Our Parish History
As early as 1920, there was a desire and hope of starting a new parish at Winchester. However, no definite steps were taken until the summer of 1925. at this time a census was taken by St. John the Evangelist parish and it was found that the Catholic children of Windhester had little instruction in the faith. The pastor of St. Johns, Father William Bernet, sent Father Alfred Hagemier to give catechetical instructions for a while in the Winchester public school, and for a year and a half in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Breddenstein. In 1926, our present site was purchased and our new parish was incorporated as St. William's Roman Catholic Church (Society), with Father Bernet as pastor and Mr. Alex Switzer and Mr. Joseph Breidenstein as lay trustees.
Since it was anticipated that the old Winchester fire hall would be available for a temporary church, the first building erected was the rectory. Most of the work was donated by the men of the parish.. Initially, the upper floor of the building was used for the church and the remainder as living quarters, meeting space and for social purposes. On Christmas Eve, at midnight in the year 1926, the first Mass was said in the new rectory-church combination.
Father Hagemier continued his energetic and zealous work at St. Williams with splendid progress until March of 1928 when he was transferred to St. boniface church. After Father Hagemer's departure, Father Charles Schrechenberger was appointed pastor on March 4, 1928. Shortly afterwards the Winchester fire hall was purchased from the Pennsylvania Railroad. The building was moved from Indian Church Road to the west of the rectory and remodeled into our old church. the furnishings - benches - altar rail - confessionals - baptismal font and Mass vestments were all donated by Blessed Trinity Church of buffalo.
On May 14, 1928, ground was broken for St. William's School and the cornerstone laid in June 1928. In September of that year, school opened with an enrollment of 25 pupils under the charge of the Sisters of Mercy. The total cost of the school was $36,939.00.
Father John Hippchen succeeded Father Schrechkenberger as pastor in 1929 and remained until his death on December 2, 1931. Father Hippchen was financially sorely beset by the depression of the 30's. In 1932, Father John Collins was appointed pastor and for three years he struggled to keep St. William's solvent and open. Despite his efforts and the sacrifices of our people, our new parish sank further into debt. The wage earners of one-third of our 75 families were out of work and forced on welfare and relief.
In 1935, Father James Carter became pastor and remained barely a year. In 1936, he was forced to close the school the parish simply could not continue to heat and maintain the building.
Father Francis Growney was appointed administrator in 1936. When his appointment was made it was temporary, and was in anticipation of his preparing the parish for the closing of the church. After six months, Father Growney requested and was granted an extension of his appointment for an additional six months. Obviously, Francis Aloysius Growney had other plans for tiny St. William's Parish.
In 1937 Bishop Duffy became head of our diocese and appointed Father Growney as pastor of St. William's. He served as pastor for the next 37 years. under his guidance and with the ending of the Great Depression, St. William's expanded and flourished.
In the late 1930's and 1940's, Father Growney was well-known for his radio novenas in honor of Our lady of the Miraculous Medal. he also conducted a radio novena for our service men and women during Would War II and was instrumental in counseling and consoling thousands in the Armed Forces.
During the summer of 1937, and outdoor mass was started for the ill and the aged. The Altar and Calvary shrines were built on the very spot where the Klu Klux Klan burned a cross in 1927. Father Growney was ably assisted with the outdoor Masses by Father Constantine J. Flizewski and Father Joseph Kelley, S. J.
In 1946, after a considerable effort by many for the parishioners, Sister Mary Claudia reopened the school.
In the 1950's, our parish continued to grow under the guidance of father Growney, and the need for a new and larger church became evident. This had long been Monsignor's dream. A drive was begun, donations solicited and with much sacrifice and help from many friends and parishioners, our present church was built. Gerald Gould and Caper Breidenstein were our parish trustees at this time. On August 11, 1957, Most Rev. Joseph A. Burke - then Bishop of Buffalo, concecrated the new edifice. Our Tudor Gothic Limestone Church cost $400,000.00 and seats 700 people. The altars are Italian Monteverde marble, and the stations of the cross are modeled after those in the famous Munich Cathedral in Germany. The stained glass window in the choir loft is of Saint Genesius - the patron saint of actors and Saint Cecilia - the patron saint of organists. Our church is a monument of faith and love of God.
A few years later, an addition was built for the school, which was still staffed by the dedicated Sisters of Mercy. Much work was done for the parish by th Miraculous Medal Altar and Rosary Society and their willingness to help and sacrifice for any church activity has always been their trademark. The Legion of Mary, The Holy Name Society, Ushers Society, Knights of St. John, the Bishops Committee, Bishop's Committee Discussion Group, the Ladies of Charity and the Catholic Youth Organization, Scouts, Altar Servers, the Home School Association, C.C.D. teachers, school faculty have always responded generously to the needs of our parish and contributed to its spiritual growth.
At age 75, Monsignor, tired and poor health, resigned as pastor of St William's Parish. God called him to his eternal reward on August 18, 1975.
In June of 1974, Father Thomas Shepherd was appointed pastor of St. William's by Bishop Edward Head, but left our parish to work in the apostolate to the sick and aged.
On July 5,1975, the Rev. Robert J. Breidenstein, whose great grandparents, grandparents, father and many relatives were staunch supporters of St. Williams Church and friends of Father Growney for many years, became pastor of our parish. Father Breidenstein is remembered as an artist who took special care of the church decorations. He was especially interested in the musical side of the ministry. He endorsed the choir and supported its activities. He also instituted a Teen Folk Group, bringing the young people into the liturgy with instruments of their time - guitar, etc. His love for children was evident in all that he did to encourage their involvement. Unfortunately, even his great belief in the importance of a Catholic education could not stop the inevitable. In 1986, St. Williams School was once again closed due to insufficient enrolment. Father Breidenstein died on August 12, 1986.
Rev. Joseph A. Scharmach was appointed Pastor and quickly became a member of everyone's family. When he was at St. Gerard's Parish, he instituted a "Mission Program". He brought that program here to St. William's, and watched as it spread throughout the diocese. It continues even today in many parishes. Father Scharmach lost a battle with cancer and passed on September 28, 1990.
Early in 1991, Rev. James L. Breitnauer became Pastor of St. William's. He came from St. Agatha's parish in South Buffalo, and Brought with him a deep feeling of importance in a Catholic Education, while St. William's school was closed to full time students, the Religious Education Program was of prime importance to him. As an educator for many years, he loved the challenge of teaching children, and taught classes himself, regularly. Father Breitnauer was also a lover of music, especially classical, and encouraged participation of our organist and soloist in activities around those lines. He was instrumental in inviting various groups to perform in the church, especially around Christmas time, and the parish enjoyed many wonderful hours listening to excellent performances. Father Breitnauer passed suddenly on August 22, 1999.
In October, 1999, Rev. Robert Wardenski was appointed Pastor of St. William's. Under his guidance and leadership, we will, as a parish, continue to celebrate Christ,