A Brief History of The NativityMiguel Middle School of Buffalo

The NativityMiguel Middle School of Buffalo has been offering intervention in the lives of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in Buffalo since September 2004. A fifth grade was added in September 2007.   We trace our history to the founding of St. Ann’s Jesuit Parish in the Broadway/Emslie area over 100 years ago. With over 2,200 students, St. Ann’s School was at one time the largest Catholic elementary school in the world. As change came to Buffalo’s East Side in the 1960’s, the schools and parishes in Buffalo’s Central City changed as well so that in 1970, the Diocesan Education Campus (DEC) on Dodge Street became the home of over 700 students from 7 parishes. In 1988, Catholic Central School was formed as a consolidation of DEC and 5 other elementary schools. Initially, students were served on two campuses, the Msgr. Herlihy Campus at St. Ann and the Father Bissonette Campus at St. James. The school was consolidated into one site at St. Ann’s in the 1990’s.

The transition of Catholic Central School to a NativityMiguel school began with the arrival of Father James F. Joyce, S.J. In the late 1990’s, Father Joyce was sent to Buffalo by the New York Province of the Society of Jesus and the National Office of Jesuit Social Ministries to conduct a study of attitudes on the problems of the area around St. Ann’s Parish.   Father Joyce brought to the project many years of experience in education and social justice issues with a strong focus in urban areas as well as a year of service in Africa with Jesuit Refugee Services.

Father Joyce’s study of Buffalo’s Broadway/Emslie area identified the top concern as “Drug Abuse and Sale in the Neighborhood” followed closely by “Poor Grammar Schools.” To address the problems of poor grammar schools, Father Joyce proposed that the Jesuit province bring its “Nativity model” to Buffalo. With the support of then-Buffalo Bishop Henry Mansell, who was familiar with the Nativity schools from his work in the Archdiocese of New York, Father Joyce procured a grant from the Cassin Education Initiative Foundation to determine the feasibility of this model in Buffalo. Based on the results of that study, the Cassin Foundation awarded $300,000 to support the implementation of this model at Catholic Central School.

Father Edward Durkin, S.J., who founded the original NativityMiguel School on the lower eastside of Manhattan in 1971 and, in 1989, established the second NativityMiguel program in Harlem, brought his more than 30-years experience teaching inner city boys to Buffalo in September 2003. Father Durkin was supported in his efforts by the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first congregation for African American women in the United States. Sister Timothy Howard, OSP, in particular,  played a critical role in the education of hundreds of students in Buffalo. During her time at NativityMiguel, Sister Timothy never wavered in her commitment to education as the key to her students’ future. She exemplified the Oblate Sisters’ commitment to bringing the message of freedom to those who are oppressed by racism, ignorance, and illiteracy; to defend the rights of all people; and to reach out with compassion to those in need. Today, Father Durkin is joined by a dedicated lay faculty who exhibit total commitment to the mission of the school.

The work of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, as well as Father Joyce’s and Father Durkin’s roles in education in Buffalo, have been recognized by the Diocese of Buffalo. Sister Timothy was one of the first recipients of the Sister Lucille Socciarelli / Father John Sturm Making a Difference Award from Tim Russert in January 2006. In January 2008, Father Joyce and Father Durkin were awarded the Bishop’s Medal for their work in establishing the NativityMiguel model to Buffalo.  In May 2014, Father Durkin was awarded an honorary degree from Canisius College for his selfless dedication to the education and personal growth of young people at risk.