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Commemorating St. Bonaventure: The Saint and the Parishes

Parishioners enjoy the annual Bonafest celebrations at St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of the parish’s Facebook page)

As Franciscans around the world observed the feast of St. Bonaventure this month, two Holy Name Province parishes also celebrated community and history. One put a new twist on an old tradition.

In Western New York, St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany held its annual Bonafest on July 13, this year abbreviated to an evening event as part of a three-season commemoration. In North Jersey, St. Bonaventure Parish held a special Mass marking its anniversary. Both events, which emphasized Franciscan traditions, were covered by local media.

Celebrating Community
“We were overwhelmed by the attendance,” said James Vacco, OFM, pastor of the nearly 160-year- old parish on Rt. 417, not far from the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and St. Bonaventure University. “I had to run to BJ’s three times to buy more sausages and other foods because we kept running short. The cars were parked on the former baseball field behind the church and lined both sides of the road in front of the church, clear down to the entrance to the cemetery and to the signal in the village.”

This year brings a new approach to the annual parish fundraiser, said James, with Bonafest being split into a three-part event spread throughout the year. “Bonafest will begin with a Fall Harvest Dinner, followed by a Spring Steak Bake, and concluding with the outside summer evening dinner,” he explained. “Each event is being centered around food and entertainment.”

The ‘Fall Bonafest’ in 2017 featured a stuffed pork chop dinner with a local band providing entertainment. Approximately 270 dinner tickets were sold, according to James.

“In March of this year, we held the ‘Spring Bonafest,’ which centered around a steak dinner with entertainment from another local band,” said James. “This event sold 255 dinner tickets. Both events were held at the American Legion and included a small raffle. For the ‘Summer Bonafest’ there was the barbecue chicken dinner where we sold 400 dinner tickets and offered entertainment by a third local band. During the performance we sold sausage sandwiches, nachos, hot dogs, pizza and other types of snack food.”

This Friday event, held on the church grounds from 5 to 9:30 p.m., ”was a tremendous turnout,” said James.

During the weekend Masses for the feast of St. Bonaventure, “it was exciting to see the radiance among the parishioners who kept commenting to me and to each other after Mass on what a wonderful evening it was on Friday,” said James.

“On Monday, as I was in the local supermarket and the hospital, people kept coming to me and commenting on how they were at the Bonafest and how enjoyable it was, and thanking me for it. My response to them was: ‘It was the team spearheaded by Kim Ayers and her crew that produced the energy and your participation that produced the enjoyable time.’”

The parish, which comprises 564 families, has had 20 pastors through the years. James has served since 2011.

Photos of the 2018 Bonafest were published in the Olean Times-Herald and in the July 22 St. Bonaventure Parish bulletin.

Pastor Daniel Grigassy celebrates a Mass of Thanksgiving for St. Bonaventure Parish as the Paterson community marks its 140th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of the parish)

Marking History
In Paterson, N.J., St. Bonaventure Parish commemorated its 140th anniversary with a Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated by Daniel Grigassy, OFM, pastor, on the morning of the feast of its patron. It was followed by a picnic lunch on the church grounds in the Stony Road section of the city, not far from Interstate 80. The event was a celebration of fellowship, with refreshments, games, crafts and a talent show.

Celebrating the bilingual Mass with Dan were Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, guardian of St. Mary’s Parish Friary in Pompton Lakes, N.J., Francis McHugh OFM, parochial vicar, and Brice Leavins, OFM, of Butler, N.J., who grew up in Paterson, and Trinitarian Fr. Luis de la Cuadra. Thomas Cole, OFM, Provincial  archivist, also participated in the celebration.

The July 19 issue of The Beacon, the newspaper of the Diocese of Paterson, published a story about the commemoration. Titled “A Welcoming, Giving Faith Community,” it describes the size of the parish (roughly 800 families), its history (tracing roots to 1873 when six Franciscans relocated from German), and its impact, with details about its ministries.

“The warm and generous multicultural faith community of St. Bonaventure Parish celebrated 140 years of welcoming the strangers among us from the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond and also reaching out to help the poor of Paterson,” according to The Beacon. “‘St Bon’s parishioners take the Gospel message seriously. They also are proud to stand in the Franciscan tradition. They truly live their faith,’” said Dan in the article, which described the pews being filled by Anglos and Latinos, including Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Costa Ricans and Peruvians.

The prayer to St. Bonaventure was published in the parish’s July 15 bulletin

St. Bonaventure Parish was established in 1877 and its church, at the corner of Ramsey Street and Danforth Avenue, was built built between 1876 and 1878 and was dedicated in 1878.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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