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Repurposing a Science Lab in South Buffalo

Science Lab finds a New Home after School Closing

Author: Paula De Angelis-Stein

Fr. Bryan Zielenieski, pastor of Our Lady of Charity Parish and Canonical Administrator of South Buffalo Catholic Notre Dame Academy invited Fr. Paul D. Seil to bless the new Science lab at Notre Dame’s Okell Street campus.  Fr. Paul is the pastor of Saint Bernadette Parish in Orchard Park, New York.

260 Okell Street, just off South Park Avenue in South Buffalo

I bet you’re wondering, ‘Why wouldn’t Fr. Bryan just bless the new Science lab?’ Well, this lab was once used by the students at Saint Bernadette school. So, Fr. Bryan felt it would be appropriate to ask Fr. Paul to bless the lab.

“Our church in Western New York is so much bigger than just ‘my parish’, or ‘my school’,” comments Fr. Bryan. “This science lab was an opportunity for us at Notre Dame to repurpose the science lab from St. Bernadette’s. We purchased the equipment and wanted to honor the legacy of the families that gave so much for their children at St. Bernadette, and that is now being shared with our Notre Dame family.”

In 2004 the Diocese closed ten schools, and Saint Bernadette was on the list.  Eventually, the school building found new uses, but one thing that remained untouched was the Science lab, which was originally valued at $40,000.

“The lab was put up for sale, but there were not many who wanted to make the purchase, even at a greatly reduced rate,” Fr. Paul stated. “Then, late Spring of 2018, Notre Dame Academy expressed a need for the lab.”

 “Our goal when opening the 5th – 8th grade campus on Okell Street was to be able to offer more to our students; a dedicated science lab was on the top of the list,” states Mrs. Tris D’Angelo, Principal at Notre Dame Academy.  “When Fr. Bryan told me about the possibility of acquiring the lab from St. Bernadette’s it was definitely an answer to a prayer!  We are so thankful for all the additional learning opportunities that this lab affords the students of Notre Dame Academy!”

The administration of Saint Bernadette wanted to see all this equipment go to good use, so the lab was deeply discounted and sold to Notre Dame Academy.  It was a sizeable task to uninstall, disassemble and reassemble the workroom, but after this lengthy process, the once Saint Bernadette School Science lab found its new home.

Deacon Steve Schumer is assigned to Our Lady of Charity Parish, but his children attended Saint Bernadette school. “My wife Mary and I were involved in the fundraising effort to build the new wing on Saint Bernadette’s school, where this Science lab was located,” remembers Deacon Schumer. “We were heartbroken when the school was closed. It brought tears of joy to my eyes when Fr. Bryan took me up to see the lab installed at Notre Dame Academy’s Okell Street campus. Personally, we are so happy to know that more children will now benefit from using this lab, and so is everyone at Saint Bernadette Parish!”

Recently Fr. Paul concelebrated a school Mass at Our Lady of Charity Parish. Afterwards he accompanied Fr. Bryan and the students at the Okell Street campus up to the Science lab for the blessing. “I was very moved that Fr. Bryan asked me to bless this new space,” comments Fr. Paul. “It was touching to see how excited the students were when they entered the space. It warms my heart to know part of Saint Bernadette school lives on and is helping students now and well into the future.”

Fr. Bryan comments, “It is a great example of our wider church having an impact and all of us sharing in the mission of education for our students. Fr. Paul blessing the lab was a logical choice as he represents the community of St. Bernadette and the tradition of academic excellence from their school, we are carrying on by our use of the new science lab.”  

The blessing of the Science lab can be viewed on the Notre Dame Academy Facebook page or on YouTube. For more information on South Buffalo Catholic School Notre Dame Academy please call 716.824.0726 or visit ww.notredamebuffalo.org

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