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St. Anthony's

A young girl's memories of St. Anthony's Church

By Anne Marie Starowitz
st. anthony's

In 1955, a new Catholic church opened on Liberty Street and Central Avenue in Batavia. One local woman remembers her Italian grandmother as a young girl of 5 and how excited she was about the new church—but also how very upset she grew as her granddaughters talked during the Mass.

Today, the woman can recall how she was removed from the pew and taken to a room for noisy children. Later on, this young girl grew up, joined St. Anthony’s Parish, had her children baptized and confirmed at the church, and continued attending weekly Mass on Liberty Street.

One Saturday in 2011, as she was sitting in her favorite pew, she looked around at the beautiful architecture of St. Anthony’s Church, imagining all of the milestones in this church. The church was decorated for Christmas, and the altar was surrounded by poinsettias with the added touch of little white lights. It is hard to believe that this church, like many other churches of various denominations, was facing the same fate of having to close its doors.

Sacred Heart and St. Anthony’s Church were consolidated in 2007 to form Ascension Parish, but the two churches were also referred to by their respective names. The merger combined the church bodies, finances, and administration under one roof, a linkage that united the churches with a shared priest. Masses were held at both churches, which were then called Ascension Parish east and west.

On Dec. 31, 2012, the doors of this 104-year-old Catholic Church were closed. Ascension Parish/St. Anthony’s Parish would no longer exist. Liberty Street and Central Avenue corner and side streets are no longer filled with cars for Saturday and Sunday worship.

Many people will look back and remember the day the first Mass was held in the new church, the day they entered St. Anthony’s School in their brown uniform, or when their family celebrated a marriage in the church and their wedding reception in the Community Center/school. Many beautiful memories are connected with all three areas.

St. Anthony’s story began in 1908 when 150 families of Italian descent lived in Batavia, most of them on Ellicott, Thorp, and Hutchins streets. This was the result of a significant influx of immigrants to this area, and it became necessary to build a place of worship. Bishop Colton of Buffalo appointed Rev. Hyacinth Ciabbatoni to go to Batavia and organize a chapel church for the Italians. 

The first Mass was celebrated in Teresi’s Hall on Ellicott Street in 1908. Shortly after that, Rev. Ciabbatoni bought the Sheer Property on Ellicott Street and Liberty Street. He had the house on the property rebuilt to serve as a church. The lot was purchased for $5,800. There was a 50/50 chance the new church’s name could be called St. Michael’s. The two names were put into a hat, and St. Anthony’s name was chosen; hence, St. Anthony’s Church was born. 

The average monthly collection was around $58. A year later, Rev. Joseph Laguzzi was transferred to Batavia. He bought additional property on Central Avenue to enlarge the church. Services were held on the first floor, and a school was set up above, organized by Two Sisters of Mercy. Now that a new church was established, a new school was recommended. 

In 1911, a small four-classroom school was built, but by 1913 it was closed. In 1916, St. Anthony’s had a new pastor, Rev. Victor Fassetta. He opened the school and had plans for a new church. The original small church caught fire in 1917. Rev. Victor Fasetta served as pastor until he died in 1918. He was replaced by Father William Kirby, St. Anthony’s fourth pastor. Father Kirby had two missions: one was for a new school, and the other for a new church. 

In 1920, Father Kirby had a temporary building erected on the corner of Central and Liberty, and the building previously owned by the church was taken down. The parishioners were so excited about the church that they gathered enough money for a bell for the steeple, and had to store it until the new church was built. Father Kirby started a drive for funds to replace the makeshift quarters occupied by the church and school.

In 1929, a drive for a new school was established. At the cost of $100,000, the school would also be a community center for athletic and social events. Frank Homelius prepared the plans, and Andrew Schneckenburger was the building contractor.

Father Kirby’s second objective was a new church. From 1919 to 1920 he had a temporary building erected on the corner of Central and Liberty as the building that was then in use was torn down. He had the foundation built on the site of the former building. The new structure was generous in size but not very attractive from the street. This basement was furnished as a church and served as one until December 1954.

In 1953, Father Kirby again asked for funds to build a new church and set the goal of $100,000. Before the month was over, he had $112,000. Plans were drawn, and Carl Espersen of Batavia was given the contract to build them. Leo R. Smith laid the cornerstone in April 1954.

Father Kirby had promised parish members they would celebrate Christmas Mass the following year. On Dec. 20, 1955, Father Kirby served Mass from the new altar. The new church could seat 700 worshippers. The church’s décor combined modern and traditional architecture with a simple classical front and bell tower. The main body had wainscoting. Carrara marble was used in the interior of the sanctuary. There was a hand-carved crucifix with a decorative window depicting St. Anthony of Padua. The altar was also made out of Carrara marble. On the two sides of the altar were niches for the statues of the various patron saints.

