D’Youville College continues to grow – this time in a bit of a different direction. D’Youville has purchased former Holy Angels Church (founded in 1851), its rectory, and the detached convent building. This plan to purchase the properties has been in the works since late 2019. According to D’Youville, the former parish and the learning institution have shared a very close relationship since the early 1900s.
“We are thrilled we are able to officially make the former Holy Angels a part of our campus,” says President Lorrie A. Clemo, PhD. “D’Youville’s association with Holy Angels goes back as far as our founding (by the Grey Nuns) in 1908 and we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the former school and parish for more than 100 years.”
It only made sense for D’Youville to acquire these properties, as the college campus and the parish buildings are all intermingled. In October 2019, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) made the decision to close, due to staffing and financial concerns. It was at that time that it became clear that D’Youville, a college that has been experiencing a growth spurt in recent years – would become the steward of the buildings. The acquisition, set at $1.2 million, gives D’Youville 1.6 acres, and three buildings totaling 48,000 square feet. That’s a lot to work with in coming years.
As part of the acquisition, D’Youville stated that it would “preserve, honor, and celebrate the legacy of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Holy Angels Church as we transition the property into any future use.” Clemo noted that the college will now explore the best paths to take for the property, and that it would take into consideration what is also best for the community.
“Although this purchase comes at a precarious time due to the current COVID-19 crisis, we are confident it is the best decision for D’Youville’s long-term future,” Clemo says. “The church has had an important historical connection to the university and our mission and is a critical investment in strengthening the impact we will have on our students, employees, and community for decades to come.”
It is interesting to note that in 1999 D’Youville purchased the Holy Angels School which closed in 1988. Today the building is the Montante Family Library for students. Now, this latest acquisition sees the full shift of these grounds to D’Youville.
“We look forward to exploring what this next phase in our long, storied history with Holy Angels will hold,” Clemo says.
Our own RaChaCha, who lives in the neighborhood and is a co-founder of the Buffalo Mass Mob, had these thoughts about the sale:
It was sad that Holy Angels had to close, and that the Oblates had to abandon the mission center they had been trying to establish there (as I wrote for Artvoice in 2014 here). Although the neighborhood has seen a wave of reinvestment in the last decade, much of the population remains very low income and needs are great, especially in the immigrant community. Not only is this one of Buffalo’s oldest parishes, the church and the Oblates are still needed in the neighborhood and still have a mission to fulfil. Perhaps D’Youville would allow the Oblates to resume holding services in the church and continue to serve the neighborhood, perhaps in conjunction with D’Youville students through service learning opportunities. That’s a great model that 716 Ministries and Houghton College have developed nearby, in repurposing the former Our Lady of Loretto complex into the Loretto Ministry Center.
Allowing the Oblates to retain a presence could be an important component of the reuse of the complex, because the single best reuse of a church is…as a church. While the sanctuary could have value to the college community as a space for graduations, weddings, and performances (like the Montante Center at Canisius), that could be done in such a way that allows it to retain its role as a sacred space for Masses.
Holy Angels was the site of one of the earliest — and warmest — Mass Mobs. Fathers Quilin Bouzi and Stephen Vasek, OMI were huge fans of the Mass Mob, and I was honored when they invited me to have lunch with nearly a dozen of the Oblates to talk about the Mass Mob. Earlier this year, the month before the pandemic hit, Holy Angels was the site of a much more somber “farewell” Mass Mob. Imagine the joy everyone in the neighborhood and the D’Youville College community could share together at a “re-opening” Mass?
Click here to learn more about the former Holt Angels Church.