Rev. Mark Wolski retires from SS. Peter and Paul
After nearly 13 years of service at SS. Peter and Paul Church, the pastor who used his drive, wisdom and sense of humor to better both his parish and school, will retire on Tuesday, May 1.
Rev. Mark J. Wolski was appointed pastor to the Catholic church, located on East Main Street in the Village of Hamburg, in 1999. During his tenure, he administered the construction of the handicap-accessible Parish Center, which includes a new school gym, as well as led the renovations of the school’s computer and resource rooms.
“They have been wonderful years for me,” said Wolski about his time with SS. Peter and Paul. He said he will miss the hospitality and spirit of volunteerism that the parishioners embody.
A Buffalo native, Wolski was the youngest of three children of Felix and Hattie Wolski. Wolski describes his family as “traditional.” His father was a teacher in the City of Buffalo and helped instill the value of education within his children - a trait that Wolski would continue to foster at SS. Peter and Paul.
“My family was deeply rooted in parish life,” Wolski said, adding that he had an uncle who was a priest and an aunt who was a nun.
“We lived in the shadow of the steeple,” he said. Wolski’s childhood home was four doors down from St. Casimir, where he attended elementary school. He went on to attend Canisius High School and Canisius College.
Yet Wolski readily admits he was not always sure about entering the priesthood.
“I was originally in pre-med. I had hopes of being a dentist,” he said.
He describes his call to religious life as a subtle, “nagging feeling.”
“It’s not like you have a flash of light,” Wolski said of his revelation to become a priest. “It’s something that grows.”
Wolski attended St. John Vianney Seminary and was ordained in 1967.
Through the years he served as an administrator at St. Jude in Sardinia, chaplain at St. Vincent de Paul Camp, associate pastor at St. Barnabas in Depew and St. Florian in Buffalo and as pastor at St. James Major in Westfield and St. John the Evangelist in Buffalo.
One of Wolski’s most difficult and rewarding placements was when he served as chaplain for Children’s Hospital.
“It was a dramatic change in venue for me,” he said. “I had to deal with a lot of crises and grief.”
Yet while easing the strife of others, he also witnessed the power of faith.
“I learned the value of a faith dimension,” he said. “It gives you strength and determination.”
Wolski said he noticed those with a “dimension of faith” were able to better cope with dire situations.
“It makes you appreciate the gift of faith and what the church has to offer,” he said.
When Wolski was asked to serve as pastor for SS. Peter and Paul Church, he was somewhat nervous.
“It was very different territory for me. I knew about five families out of 3,500,” he said.
Yet he said whatever fears he had were calmed when he was welcomed by the kind and altruistic parishioners.
Wolski explained part of what makes the parish unique is its full time outreach office, which provides programs such as the food pantry, clothes closet, connections to the Friends of the Night People and St. Vincent de Paul, along with other programs that benefit underprivileged children and the elderly.
“These are amazing things that not every parish does,” Wolski said, adding that it is due the parishioners’ generosity that the church is able to maintain its level of outreach.
SS. Peter and Paul School has also thrived under Wolski’s leadership, climbing the ranks to be the largest Catholic elementary school in the Southtowns. (It was third largest when Wolski joined the parish in 1999.)
Improvements to the school include smart board technology in nearly every classroom, enhanced pre-Kindergarten programs and better athletic programs.
“We’ve been winning all kinds of championships in diocesan leagues,” Wolski said.
He also began the “Tuition Angel Fund,” which helps students’ families in need of financial assistance.
“By teaching religion as a part of the daily curriculum, you teach right from wrong and respect for people,” Wolski said, adding that a Catholic education instills a “moral compass” within students.
“Father Wolski has always been supportive of the school,” said Youth Minister Pat Chlebowski, who has worked closely with Wolski over the past 11 years. She said that Wolski has been a “wonderful and honest boss” as well as a “great friend.”
Likewise, Rev. Sebastian Pierro, senior parochial vicar at SS. Peter and Paul, praised Wolski for being a great priest and a loyal friend.
“He has made me a part of his family and I made him a part of mine,” Pierro said.
Pierro lauded Wolski for his excellent communication and listening skills, willingness to hear the opinions of others, and especially his sense of humor.
“He’s just got that way, that when you least expect it, he will come up with something funny to say to break the ice and make someone smile,” Pierro said.
“Every priest should have a sense of humor and an appreciation for what they’re doing,” Wolski said, adding that it is important to never take one’s self too seriously.
Recently, Wolski led a church renovation project in honor of SS. Peter and Paul’s 100th anniversary of the church building. Updates included the addition of six stained glass windows honoring saints with an influence on education.
Other achievements include his time as past trustee of Immaculata Academy, current trustee of Villa Maria Academy, former board member of the Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius College and Polish Arts Club of Buffalo member.
Wolski also serves on the Finance Council and the Council of Priests for the Diocese of Buffalo and is the chaplain to the Hamburg Council of the Knights of Columbus.
He was recently honored with the Bishop’s Medal at the 2012 Making a Difference Banquet for his tireless efforts improving SS. Peter and Paul School.
A Farewell Mass will be held on Saturday, April 28 at 4 p.m., with a reception for all to follow in the Parish Center.
Wolski said his plans for retirement include catching up with family and traveling.
Though he looks forward to the next chapter of his life, he will look back on what he calls a “generous and vibrant parish” with nothing but fond memories.