Aug. 3, 2018 – Six hundred Jesuit alumni, families and friends of the Society filled the streets around historic St. Michael’s Church in Downtown Buffalo to celebrate the first ever Iggy Fest in Western New York on Tuesday evening, July 31st. The celebration was created, coordinated and managed by One Jesuit Buffalo Alumni to highlight the gift of Ignatian spirituality, education and community. Four generations of the Ignatian family gathered from all parts of the region as well as guests from Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, Rochester and Baltimore. Many local alumni chapters of Jesuit colleges provided support. Numerous local corporations and businesses co-sponsored the street festival as well as each of the local Jesuit apostolates and the Junior Board of the Nativity Miguel Middle School. All proceeds from the event will benefit the student support programs for The Nativity Miguel Middle School of Western New York.
The festival began with a Mass in St. Michael’s Church attended by more than four hundred seventy worshippers. Fr. Thomas Slon, SJ, rector of the Canisius Jesuit Community, presided and Fr. Benjamin Fiore, SJ, pastor, preached the homily. Eight other local Jesuits concelebrated. Music was provided by the Voices of Mercy Choir from St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy. Mrs. Nancy Langer, president of Nativity Miguel, and Mr. Nicholas Sawicki, special assistant to the president at America Media, served as lectors.
Keeping a focus on Jesuit spirituality amidst the young alumni also created a large chalk board with the question, “Where Did You Find God Today?“ which invited guests to write their reflections. Music was provided by the band Wilma, comprised of local students who attend Loyola College in Baltimore. A Choral Concert of favorite show tunes was also performed by Broadway to Buffalo, a vocal styling group that includes many Jesuit alumni and Fr. Fiore, SJ.
The evening’s events included the presentation of the first ever One Jesuit Buffalo Fr. Pedro Arrupe Service Award. The award is designed to recognize a local alumnus who has offered exemplary and untiring service to the local community as a Person for Others. This year’s award was given to Mr. John Paul Luhr, Jr. Esq., CHS ’83 for his tireless dedication to the One Jesuit Buffalo service projects and to pro bono work in helping parishioners with immigration applications.
“Today was a day of connecting and collaborating with so many diverse people who all have a common bond through St. Ignatius and the Jesuits,” stated John Tomczak, founding director of One Jesuit Buffalo. He noted that “Iggy Fest would not have been possible without an incredibly committed and diverse group of volunteers as well as without the support of Fr. Fred Betti, SJ, our chaplain, and Fr. Tom Slon, SJ, our local superior.”
Organizers and their army of volunteers have already begun plans to make Iggy Fest an annual celebration.