Holy Mother of the Rosary Polish Cathedral is Reborn at Site in Lancaster
Nearly three years ago, members of the Polish National Catholic Church, some dabbing at tears, solemnly filed out of their former cathedral on Sobieski Street in Buffalo for the last time.
The scene will be more joyful next weekend when they march for the first time into an impressive new cathedral rising out of former farmland in the Town of Lancaster.
Located at 6298 Broadway, the cathedral is large enough to seat 350 people. Like the one it replaced in Buffalo, it will be named Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral.
It is part of a $3.2 million complex that has been under construction for the last year. A wing at the rear contains a fellowship hall, which can accommodate more than 400 people, and four classrooms.
By the time an office wing and rectory are added — perhaps in a year or so — the parish will have invested about $4 million in its new Lancaster home.
The cathedral’s exterior is covered with what contractors call “new used brick,” a red brick that is textured to give the entire complex an aged look.
Inside the cathedral the focal point will be a 24-foot-high stained glass window depicting the Resurrection. Created by the McHugh Art Studio of Williamsville with glass manufactured in Poland, it will be installed in the choir wall behind the main altar.
Twenty-one stained glass windows removed from the old cathedral in Buffalo also will be installed in the new building.
The cathedral furnishings will include an oak altar, ambo, stations of the cross and statues that have been hand-carved by the Rev. Walter Madej, an artist-priest who serves at Holy Spirit Parish, Little Falls.
The altar features images of the 12 apostles with small flames, representing the Holy Spirit, hovering above the heads of 11 of them. There is no spirit-flame over Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Instead, he is shown clenching a sack of money.
Jesus is intentionally absent from the altar scene, according to Bishop Thaddeus S. Peplowski, who serves as pastor of the 800-member parish.
“There was no need to include him because he is present on the altar every time you celebrate Mass,” he said.
Like many of the famous cathedrals of Europe, Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral is built in the shape of a cross, with the altar directly beneath the highest point of the roof.
But it is neither the shape nor the size of the building that makes it a cathedral, Bishop Peplowski explained. It is the presence of the bishop’s chair — formerly known as the cathedra.
Although the wet winter and spring put the project somewhat behind schedule, Bishop Peplowski predicted that by next Saturday “the only thing we probably won’t have in place are the pews” and a pipe organ that is scheduled to be installed in the fall.
The bishop also serves as head of the church’s
The fellowship hall has been used for parish Masses since Palm Sunday. Formerly, parish members met for services in the old Annunciation Catholic Church in Elma.
A modern Gothic style structure, the cathedral was designed by architect Henry Kowalewski of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Kideney Architects of Amherst. Landmark Construction of North Tonawanda was the general contractor.
Although they have been attending Mass in the fellowship hall since Palm Sunday, parishioners will get their first glimpse of the completed cathedral when it is formally dedicated during a Mass at 2 p.m. next Saturday.
The dedication will include the blessing of the main entrance and the anointing of the altar, said Bishop Peplowski. Bishop John F. Swantek, prime bishop of the church, will be the principal celebrant of the dedication Mass.
Guests will include Bishop Robert Nemkovich of Chicago, who heads the church’s Western Diocese, Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz of the Buffalo Roman Catholic Diocese and clergy of Polish National Catholic parishes throughout the United States and Canada.
The Harmonia Choir under the direction of Nelson Koepel, parish organist, will perform special dedication music.
The Polish National Catholic Church is a branch of Catholicism that broke away from the Roman Church in 1896 in a dispute over control of parish finances and recognition of Polish culture. It has about 250,000 members worldwide, including about 50,000 in the United States and Canada.
The cathedral complex, grounds and parking areas will occupy about seven acres of the 81-acre site the parish purchased in 1971 for about $70,000. The land was intended to be used for a cemetery but there is plenty of acreage remaining for that purpose, Bishop Peplowski said.
The parish offices and rectory currently are located in a house at 5776 Broadway.
Holy Mother of the Rosary Parish, which celebrated its first Mass on Aug. 8, 1895, formerly held its liturgies in a massive Gothic cathedral on Sobieski Street. The last service there was on Oct. 10, 1993. The structure later was sold to a Muslim organization for use as a worship center and school.