Father William Kirby served 47 years in Batavia. In November 1964, he rose to the title of Monsignor and became one of the community’s most honored and beloved men. When Monsignor Kirby became ill, Father Paschal Aquavia was named administrator. In 1964, a new rectory and offices were built.

St. Anthony’s, like all Catholic churches, had many societies within the church: The Holy Name Society, Altar and Rosary Society, St. Nicholas di Bari Society, St. Michael the Archangel Society, Our Lady of Loretto Society, St. Joseph’s Table Committee and Msgr. Kirby’s Knights of Columbus. 

From 1966 to 1983, significant projects were undertaken to revamp the heating system and the parking facilities. After many discussions, the Ascension Parish Council recommended to Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo that St. Anthony’s no longer be utilized. The decision took effect in January 2013. The council cited financial difficulties in the decision. Kevin Keenan, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Buffalo, said that several factors contributed to economic problems for local Catholic churches, such as fewer priests, fewer baptisms, and a declining population. Keenan said the decision would benefit the parish’s mission.

“What they do is, they put parishes in a position where they can put more of their resources into ministry and not so much into the maintenance of buildings that may be underutilized,” Keenan said.

If Bishop Malone approved the recommendation, all Ascension activities would be moved to Sacred Heart. On Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, the recommendation was accepted at Mass in St. Anthony’s Church. 

After a Mass by the Bishop of Buffalo on Jan. 13, and with much sadness, St. Anthony’s Church doors were closed for good. All that is left are the memories the faithful parishioners carry in their hearts about their church, St. Anthony’s.

Submitted Photos of St. Anthony's Church.

St. Anthony's interior
St. Anthony's statue
St. Anthony's windows

Annual toy giveaway brings 'fun, joy and community' to Southside event

By Joanne Beck
City Church toy giveaway
Facing forward in the center is Pastor Ryan Macdonald during the City Church annual toy giveaway Tuesday evening at St. Anthony's in Batavia.
Submitted Photo

The City Church Activity Night Annual Toy Giveaway, a night to assist those in need during the holiday season, was a huge success on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at St. Anthony’s on Liberty Street in Batavia.

Every child received a gift or two that attended the event, organizers said.  There were even 30 bicycles that were given away to children that needed or wanted a bike. Pastor Ryan Macdonald, the lead pastor of City Church, said that “there was a time when I was a child that we had nothing.; I remember those days.”

“Now that we have the means to help families, that’s what we want to do,” he said.

City Church’s volunteers all came together for a night of fun, joy and community, organizers said.  Approximately 28 businesses, community members, and church members made a difference by making some sort of donation of toys and/or financial support. 

“Our slogan is, ‘we do life together,’ and we certainly did not do this night alone,” Macdonald said
With a stage full of toys, makeup, sports equipment, and games, children were walking away with smiles on their faces, organizers said. There were carriage rides provided by Cherry Grove: The Yohe Family Farm, and chili was given to all in attendance.

And of course, Santa and some of his elves made an appearance for visits and photo ops with the children. 

Next year, City Church plans to continue this tradition of helping and blessing its community, organizers said, and they encourage you to not spend Christmas alone and welcome you to join them on Christmas Eve at 8:30 or 10 a.m. at 210 E. Main St. and/or at 6 p.m. at 114 Liberty St., Batavia. 

Submitted Photos

City Church kids
City Church elves
Santa at toy giveaway
Family farm wagon at toy giveaway


Food distribution continues on at St. Anthony's, recipients grateful

By Joanne Beck
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023

In a brisk sub-30 wind, about 30 volunteers gathered in the St. Anthony’s parking lot Wednesday morning taking care of business as usual for those folks in need lined up ready and waiting along Liberty Street.

Despite the city’s request to find an alternate location for its twice-monthly food distribution, City Church instead cautiously continued on, but with more emphatic reminders for participants to be mindful of where they parked as the line slowly moved its way toward the distribution center in the parking lot. A city vehicle was spotted leaving the scene, and Pastor Ryan Macdonald confirmed that a city official had visited the lot. 

“I’m just thankful that they’re allowing us to continue,” he said. 

A week prior, City Manager Rachael Tabelski confirmed that the city requested that City Church find another location for its distribution due to neighborhood and school complaints about traffic issues as a result of participants that line up on the street for the distribution early in the morning. 

Macdonald objected to the request for reasons including Becca Albrecht and Mattie Cooper. The women have no vehicles and have walked to get their food rations ever since the distribution began during COVID, they said. Both agreed they don’t know what they would do without the extra help.

