Breaking new ground at St. Leo the Great
A new chapter begins
May 9th marked an historic moment in the history of St. Leo the Great Parish on Sweet Home Road in Amherst as a ground breaking ceremony took place for the new parish center. With the help of architect Doug Scheid and the building committee, parishioners were able to view drawings of the new layout weeks prior to the event.
Over 9,000 square feet, the parish center will connect to the church for easy and convenient access. The center will feature a banquet room with seating capacity of 275. It will be ideal for social and educational events as well as for weddings, sacramental receptions and seminars. The large teaching kitchen will be a community resource, hosting nutritionists who will help groups with special needs-including those with diabetes, weight or heart issues, etc.
A separate new structure will feature a 7,000 square foot recreation area for all age groups. Included will be a pavilion for outdoor picnics. “I am very excited about the future of our parish family as we take another step forward in the legacy of our faith community. While we honor our past, we look forward to a new chapter and a faith filled future where God’s people will continue to be spiritually nourished and enjoy the fellowship of community,” said Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel, S.T.D., pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish, a Station Church for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year with a blessed Holy Door of Mercy.
Holy door hours are:
M-F 7:30am-4:00pm, Sat 7:30am-5:30pm and Sun. 7:30-noon.
St. Leo the Great Parish was established on June 12, 1953 by the Most Rev. Joseph A. Burke, Bishop of Buffalo with Rev. Clatus E. Snyder appointed as the first pastor. A small residence at 803 Sweet Home was purchased from Santo Billoni for $16,500 to be used as a temporary rectory. Later, the house was exchanged for property from the Sykes family. Twenty acres of land on Sweet Home was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brummer and additional land was donated by the Donovan family to serve as a future site of the church and school.
Ground was broken on Ascension Day in 1954 for the school and in September of that year the school was open for children in grades K-8. In December, mass was offered in the basement of the school, named the Chapel of the Infant Jesus. Just 4 years later in September 1958, a new wing of the school containing the junior auditorium and bowling lanes were opened.
In June of 1961, Fr. Patrick J. Dineen became the 2nd pastor. In 1966, the new rectory was completed and in spring 1970, work was started on the current church and dedication was held on December 5, 1971.
On August 1, 1978, Msgr. Patrick Dineen retired at the age of 75 and Bishop Edward D. Head named Msgr. William McDonnell the 3rd pastor of St. Leo’s. A 6 year fund drive was initiated in January 1979 to reduce the parish debt and to make major repairs. On October 6, 1985 a special mortgage burning Mass was celebrated.
Msgr. McDonnell died suddenly on retreat in Florida on January 17, 2002. Msgr. Michael J. Yunk was named administrator of the parish.
Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel was appointed on April 8, 2002 as the 4th pastor of St. Leo’s. In January 2003, the new addition to the church was completed to provided a central gathering space, baby sitting area and an updated front entrance.
In March 2003, the new parish office addition was completed to provide office space for the parish staff.