August 10, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Many old churches have been given new lives when they are no longer needed for worship. A closed church in Buffalo has recently been reopened to continue serve in ministry, but in a completely new way. The old church is now a health clinic serving the refugee community.


The Buffalo News noted that when the Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary Church opened in 1898, its mission was to serve the surge of new immigrants mostly from Italy. As needs expanded, the church added a parish school. In 2008, when the church was closed, the school was reused to provide education and administrative support for a refugees. As more families arrived with more needs, the leadership at Catholic Charities began seriously eying the empty worship space next door for a new health clinic.


It would be an accurate description to say the newly opened clinic is housed within the church. The design intent was to keep major elements recognizable even as new spaces and new uses were inserted into the interior. Some of the examining rooms and offices feature stained glass windows. Granite columns grace the hallways. A large meeting room was created at the front of the church. Reports suggest that the area around the old altar is now a quiet a place for reflection.


The result is a comfortable blending of recognizable church elements with utilitarian healthcare spaces. There’s powerful symbolism seeing a church, a place of sanctuary, providing for the basic needs of those who are seeking sanctuary. A local reporter asked one of the physicians what conditions he is encountering serving the refugees. He noted that many newly arrived families have had little or no health care in the recent past and many of the children show signs of malnourishment. Giving this church a new life means giving a new generation of refugees a healthy start in their new country.      

Catholic Charities clinic is located at the intersection of Albany and Herkimer Streets in Buffalo, New York

Adaptive Re-use/ Historic Preservation