each large window also has one central symbol panel, which describes an episode in Salvation History, and one historic cross, which provides a miniature history of Christianity.
The first Mass was celebrated in Nativity’s new church on November 14, 1965. In 1999, a comprehensive renovation was completed, erasing the deterioration of the years and returning the church to its original beauty.