“Me and my husband are on disability and have nine grandkids that we help out. One nine-year-old stays with me,” she said. “I get juices and vegetables. And sometimes we have cleaning products that they gave out this weekend. And it's just a big help in the community. We’re seniors, and we don't get enough for Social Security, you know. Even though we have two incomes coming in, it's so hard, because with all the medication and all, so you figure this here is a big help from the grocery store because the price of groceries is just outrageous.

“And I just love this church, the stuff they do. So I rent from the church,” she said. “So it’s really nice, it would be a blessing if they leave this here. Oh, we need it. We walk here every week.”

Albrecht’s husband works 40 hours a week, and they can still use all the help they can get, she said, to offset rising food costs for their family, which includes two little ones. 

“Ryan, he’s great, he does so much for this community. And, you know, to take it away, it would be heartbreaking, because us families need it in this time, it’s everything. It definitely helps with the food costs,” she said. 

She could understand that for residents on the street, there may be some issues with traffic congestion, but added another viewpoint.

“I mean, I'm sure for some people that live on Liberty, it’s a hassle. But, you know, if you think about it, we need to help one another and just be kind to each other, especially those, you know, Ryan and Pastor Marty are trying to help the community to get through to the needy families that need it,” she said.

They each had a small child’s wagon to haul the food back to their apartments, as did others who walked to the pick-up. Megan Little doesn’t have a vehicle either, and she walks everywhere, including to her job at a nearby restaurant. 

“I’ve come to the food distribution twice, but I've been coming to City Church, the service at 10 o'clock down at City Church, for about a year now. And because my stepson’s grandma is big in the City Church, and works with Ryan and stuff, and I got sober last year, and so I’m just trying to do this new way of life,” she said. “This is amazing how many people they help every every week. Like hundreds, if not thousands. It means a lot because right now my husband is not with us right now. He's gonna be away for a year, and so this is gonna help me a lot, especially around the holidays, and you get all kinds of stuff. They have fresh fruit, canned stuff. It's amazing.”

Some 100 vehicles had lined up along Liberty Street by 9 a.m. Most of them appeared to be parked in between driveways as instructed.  A woman who was parked toward the front of the line couldn’t understand the city’s reaction to the distribution.

“I’m really shocked that they said that,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “I go to the church. I like it here, I don’t see why they would have to move; it seems like it’s organized to me.” 

A big part of the organization system can be attributed to the volunteers that show up to stack the food in a long row, bag the loose items and prepare everything so that people can simply drive up and get their allotment and go so as not to create a disruption in the flow. 

Volunteer Sandy Wojtasczyk walked the line to get names and mark how many adults and children were in each. 

“And reminding them not to be parked in driveways or crosswalks,” she said. “And I help to give food out.”

Some vehicles had two families, and some participants will also distribute the food to the Little Free Pantry at First Presbyterian Church and to other organizations and neighbors in need, she said. 

Fellow volunteer Jennifer Reed has been helping out for about a year and a half and has been attending the church for 18 years. 

“I’ve observed all types of things: I've seen people crying, I've seen people overjoyed that they're getting assistance, with help getting food. I mean, it's just been a blessing to me as well as the people that come through the line,” Reed said. “I’ve never seen an issue with traffic, I mean, I've done everything from walking the streets, taking people's names that are going through the line, just observing, that nobody has been blocking driveways or blocking streets.

“And with the rise of food costs, this has been a blessing to the community. I mean, I have friends myself that come from Le Roy, and Wyoming. I've had people come as far as Attica. So people are coming from all over the region to get help with food.”

Former City Councilwoman Rosemary Christian, who represented that neighborhood’s Ward Six, reached out to The Batavian to voice her dismay about the city’s request to move the distribution. She has suffered some health issues and could not attend a council meeting in person, but wanted to urge others to consider doing so.

“The city streets belong to everyone who pays taxes, and those people all pay taxes too. The problem is, they can’t give up two and a half hours to help give people food?” Christian said. “It’s ridiculous, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. I hope people will be there to protest this council so people will be able to get food.”

The Batavian has contacted Tabelski for an update on the city’s request and will add that to this article once received. 

The food for the distribution is funded by “the City Church family, USDA, Foodlink and other financial partners,” Macdonald said.

Photos by Howard Owens

st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
City Church pastors Ryan Macdonald and Marty Macdonald during a morning prayer at the start of Wednesday's food distribution at St. Anthony's on Liberty Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
Ryan Macdonald and Mattie Cooper.
Photo by Howard Owens
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023

City Church asked to relocate food distribution from St. Anthony's

By Joanne Beck
Food distribution at St. Anthony's
2021 File Photo of an early morning food distribution during COVID at St. Anthony's in Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens

Pastor Ryan Macdonald has been passionate about his work with the City Church food distribution program at St. Anthony’s on Liberty Street as it has grown the last four years. 

