In the years following World War II, the Buffalo suburbs expanded rapidly. In 1953, the Bishop of Buffalo, Joseph A. Burke, formulated plans for a new parish in the Town of Tonawanda, to serve the hundreds of new families pouring into that area. He named the new parish in honor of Saint Amelia, in recognition of the patron saint of his mother, Amelia Burke, and to head the new parish, he selected his own secretary, Monsignor John Lodge McHugh.
Monsignor McHugh grew up in Buffalo’s Cathedral Parish, where he was an altar server for Bishop Charles Turner. He attended Canisius High School and College, and completed his priestly formation at Niagara University. He was ordained Sept. 19, 1931, and served for the next 22 years as associate pastor at the Cathedral Parish, as well as secretary to several bishops.
The first Sunday Mass in the new parish was celebrated on Sept. 13, 1953, outdoors on the grounds of the Brighton Fire Department on Jamaica Road. Subsequently Masses were held at Mount Saint Mary Academy on Delaware Avenue. Two years later, a school and church had been built. Saint Amelia School was opened in September of 1955 by the Felician Sisters, who served until 1995, when the leadership was passed to a lay principal. Several additions to the school were necessary after it opened, since the school had become the largest in the diocese, enrolling over 1600 pupils. A convent and a rectory were built on Saint Amelia Drive.
In the fall of 1970 the new church was opened. Designed by architect Ed Egan, a parishioner, the church has the largest seating capacity in the diocese, accommodating 1500 worshipers. The old church was transformed into a gymnasium. The parish hall was named Don Miller Hall, to honor the memory of long-time trustee Donald A. Miller.
Monsignor McHugh retired in 1982, and lived in the rectory until his death on August 1999. Monsignor Rupert A. Wright succeeded him, and served as pastor until 1994. In 1994 and 1995, our pastor was the Reverend William R. Bigelow. Following Rev. Bigelow, Monsignor Thomas F. Maloney, served as pastor from 1995 until 2017. The present pastor, Reverend Sebastian Pierro, came in September of 2017. He had previously served as pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Dunkirk starting in 1994 and in 1999 went on to serve as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Lewiston. Since 2012 he has been the senior parochial vicar at St. Gregory’s Church in Amherst. The parish marked its Golden Jubilee on Sept. 13, 2003, with a Mass concelebrated by our Bishop, Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell, and two dozen priests who had served the parish, followed by a banquet at Samuel’s Grande Manor.
The parish marked its Sixtieth Anniversary on September 13, 2013 with a Mass celebrated by son of the parish, Bishop Gregory Hartmayer of Savannah, and concelebrated by three bishops and twelve priests.