|The German Roman Catholic Orphan Home
Compiled by Rev. John L. Obendorfer, C.SS.R., Pastor, St. Mary's Church
| The German Roman Catholic Orphan Home, located at 564 Dodge Street, is an institution in Buffalo with a long record of service and achievement. The original institution was located on Pine Street. It was established to care for orphans and victims of the cholera epidemic which ravaged the city in the year 1851. Many families were left fatherless and motherless by this dread disease, leaving the children homeless and destitute and dependent on charity.
The Reverend Joseph Helmpraecht, a Redemptorist Father and Pastor of St. Mary's Church, located on Broadway and Pine Streets, first saw the need for some form of organized care for the orphaned children. As he called at the homes of his stricken parishioners, to administer to their needs, he would learn of the predica-ment of the children. He would often bring these children to the Sisters of Notre Dame, who taught the parish school. They would care for the little ones until they could be placed with some family, willing and able to shoulder this responsibility. Since the number of children left destitute increased rapidly in the second year of the epidemic, Father Helmpraecht called a meeting of the men of the parish. At this meeting, the foundation of an orphanage was decided upon. A wooden structure adjoining the Sisters' Convent was secured. Here the institution was opened September 8, 1852. The Sisters of Notre Dame assumed charge..
|Father Helmpraecht entrusted the enterprise to Divine Providence and busied himself collecting whenever and wherever he could for the project and managed to keep out of serious debt. In 1858, Father Urbanczik, C.SS.R succeeded Father Helmpraecht as Pastor of St. Mary's Church. He, too, loved the children. But, he wanted some more definite support than personal solicitation from house to house. He therefore arranged that each member of the parish should contribute twenty-five cents each quarter year for the institution.|
|In January 1862, there were twelve orphans, in January 1863, there were thirty-three, in March, forty-seven and in 1874 there were forty-seven. These forty-seven orphans were transferred to their new home 564 Dodge Street, on October 1, 1874.|
| Even in those far off days, Broadway and Pine Streets was a business section, unsuited for a home for children needing fresh air and a safe place to play. It became evident that new arrangements would have to be made and another home provided in a more suitable location. Such an undertaking required financial support. At that period, in the city's development, the population was predominently German and comprised many German parishes. Nine of these parishes united and decided it was their responsibility to provide a suitable home for the dependent children.
In 1873, a Constitution was drawn up and adopted. In 1874, a certificate of incorporation was procured from the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Three thousand copies of the certificate were printed and distributed among the people of these nine parishes, asking them to purchase shares in the enterprise. The shares sold for five dollars each and were payable in the "Valley of Josephat." This facetious suggestion appealed to the people and $25,000.00 shares were sold.
| Early in 1874, through the efforts of the Reverend Elias Schauer, C.SS.R., then rector of St. Mary's Church, the site of the old burying ground on Dodge Street was purchased from Bishop Stephen Vincent Ryan, at a cost of $25,000.00.
Remains were reinterred into a mass gravesite at Mt. Calvary Cemetary and a monument erected at the new burial site which read, "Dedicated to the memory of those whose remains were transferred from the Old St. Mary's Cemetary on the 18 Dec. 1881 which cemetary was donated by St. Marys congregation to the R.C. German Orphan Asylum. R.I.P." The monument is located at the juncture of East Delevan and Pine Ridge Road in Cheektowaga.
|Monument Over Reburial Site at Mt. Calvary Cemetary.|
|On June 1, 1875, the present Home was formally dedicated. The management of the new home was transferred to the Sisters of St. Francis.|
|GRCO Home after the 1919 Fire|
|Since the beginning, the Home had been under the supervision of a Board of Directors. The personnel of this Board is made up of the Reverend Pastors of the parishes listed in the by-laws; namely, St. Mary's, St. Louis, St. Michael's, St. Ann's, St. Mary of Sorrows, St. Francis Xavier, St. Boniface, Sacred Heart and St. Mary Magdalen. Other members of the Board are layparishioners recommended by their pastors and voted upon by the existing Board. Other parishes have been added from time to time, such as St. Gerard's, St. Matthew's and St. Agnes'. The Board usually numbers 28 members. The active members of the Board head different committees, responsible for the various needs and activities of the Home|
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