He has attended every single bi-monthly event, he says, and can appreciate the importance these distributions have for the 200 to 300 Genesee County senior citizens and families that come for the free food. 

So it is with that same passion that he has responded to a request from city officials to stop the distributions at the southside location.

“They told us there is no resolution, there is no compromise, there is no bending, the event needs to be canceled at this location. And when we asked for an alternative location, they basically told us, that's our problem,” Macdonald said Tuesday. “I asked, ‘What if we declined to move it or cancel it? (Public Works Director) Brett Frank from the city, made it very clear, that they would seek some type of legal notice against the church. And I said, so you're gonna legally pursue a church for handing food out? And he said, yes, if you don't move it from St. Anthony's, we will.

“We definitely believe this is an infringement of our religious ability to practice our religious values. Thirty families from our neighborhood, the most impoverished neighborhood in the city, walked to this event. That’s why we are extremely opposed to moving it. This is the first time we’ve been told to cancel,” he said. “We have no interest in any type of disagreement or litigation. We respect and support our city officials. We pray they will reconsider their position on our food distribution.”

This hasn’t just happened overnight, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said, and the city has offered to help find an alternative location for the distribution. Both sides met last Friday, and as far as the city was aware, a process was in place to locate another site. She and Frank also denied that he issued any type of legal threat for conducting the food distribution.

“The police chief and Brett are the ones who met with them and let them know that they would be more than willing to help find a location to better suit traffic flow so that all the individuals who need to get the food can get it. We've reached out to multiple partners for them. This was a United Way function that was done, and it rotated between churches during COVID,” Tabelski said. “So it hasn't always been at City Church. It's just they've been so wildly successful with their program … They've got so many people that have a need and come to the drive-through food location that it's a hindrance to our citizens and traffic. So, we're not saying it's bad, it's actually a great thing. It's just outgrown the location.”

She said there have been complaints about neighborhood residents being blocked in their driveways by vehicles waiting in line during the distribution, and safety concerns during school hours when kids are walking to Jackson Primary, which is on one end of the southside neighborhood.

The driving route had been revised at one point, and distribution participants were asked to use Sumner and Jackson to avoid the school, Macdonald said, while the remaining route is on Liberty Street. He said there are some 50 volunteers involved in the event, and some have been on the street to watch out for people blocking driveways. Someone even recorded a video at one point as proof that traffic wasn’t blocking driveways, per the apparent complaints, he said. 

Meanwhile, there have been “different emails, different phone calls, over the last two and a half years” to City Council and staff members, Tabelski said.

“And they fear for their safety for crossing the street. They are blocked from getting in and out of their driveways at certain times when these occur. And then, like I said, the school has had traffic issues as well,” she said. “So we've brought it up. This isn't the first time we've had these communications with them. This is just the most recent meeting that we've had, where we've asked for it to be relocated so the neighborhood isn't unduly harmed as it is now.”

Tabelski said she looks at it as a positive: the event has become so successful, that it now needs a larger venue to accommodate all of the participants. 

The food distribution stemmed from a United Way program, and the food comes from Food Link to City Church. The food is purchased from state funding, Macdonald said, and City Church has built up a network of names internally for people in need. 

They are primarily senior citizens and families, and while the bulk of them drive to the pick-up, some 20 to 30 people walk due to lack of transportation, he said. He is most concerned about how those people would get food if the distribution was moved to outside the city.

Church member Todd Crossett also attended the meeting, and he said city officials asked that a new site be located one to one and a half miles outside of the city since anything inside would be too congested with the line of 200 to 300 extra vehicles. 

He recalled that the discussion with city officials involved mention of potential code violations for a business that disturbs the neighborhood. 

Crossett and Macdonald are hopeful that they can alleviate the past issues with clear communication and flyers handed out to participants to ensure everyone understands not to block driveways and be mindful of neighborhood etiquette.

For Tabelski, “The city is committed to helping find a more suitable location for the flow of traffic for the food drive and looks forward to working with City Church to do so,” she said. 

“It’s just outgrown its footprint … and we've just gotten to the point where we really, we don't see any other successful solution, except to put it in a place that's meant to handle this type of traffic,” she said. “We want this food drive in Genesee County to be successful. As far as we know, they’re willing to work with us.”

She sent the note below to the City Council to provide an update about the latest meeting:

Over the past year the City Church bi-monthly food drive has caused legitimate traffic safety concerns in the Southside residential streets.  It has grown to almost 300 cars in our neighborhood and is an issue, that we continue to get periodic complaints about.  Complaints from residents have included blocking driveways, crossing safety, rude patrons, and school safety issues. 

