On a block that has provided a home to some of Buffalo’s finest churches stands one that may have escaped your notice. This Sunday’s Buffalo Mass Mob XXXI wants to change that.
Set back hundreds of feet from Delaware Avenue, Blessed Sacrament Church is part of an ecclesiastical complex including West Buffalo Catholic, a grade school serving all the Catholic parishes between downtown and North Buffalo. The complex includes Timon Tower. Until recently it also included the Sheehan residence, which was recently sold to be converted to housing.
Other nearby churches include the Greek Orthodox Church, the former North Presbyterian. Although suffering extreme smoke damage in a fire in 2002, the interior was meticulously cleaned, and a new stained-glass window installed commemorating the event, showing the Archangel Michael pouring water on the fire. Another is the Delaware Avenue Baptist Church, recently put on the market.
Originally built as a chapel for the bishop’s residence. You can see in the image above they share many design elements, including rusticated Medina sandstone and pinnacles. The chapel was later expanded and pressed into service as a parish church in its own right.
Among interesting facts about the church:
- Along the way it was graced with some fine stained-glass windows from Austria, some of them surprisingly modern. After Sunday’s Mass Mob will be a tour of the windows.
- The church has two very old altars brought from Europe – one a half-millennium old and one a millennium-and-a-half old
- The Italian Renaissance mansion that currently serves as rectory for the church was originally built by Seymour Knox I. On his death, his widow had the Knox Mansion at 800 Delaware Avenue built, and moved.
You will find a good, brief overview of the church’s history here.
For most of the 20th century, the story of Blessed Sacrament Church was inextricably bound up with St. Joseph’s New Cathedral. The church and bishop’s residence were moved several hundred feet to make room for the grand, marble-faced edifice that would grace the corner of Utica Street for nearly sixty years. But its very grandeur carried the seeds of its ultimate destruction, as the ill-fated marble-over-brick construction was simply no match for Buffalo’s weather extremes. The cathedral was taken down in 1976, and pieces of it can be found around the city, most notably on the Outer Harbor. The cornerstone is on display next to Blessed Sacrament, where you can pay your respects. The St. Joseph statue that until recently stood atop the cornerstone has been moved inside to protect it from the ravages of weather and vandalism.
While the cathedral was next door, Blessed Sacrament Church served as a chapel. When the cathedral was demolished, it returned to serving as a parish church. The memory of the cathedral lives on, with a nice collection of drawings and photos on display. For such a “hidden” church – a common refrain from first-time visitors is “I didn’t even know you were here!” – it is a very active parish, with a number of active ministries and an adult faith-formation program (for those joining the church as adults).
Although, like most city churches, attendance has dropped due to suburban migration and mortality, the church will soon be getting some new neighbors. With several residential projects underway along Utica from Linwood to Elmwood, dozens of new families could soon be finding their way to the “hidden” church.
Sunday’s Mass Mob is a good opportunity for you to do the same.
Last minute details for Buffalo Mass Mob XXXI
Blessed Sacrament Church website
Blessed Sacrament Church on Facebook
IMAGE: Buffalo Mass Mob XXXI