Our Parish, formally known as “Saints Peter & Paul’s German Catholic Church of Hamburg, NY,” was founded in the year 1844 by twenty-two German men who settled in Hamburg’s fertile farmland. Before that time, Catholic families needed to travel to St. Louis Church in Buffalo or to East Eden to attend mass. With the death of East Eden pastor, Rev. Johann Nicholas Mertz in 1844, Hamburg families formed a separate congregation in White’s Corners, present day village of Hamburg. The first church building on the corner of East Main and Pine Streets was purchased from the Freewill Baptist or Thilerite congregation on June 11, 1845 for the sum of $650.
In 1847, Redemptorist priests from St. Mary’s Church in Buffalo journeyed to Hamburg every second Sunday to say mass in Hamburg. In 1860, Rev. George Pax raised funds to build a new brick church with a tower and the old wooden church was moved to its present site at 239 East Main Street. This second church was dedicated on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 19, 1863. Shortly after this time, the parish was officially incorporated. Two church bells were installed in the tower; the larger was called “Sanctus Georgius” and the smaller was called “Petrus et Paulus.”
Notable early pastors include Rev. Vincenz Scheffels, who purchased the cemetery in 1875 and served as pastor on three different occasions and Rev. Andrew Frey who wrote “An Historical Sketch of SS. Peter and Paul Parish” in 1900. Rev. Anthony Bornefeld served as pastor from 1908 until his death in the church on April 7, 1920. He was the force that built the present Romanesque style church in 1910, rather than splitting the growing congregation into two parishes. Bishop Charles H. Colton dedicated our third church building on July 2, 1911. Rev. Bornefeld is remembered today by his gift of two stained glass windows of Saints Francis Xavier and Catharine, named after his parents, and by the magnificent enameled chalice he donated to the church. Rev. Anthony Veit became pastor on May 7, 1920 and served for thirty-seven years.
Our parish has also included a school since 1863, and Rev. Veit replaced the old 1874 building with a combination grammar and high school that was dedicated by Rev. Nelson H. Baker on November 13, 1921.
Today, our parish continues to make history. In 2006 the construction of the Social Center was completed. The new addition allowed for the parish to be handicapped accessible. The social center included a parish meeting room, the Franciscan Chapel and a brand new gymnasium. The addition also allowed for renovations to the school’s old gymnasium, which was turned into a state-of-the-art computer lab, library and school resource room. To celebrate the current church building’s 100th anniversary in the fall of 2011, the church was freshly painted.
In 2015, our parish renovated our school cafeteria. The facility now features a beautiful new ceiling, flooring and state-of-the-art technology for meetings.
Rev. Darrell Duffy now serves as pastor to a congregation of over 2,000 families. Over 180 boys and girls attend our community school and we are proud to host a vibrant Faith Formation program.
Many groups such as the St. Vincent DePaul Society, Parish Outreach and the Altar and Rosary Society spread the gospel as they minister to the Hamburg community, making Saints Peter and Paul Parish a vibrant community for the 21st Century.
For a more detailed history of our parish, please refer to the booklet, “Saints Peter and Paul Church, Hamburg, New York: 1844-1994” by Martha Eder.
– John R. Edson