Chief Heubusch and Director Frank had a conversation with Ryan MacDonlad to let him know City Church cannot continue the food drive at the current location.  They offered to help them find a new location.

For Crossett, “we’re trying to come up with solutions. We’re going to have somebody on the streets. We don’t want to upset the neighborhood.”

“The ones that are walking there, obviously, they're the most needy people, you know, they don't have vehicles, they don't have a mode of transportation. That's truly our focus, is them. And if we can resolve it, and not forget about them, that's our end goal is not to forget about those people who are walking in. Again, it's early talking about coming up with a resolution. But I think, my experience with the city is, we will come up with a resolution, and it'll work for both sides.” he said. “I would hope the city would not show up and say, ‘Here’s your citation.’”

Macdonald had offered to pay for a police officer during the event, but "the city said that's not an option," Crossett said.

As for Macdonald, whose mother at one point in life had to go to a government food store when his father lost his job, “I simply want to be able to hand out food,” he said. 

And so be it.

“We will be holding our next food distribution Dec. 13,” he said. “And it will be held here (at St. Anthony’s).”

STEP takes a leap over to St. Anthony's on the Southside

By Joanne Beck
October 2022 file photo of Carla Mindler
2022 File Photo of Carla Mindler when she was explaining a need for Social Services to fill the gap left by no more STAR with the Student Transformation and Empowerment Program (STEP), and on Monday, she explained that STEP was now in need -- of new space -- since its current contract at Robert Morris was being terminated after this school year.
Photo by Joanne Beck

In October 2022, Social Services Commissioner Carla Mindler was figuring out how to fill a gap when the STAR program ended, and the Student Transformation and Empowerment Program (STEP) was put in its place and operated at Robert Morris in Batavia. 

This year, Mindler had to find new space for STEP when she learned that Robert Morris would no longer be able to house the program and its middle and high school student participants after the end of this school year, she said. 

As it happens, she knew a guy who knew a guy — Ryan Macdonald of City Church — who offered to rent out a portion of St. Anthony’s for the county-run program. 

“So I'm looking to enter into a lease agreement with City Church, which is doing the business of St. Anthony's Church, to move the STEP program. We were notified by Batavia City School District that Robert Morris would not be available after the school year, so we've been looking for a site. We did find this location, it absolutely meets all of our needs,” Mindler said during Monday’s Human Services meeting. “We have access to all of the rooms, we have a gym, we have classrooms, we have an office. I had to go to the school district and ask that they terminate our lease early because it went through August, and we wanted to move in sooner just so we didn't lose the spot. And we're also hoping to move between when they're off for Christmas. So we're looking to start this January 1.”

The contract with the school district was $3,000 a month for Robert Morris, and it will be $3,500 a month for St. Anthony’s, she said. 

The program includes academic lessons, physical exercise, and behavioral therapists. It is considered a preventive program for at-risk youth within child welfare and prevention.

STAR had an ongoing contract for these services, and program leaders did not renew the contract last fall, leaving a potential void that Social Services personnel opted to pick up. That included the hiring of full-time adolescent behavioral specialists I and II, and a full-time adolescent behavioral coordinator to work directly with the youth in their homes and schools to mentor, guide and assist them with their required tasks.

There have been about 40 kids in the program, Mindler has previously said. 

“So we need two classrooms because we keep the kids separated by age, so kind of the middle school and high school kids. We have an office for the program coordinator, then we need access to the gym because we like to get them moving, especially in the morning. They do their exercises, calisthenics, and we have them back there in the afternoon,” she said. “We need space for when the therapist comes in and does group meetings with the kids. And so it's all right there kind of on the floor. It really checks all of our boxes. So we don't want to lose the space.”

The committee agreed to pass along the contract to Ways & Means, and then it will go to the full county Legislature for a final vote. 

If approved, the contract would be for $3,500 a month from Jan. 1, 2024, to Dec. 31, 2028, for St. Anthony’s Church at 114 Liberty St., Batavia. The expenses are paid out of funding for Community Optional Preventive Services, which are 36.3 percent local share, or $15,246 per year. 

Drug take back day scheduled for August 26

By Press Release

Press Release:

The HEALing Genesee Work Group, City Church, and the City of Batavia Police Department are joining forces to offer the public an opportunity to safely dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired medications.

The St. Anthony’s campus of City Church on Liberty Street will be the site of a Drug Take Back Day from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 26. The event is part of a continuing effort by HEALing Genesee, a component of the GOW Opioid Task Force, to help end overdoses in the community.

“Drug Take Back Days have proven to be effective in reducing the prevalence of opioid overdoses, and we’re thankful for the Batavia police department and the staff at City Church for making the August 26 session happen,” said Sherri Bensley, program manager for the HEALing Communities Study.

