Father Mark Noonan returns to area to lead new Family of Parishes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 March 2023 at 11:37 am

Priest served Holley and Kendall Catholic churches for 7 ½ years until 2018

Photos by Tom Rivers: Father Mark Noonan is the new pastor of a Family of Parishes that includes Catholic churches in Albion, Holley, Kendall, Medina, Lyndonville, Barker and Middleport. He is shown outside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Albion today. He and two other priests will serve the Family of Parishes.

ALBION – This weekend is the start of big changes for Catholic churches in Western New York, including in Orleans County and eastern Niagara.

The Diocese has grouped 161 parishes into 36 Families of Parishes. The five churches in Orleans County and two in eastern Niagara are in family No. 11. They are led by pastor Mark Noonan, a priest who previously served for 7 ½ years at St. Mark’s in Kendall and St. Mary’s in Holley. He also was a seminarian at St. Joseph’s in Albion in 2006.

Father Noonan and two other priests will serve the seven churches. (St. Joseph’s in Lyndonville currently is closed after a devastating fire at the church on Feb. 28.)

The three priests will be on a rotation leading Mass at the churches. Father Noonan is joined by Father Jan Trela and Father Richard Csizmar. Father Csizmar retired on Wednesday but will continue as an active priest until a parochial vicar is named to Orleans and eastern Niagara.

“The process we are entering will be a good one, but not without some bumps,” Father Noonan said during an interview on Friday in Albion. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The Diocese Road to Renewal plan is in response to a declining number of priests – and parishioners. The number of active priests is down from 179 in 2011 to 144 in 2019. Attendance at Mass dropped 41 percent during those 8 years. The decline is more pronounced in the 8-county Diocese going back to 2012 when attendance was 155,000 for weekends. Now it is about 60,000.

Father Noonan wants to welcome people back to church who haven’t been recently. And he wants to encourage others to be open to attending services.

“Our goal is real renewal,” he said. “We want the church to be really alive, and a source of light an strength in the whole community.”

This week is the temporary start of the new Mass schedule.

  • Circuit 1: Father Jan Trela this weekend, includes Saturday at 4 p.m. at St. Mary’s in Holley, and 5:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s in Kendall. Sunday includes 8 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph’s in Albion, and 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s in Holley.
  • Circuit 2: Father Mark Noonan this weekend, includes Saturday at 4 p.m. at St. Mary’s in Medina, and 5:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s in Albion. Sunday includes 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Stephen’s in Middleport, and 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph’s in Albion.
  • Circuit 3: Father Richard Csizmar this weekend, includes Saturday at 4 p.m. at St. Patrick’s in Barker. Sunday includes 9 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s in Barker and 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s in Medina.

The priest in circuit 1 will do circuit 2 the following week, and then circuit 3 after that.

The three active priests assigned to the family of parishes in eastern Niagara and Orleans County is down one priest from before the new alignment.

Father Dick Csizmar is keeping a full schedule until a new parochial vicar is assigned to the family of parishes. Csizmar retired on Wednesday, but is keeping a busy schedule as a priest for now.

Father Mark Noonan has scheduled the following listening sessions at 6:30 p.m.: March 13 at Holy Family in Albion, March 14 for St. Josephs in Lyndonville (to be held at Lyndonville High School library on Housel Avenue), March 16 at St. Mary’s in Medina, March 20 at St. Patrick’s in Barker, March 21 at St. Mary’s in Holley, Mark 27 at St. Mark’s in Kendall, and March 28 at St. Stephen’s in Middleport.

The listening sessions are a chance for Father Noonan to share more about the Families of Parishes process and hear thoughts from parishioners.

Father Mark Noonan is back in Orleans County. He previously was a seminarian at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in 2006, and then was the priest for 7 ½ years at St. Mary’s in Holley and St. Mark’s in Kendall until 2018.

Father Noonan likes the move to group nearby parishes as a family.

“We really are one Catholic community,” he said. “We can live out our Catholic faith in a broader way and see our mission in a broader way. Our goal in this is to pray together and grow together.”

Noonan, 46, is a Cheektowaga native. He most recently served as priest for seven months at a parish in Dunkirk. Before that he spent two years in Detroit, Michigan at a Spanish-speaking congregation.

He has become bilingual and wants to do more outreach with the Spanish-speaking community in Orleans and eastern Niagara.

How to connect with that population will be among the priorities for Father Noonan and the Family of Parishes. He said it will be among six pillars to be discussed among the local parishes in the next six months. Those pillars include liturgy, spiritual life, outreach and “in-reach”, Catholic education/faith formation, stewardship and administration.

The priest said the focus will be on helping to foster a deep spiritual life among the new Family of Parishes.

“Everybody on Earth is looking for happiness,” Father Noonan said. “That’s what is found in God, a happiness that never goes away. People want joy. We all have burdens and challenges that will always be there. But our happiness is grounded in something that is everlasting.”