Niagara Gazette

Opinion

February 24, 2014

HIGGS: St. Mary's former spiritual leaders and its complex

Niagara Gazette — A few comments follow about some of the more recent religious leaders of St. Mary of the Cataract that I had the pleasure of meeting over the years: The Rev. John P. Duggan came back to St. Mary’s in 1962 following his discharge from military service in 1961 where he served as a chaplain during World War II. He was an assistant pastor prior to his Air Force assignment. I knew him slightly as a very tall and erect figure who was extremely Irish and a real warm person when you got to know him. Renovations were completed under his watch also including major interior renovation including the altar and the roof repair of the two steeples that were erected in 1873.

Father William J. Stillwell served from 1984 to 1996. We became close friends as I volunteered at the church bingo games held on Sundays just to help out my Catholic friends and active parish members, the Art McGill family. Father Stillwell always attended these nights and one Sunday during Mass he asked for volunteers for bingo as “it was somewhat awkward having to depend on a Lutheran to work the games.” I heard about it that night and noticed it must have worked as some new workers showed up. He was very innovative and many of the outside shrines and monuments on the church grounds were his doing. The Shrine of Peace was his pride and joy and he later became involved in the placement of a monument dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta who visited St. Mary’s on May 30, 1982, following her Commencement Address to Niagara University graduates at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center. He retired as Monsignor Stillwell around 1996.

The Rev. Michael H. Burzynski who I mentioned earlier displayed his collection of religious relics to the public during November 2000 while serving as pastor. They remained in the Shrine of Holy Relics until he was transferred in 2012. He was interested in the history of the church and opened the doors for concerts as well. It is well known as a “tourist attraction” and was included on many local tour operators stops. Currently serving the congregation is Father Jacek Mazur, a native of Poland, who studied at the seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Michigan. His first local assignment was at St. Theresa and then he accepted an assignment at Divine Mercy (formerly St. Stan’s). Then Divine Mercy was twinned with St. Mary’s which he where he now resides. He is very involved with the international Divine Mercy apostolate.

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