Bensley said a table will be set up at the site to collect prescription medications. As required by New York State, law enforcement personnel will be on-site to assist in the collection process.

Workgroup representatives also will be on hand to provide Naloxone training and share other resources with residents. Free snacks will be provided.

For more information about HEALing Genesee, contact Sherri Bensley at

Community night out proceeds to support K-9 program

By Press Release

Press Release:

The City of Batavia Police Department announced that Batavia Downs Gaming, Upstate Niagara/O-AT-KA Milk Products and WNY Heroes have signed on as Diamond Sponsors ($2,500+) for the department’s annual Batavia Police Community Night.  

The event is in partnership with The City Church and will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 22 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Anthony's, 114 Liberty St., Batavia.  Batavia Police Community Night is an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make safer neighborhoods. 

Various organizations and groups once again will be participating in the annual event which will include free food, a bounce house, games for kids and more.  

There are various sponsorship opportunities at the Bronze level ($249 or less); Silver level ($250 - $499); Gold level ($500 -$2,499); and, Diamond level ($2,500+). There will be several interactive displays and booths available. The sponsorship deadline is Tuesday, August 1, 2023. 

“This event is aimed to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community,” said Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch. “The support of sponsors is critical to this effort and we are extremely grateful for the generosity of various businesses across the city and region as they recognize the vital importance between law enforcement and the community we serve.” 

Gold sponsors include Chapin, Genesee County Youth Bureau, Ken Barrett Chevrolet Cadillac, Mogavero's Auto and the Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union. 

Silver sponsors include Batavia Teachers' Association, Batavia Original Pizzeria, GCASA, Genesee County Economic Development Center, Habitat for Humanity Genesee County, Horizons Health Services, Northside Deli, Salmon Orthodontics, Southside Deli, V.J. Gautieri Constructors, Inc., and the WNY Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Bronze sponsors include Bob Bialkowski, Batavia Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol, Bohm-Calarco-Smith Funeral Home and Roman’s. 

For more information and for those interested in a sponsorship opportunity, should contact Batavia Police Department Detective Matthew Wojtaszczyk at 585-345-6357 or at

Photos: Fall Festival at St. Anthony's

By Howard B. Owens


City Church hosted a Fall Festival at its St. Anthony's campus on Liberty Street on Monday, with activities, games, a hay ride, a bounce house, face painting, candy and grilled cheese.





Fifth annual Community Night Out a success

By Steve Ognibene


Pastor Ryan Macdonald from City Church, St. Anthony's site, says it’s been a pleasure to be part of a community social gathering that brings everyone together to share in food, fun and activities. 

"The weather played in our favor tonight with lower humidity and being cloudy and cooler than the heat wave we have endured throughout this summer," Macdonald said during Tuesday's Community Night Out event. "This year I would say brought in 1,000 people over the course of the event.  We had over 50-plus vendors and more additional sponsors. We are so thankful to get behind the police department with the K-9 unit, and they are just a blessing to the community, and we are glad to be a part of it."

Photos by Steve Ognibene













City Church, Batavia PD host Community Night Out this evening

By Howard B. Owens


The Batavia Police Department, in conjunction with The City Church, hosts its annual Community Night Out event this evening, a community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make safer neighborhoods.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. 

Various organizations and groups once again will be participating, which will include free food, a bounce house, games for kids, and more.

Photo: File photo from 2021 by Howard Owens


City Church celebrates growth and memories of last 25 years

By Joanne Beck


From a men’s prayer breakfast to a pastor’s home, a YWCA meeting room and, finally, to a renovated movie theater, City Church has grown in size, stature and presence over the last 25 years.

That growth and existence was recently celebrated by the Batavia-based church community with a four-day celebration of family activities, an egg hunt with a special bunny, and an Easter Sunday service.

Senior Pastor Marty Macdonald saw the process as one of submission rather than a forced plan.

“That disappoints many people that, you know, are very goal-oriented … and I believe in all that, but I also sometimes believe that your dreams and your goals when submitted to the Lord, you have to be willing to allow him to move in that direction,” he said during an interview with The Batavian. “Because if you live long enough you find out life isn't always what you hoped it would turn out to be. And many times, if you entrust your life to God's process, he'll make it better than what you hoped or thought it would be.” 

And it was God’s process, he believes, that took a simple men’s breakfast to draw listeners to Macdonald and ask him where his church was located. “We don’t have a church” was his reply, and that served as the springboard to hold gatherings at the home of Macdonald and his wife Patti.That small group first met for an Easter Sunday service in 1997. Three or four years later, Rose Caccamise of Roxy’s Music Store then suggested to meet at YWCA on North Street, which is where the church settled until its numbers outgrew the space and a larger venue became available. 

