Former St. Augustine Church

St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church Parish is unique. It was organized as a direct result of a petition to the Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo. The far distances to nearby churches and lack of available transportation often made attendance at daily Mass impossible for residents of the Rapids area. There was little opportunity for the young people to obtain religious education training. Florence Eichinger and Virginia (Gene) McClain approached Bishop O'Hara about the possibility of forming a new parish to serve the needs of Catholics in Northern Erie and Southern Niagara counties.

The first step in the process of forming a new parish was the taking of a census of the Catholic population in the area. A minimum of 55 families was needed for the establishment of the parish. This was easily reached. Immediately upon the establishment of St. Augustine's Church in June of 1949, Masses were celebrated by Father Spahn on the lawn of the Howard Eichinger home on North Goodrich Road. When the weather was inclement, the services were held across the street in the home of Mrs. Christiansen, mother of Florence Eichinger. The approach of winter was a cause of concern to the members of the new parish. Since the time their son Jim had entered the service, the Eichinger family no longer kept livestock on the farm. The barn became the logical location to temporarily hold religious services until the new church could be built. The unused stable area in the barn was cleaned, disinfected and whitewashed by parishioners. The building was transformed into a church with the altar replacing the manger. A wooden cross was placed on the roof and an organ was donated for music. A 100-year-old bell was donated to call members to services.

Even during the early months of the parish, the priest was busy performing sacraments for members. In September 1949, the Booker children received First Holy Communion. Joseph Vitthuhn, baptized in his home, was the first baptism in the new parish. While the parish utilized the stable, seven other babies were baptized from March through October. The unexpected retirement of Father Spahn allowed Father Bohn, Assistant Pastor of St. Mary, Swormville, to officiate at the first Christmas service held at St. Augustine. It was a joyful time for the parishioners to celebrate their hard work. The young girls of the parish, dressed in white, processed in the stable singing hymns praising the birth of Jesus Christ.

Even as the daily life of the parish was occurring, work continued pm the on the approximately five acres of land along Goodrich Road, half of which was donated by the Eichinger family. Already, the original 55 members had grown to include over 100 families. The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo gave a grant of $5,000 as the nucleus of the building fund. An additional $3,000 was raised by a picnic held in the summer at the neighboring parish of St. Mary. In April 1950, groundbreaking was held for the new church. The men of the parish laid the foundation of the building. It was to be constructed of surplus U.S. military barracks material. In addition to the church, there would be an attached rectory and hall.

The Rev. Bernard Magee was appointed as the second pastor at St. Augustine in June of 1950. Bishop O'Hara blessed the new church, rectory and hall on December 24, 2950. In the next 30 years, the membership tripled. To accommodate this growth, permission was granted by the bishop for a small addition to provide adequate space for parishioners at Mass. The nucleus for the funding was a bequest from Father Noel Schreck, pastor from 1969 to 1981. The dedication of this addition was held in September 1985. By 2005, the parish had increased to over 300 families. To accommodate this continuing growth trend, adjacent property was purchased.

In 2008, St. Augustine Parish in Clarence Center was merged by the Diocese of Buffalo with Good Shepherd Parish in Pendleton and became known as the combined parish of Good Shepherd Pendleton and Good Shepherd - St. Augustine Campus, Clarence Center. Father Daniel Young was the pastor of both sites until 2023 when Father Leon J. Biernat was appointed Pastor of Family #19 which includes the parishes of Good Shepherd Pendleton, Good Shepherd - St. Augustine Campus, Clarence Center, St. Gregory the Great, Williamsville and St. Pius X, Getzville.

Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church 716-625-8594