Parish History

2012 nativity scene


In the early 1900s there were many Italian immigrants that had located in Dunkirk, NY.  They were attending St. Mary’s Church and it became apparent that there was a need for a new parish to serve the Italian people.  At that time there were ethnic parishes in Dunkirk (St. Mary, Irish; Sacred Heart, German; St. Hyacinth and St. Hedwig, Polish).  Early in 1908 Bishop Colton, Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, met with a committee that informed him of the many Italian immigrants in Dunkirk and the need for a priest that could minister to their particular needs.  Bishop Colton authorized the formation of a new parish and assigned Father Vincenzo Fragomeli as the first pastor.

Since the new parish had no church building, masses were said in a store owned by Concezio Novelli at 84 East Third St.  Father Fragomeli lived in the house of the pastor at St. Anthony Church in Fredonia which was serving the Italian immigrants living in Fredonia.  As attendance at mass increased the store could no longer accommodate the parishioners and masses were then said in a building that could hold the increased attendance.  The task of naming the new parish was not an easy one.  Everyone had their favorite saint that they wanted and eventually Rose Cali, whose home was being used for the meetings to name the parish, came up with “La Santissima Trinita”.  Bishop Colton, Rev. Nelson Baker pastor of Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Fr. Fragomeli, and the first two trustees of the parish, Joseph Serrone and Concezio Novelli, appearing before the Notary Pubic of Erie County,  registered the new incorporated parish giving it the official title, Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church.

At this same time, 1908, Fr. Fragomeli was ministering to a parish of about 250 families and the parish was seeking land to build a church.  A parcel of land at the corner of Ruggles St. and Wright St. was purchased for $1500.  The cornerstone of the new church was laid in October, 1908, and consecrated by Bishop Colton.  The building was completed in June 1909 and officially dedicated by Bishop Colton on Trinity Sunday, June 14, 1909.  The church was not totally completed at that time as it lacked ceiling beams, Stations of the Cross, and statuary.  Even so, the parish had their new church and mass was celebrated that day.  The new church was constructed of brick and could seat approximately 500 people.

Fr. Fragomeli stayed as pastor until 1913 and was replaced by Rev. Peter Santy.  In 1914 a house directly across from the church was purchased to be used as a rectory.  Fr. Santy was pastor until 1917 and was replaced by Rev. Charles O’Hara.  Fr. O’Hara obtained the services of seven nuns of the Order of St. Joseph, who were teachers at St. Mary’s school, to teach catechism classes on Sunday afternoons.  In 1925 Fr. O’Hara purchased a property at 52 Lincoln Ave. to be used as a rectory.  The old rectory was used as a hall and eventually became the site of the new hall. Five acres of land was purchased in 1910 to be used as a cemetery,

Fr. O’Hara died in 1936 at age 50.  He was replaced by Rev. Pascal Tronolone.  Fr. Tronolone was instrumental in building the parish hall which was completed in 1938.  The hall contained a large auditorium, stage, kitchen facilities, and classrooms in the basement.  Fr. Tronolone was transferred to St. Joseph ‘s in Niagara Falls in 1942.  After Fr. Tronolone there came a succession of pastors.  Rev. Leo Pulling succeeded Fr. Tronolone and remained only one year.  Following Fr. Pulling, Rev. John Shea became pastor until 1945.  Fr. Valerio Bernardo became the seventh pastor arriving on July 4, 1945.

Fr. Bernardo inherited a church building needing many repairs.  He completed the repairs but in the summer of 1946 a small fire occurred in the church.  Damage was repaired and a new roof was installed.  Fr. Bernardo continued to make many necessary repairs to the church.  Fr. Bernardo purchased land on Central Ave. in Dunkirk and a school and convent were built in the early 1960’s.  At that time  urban renewal was purchasing more and more homes in the proximity of the Ruggles St. church and Fr. Bernardo foresaw the relocation of Holy Trinity.  The church properties on Ruggles and Lincoln were sold on July 24, 1970.  In June 1971 ground was broken for a new church and rectory on the Central Ave. site adjacent to the school and convent.  The old church was closed on June 18, 1972 and the new church was dedicated on September 24, 1972 by Auxiliary Bishop Benincasa.

Msgr. Bernardo retired on February 23, 1974 at age 80, having served the people of Holy Trinity for 30 years.  He was replaced by Rev. Richard Amico, who eventually paid off the parish debt through fundraisers, donations, and investments by parishioners.  Fr. Amico served until 1987 and was replaced by Rev. Richard DiGiulio.  Fr. DiGiulio was succeeded by Rev. Sebastian Pierro in 1994.  Fr. Pierro was succeeded by Rev. Martin Pavlock in 1999 and was succeeded by Rev. David Bellittiere in 2002.  Fr. Bellittiere served until 2010 and was replaced by Rev. Joseph Zalacca in January 2011. In 2015, Rev. Daniel Walsh joined holy trinity as the new pastor.

Holy Trinity has been blessed to have had 24 assistant (associate) pastors that have served the parish well.  There have also been two deacons, Donald Shultz and Jeffrey Vogt, both deceased.  There have also been a number of young men from the parish that have become priests.  The first was Celestine Damiano, who later became an Archbishop of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey; the second was Paschal Acquavia, followed by Fr. Acquavia’s first cousin Joseph Doino.  Next were Ralph Federico, Ralph Bramucci, and most recently Joseph Gatto and Joseph Porpiglia.  There have been others that have or are serving in other religious pursuits: Sister Paul of the Cross SSJ, Sister Mary Clare Anne of the Felician Order, and Brother James Dempsey. Sister Elizabeth Mackowiak came to Holy Trinity in 2010 as the Pastoral Associate.