In 2001, the church moved into the former Mancuso Theater on East Main Street. There has been another spurt of growth in 2016 with an expansion into the former St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church on Liberty Street, on the city’s Southside. 

From that first major step to set up at YWCA, Macdonald has reached out to his most reliable guide. He told Caccamise, “Let me pray about it.”

“I hung up the phone. It's kind of funny because I just felt really like the Lord saying to me, do I have to make it any plainer to do? So we did that,” he said. “We didn't have a sound system, and Rose, she gave us the sound system. She said whatever you can pay for, pay for it, because we weren't taking any money at the time; we just were getting together. So that's the formation of, you know, how we began, how it started.”

During an anniversary celebration talk last Thursday, he gave the analogy about a turtle on top of a fence post: you know he didn’t get there on his own, he said.

“And that's the way it is in my life and in the church as well, that a lot of people help,” he said.

One of his friends in Bellevue, Washington even inadvertently helped with the church name. Macdonald was at Dunkin’ Donuts mulling over possible names and thinking about his love for Batavia and the city community. It then came to him: City Church. The friend’s church had the same name so Macdonald asked if he could use it, and the reply was yes. City Church became incorporated as a not-for-profit. 

“You can see now, and going back to having goals and visions, my mind worked to that scale. But God, he had a bigger goal and a bigger vision,” he said. “Sometimes our goals and our dreams are much smaller than what God has for us.”

Church leaders pursued the theater once it came up for sale, he said, which was “amazing,” especially given the fact everyone was meeting at his home about four years prior. And then “we're moving into (the theater).”

“It was mammoth, you know, from meeting in your living room into a space to have 600 seats. And that was just a huge undertaking for us back then. But it's proved out to be an incredible place for church and for our multiple outreaches that we do on a regular basis,” he said.

The church has remained nondenominational — which isn’t to say Macdonald is “anti-denominations,” he said — as a community church with origins of being home-based, as early Christians had done. And as time has moved on, the congregation has grown under the tagline of “we do life together.”

“Because I'd hate to do it alone,” he said.

Part of doing life together includes his wife Patricia (Patti), and three sons, Benjamin, married to Amanda, and three children; Ryan, married to Samantha, and two sons; and Garrett, their youngest son. All of them help out at the church, and “I couldn’t have done it without any one of them,” the pastor said. Ryan assists with the ministry full-time and has developed into a polished and mature preacher, the proud dad said, and is doing “just a fabulous, fabulous job.”

“My family means just so much to me. And I'm just so grateful that they're all in church with me,” he said, adding that they all live in the nearby community. “And I'm just incredibly fortunate for that, I really am just fortunate.”

Macdonald credits son Ryan for taking the lead on repairs and revamping St. Anthony’s, plus activities such as open gym night and food distributions. 

“He's really just done a phenomenal job, turned that property around,” Macdonald said. “Just think of that. You know that St. Anthony's school was empty for 10 years. Nothing at the church for years … I walked in that church, there were pigeons flying through it. The school had holes in the roof, there was so much water running in there. And that's all been transformed. And largely, that's attributed to him and his gifting in that he's done an incredible job.”

The Generation Center, a large meeting and dining venue on Center Street, is another aspect of City Church, besides its many community programs. There are four weekly church services, small group sessions, open gym, activity night, game rooms, and food distributions every other week at St. Anthony’s for a crowd of up to 1,000 people. There are also celebrate-recovery groups and a food pantry. These programs have made “an incredible difference” to people in need, he said.

Macdonald keeps in touch with some of those needs as an active member on the Downtown Business Improvement District board, Community Justice Advisory Council and as a Notre Dame High School board member. He’s also been known to climb aboard a piece of equipment, say a forklift, and do what’s necessary. 

“And so we keep active in the community, and we love our city. We love the people that love our county or region. And I'm just really grateful for where we're at right now, really,” he said. “Now I really believe that God cares for the city, He cares for people. The Bible says ‘when the city is healthy when the city rejoices, people prosper.‘ And I really believe that, I see that in our city. I see our city greater now than I've seen it in the years that I've been there. 

“We're always going to have challenges. People are going to think things should be one way or the other. But where the city is at right now, where it's headed, I really think it's amazing to see the changes that are taking place.”

Editor's Note: Howard Owens contributed to this article. 









Top photo: Senior Pastor Marty Macdonald leads a service on stage at City Church in Batavia. Ryan Macdonald follows in his dad's footsteps as a full-time ministry assistant at City Church. Senior Pastor Marty Macdonald and members of the congregation participate in an Easter Sunday service at the East Main Street church. Photos by Howard Owens.


City police department hosts annual Community Night Out Aug. 10 at St. Anthony's on Liberty Street

By Press Release

From BPD:

The City of Batavia Police Department will host the annual Community Night Out from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at City Church's St. Anthony's campus, located at 114 Liberty St. in Batavia.

Expect free food, a bounce house, games, horses (horses, of course), vendors, "& more!"

If you want more information about how to become a sponsor or have a booth at the event, contact Detective Wojtaszczyk at:

Photos: Food distribution this morning at St. Anthony's

By Howard B. Owens


Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, City Church, at its St. Anthony facility, has continued to offer free food to anybody who drives through on the distribution today. There was another distribution this morning with a line of cars stretched down Liberty Street and dozens of volunteers helping with the distribution.





Tuesday Activity Nights are back starting July 6 at St. Anthony's on Liberty Street in the city

By Press Release

Press release:

The City Church and St. Anthony's are excited to announce the opening back up of their Tuesday Night Activity Nights on July 6th.

They offer basketball, four square, a game room and the Liberty Arts room will be open.

The gym floor has been recently updated and is ready to be played on!

This will occur every Tuesday night from 6-8 p.m. at the St. Anthony's Community Center located on 114 Liberty St. in Batavia.

Everyone is welcome and food will be provided.

They are excited to welcome the community for a night of fun and friendship!

Photos: Food distribution at St. Anthony's

By Howard B. Owens


City Church hosted another in a series of food distributions at St. Anthony's today.

Ryan Macdonald said the church will announce more food distribution days soon.




Liberty Center for Youth opens Thursday afternoon, renovated and ready to serve

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Liberty Center for Youth, 114 Liberty St., is set to open to all youth ages 9-16 in the City of Batavia at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5th.

The Liberty Center for Youth (former St. Anthony’s school) is a joint agency project between the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, and the GLOW YMCA.

The focus of this project is to broaden the services offered to the youth of Batavia and have it conveniently located in one facility. The property is owned by City Church.

“Locating this facility in heart of the City, to serve our youth, is the right move,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. “I believe that the enrollment for the City of Batavia Youth Bureau programs will continue to grow and this will be 'the place' where kids want to go.

"They will find a positive caring environment here lead by the City Youth Bureau.” 

The United Way of Genesee County has contributed $50,000 to the project and will be providing funding for an additional five years at $10,000 per year.

“The United Way is excited to partner with the City of Batavia and the GLOW YMCA to make this project a reality,” said Tammy Hathaway, regional director of the United Way of Genesee County.

“This project fits within our mission to motivate and organize people...through a unified, community-wide effort to mobilize resources and apply them to best serve the needs of Genesee County.”

The new location will offer a technology center with 10 new computers donated by Marchese Computer Products, 10 brand new tablets, and a smart board with wireless capabilities. The Liberty Center for Youth will provide free tutoring and homework assistance.

The facility will contain a game room with pool, air hockey, ping-pong, and foosball, as well as a four-square court and gaming room with a PS4 and Wii. 

The former cafeteria has undergone a major renovation turning it into a multipurpose room where students are encouraged to socialize, and grab a snack. A free snack will be provided daily to participants. The cafeteria will also be used for special events such as Art, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Music, and other activity nights.

This location also offers a gymnasium to allow for year-round sports activities.

“This has been a dream of ours for a while,” said Lydia Schauf, program coordinator City of Batavia Youth Bureau. “We have wanted to find a central location where we could make the most impact on the Youth of our City, we wanted a place where they could feel comfortable to socialize and be active but most of all to provide a safe environment.”

The City of Batavia Youth Bureau has prided itself in offering free, safe and fun activities to youth and is excited and encouraged by this new endeavor. The staff of the Youth Bureau is capable, trained and ready to see a very successful first year of programming at the new location.

“It has been an amazing journey of learning, problem solving and growing as we have developed this partnership over the last three years," said Jeff Townsend, executive director of GLOW YMCA.

"Working together as a non-profit and government entity has been way less challenging than first thought. I appreciate this opportunity in my career to see a vision come to life. And I’m thankful to have worked alongside Jocelyn Sikorski on this project.” 

The Liberty Center will be open year-round. Hours of operation are as follows 2:30-6 p.m. during school and 1-6 p.m. during school breaks and summer vacation. 

Registration is free and participation forms can be found at 114 Liberty St. or on the City of Batavia website under the Youth Bureau Department.

If there are any questions please call Lydia Schauf of the City Youth Bureau at (585) 815-5308. Transportation will be offered afterschool to the facility but must be arranged through the Batavia Central School District.

Video: Dedication of the Liberty Center for Youth

By Howard B. Owens
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