After the Diocese of Buffalo was established in 1847, the spiritual needs of Catholics from 1850 to 1870, in what is now Angola, was attended to by the Passionist Fathers of Dunkirk. At the request of residents, priests traveled to the area to say Mass in the larger homes. This continued until 1871 when Most Precious Blood Parish was established. The Rev. Thomas Ledwith was its first pastor.
In 1874 the Rev. Thomas Caraher came to Angola (incorporated in 1873) as MPB’s pastor. He purchased land on the Transit and Brant-Angola Roads for a parish cemetery. Prior to that time, all Catholic burials from the area took place in Dunkirk. The first burial in Holy Cross Cemetery was March 7 1879 for Dennis Graeney. During the next few years, the Pastorate at Angola had many changes and many pastors. The Rev. Arthur Barlow became pastor in 1878, followed by the Rev. James O’Laughlin (1879), the Rev. Christopher O’Byrne (1881), the Rev. George Burris (1881), and the Rev. J. P. Grant (1884).
St. Peter’s Chapel St. Peter’s Chapel, a wooden structure located on Old Lake Shore Rd. between Lake St. and the entrance to the Evans Town Park, looked upon the Lake Erie and beach areas from across the street. In existence as a humble house of worship for approximately 60 years, the summer chapel served the Lake residents and vacationing visitors by providing the opportunity of attending Sunday Mass in the area.While the chapel was utilized in the summer, it is pictured above with remnants of a winter’s snow-fall. The statue of Our Lady of the Lake can be seen on the right. The statue was donated in the early 1950s by Dr. and Mrs. Walter King. Some may recall from the summers of the ’50s that the pastor, Fr. Thomas Fernan, also supervised the weekly offering. With a suppressed smile, he handled the collection basket saying quite audibly, “Let’s have a quiet collection. I don’t want to hear any clinking!
As the successor to Fr. Lalley, the Rev. Thomas E. Fernan came to Angola in February 1949. During the next ten years, the parish enjoyed a period of growth, improvements and innovations: acquisition of a convent to house eight nuns in 1949; redecorating of the church and refurnishing of the sanctuary; installation of a new organ; the acquisi-tion of land on Prospect St. in 1951 and the building of a school on part of it. The doors of the school opened for classes September 9, 1953.Assistants to Fr. Fernan during his tenure included Rev. Salvatore Cusimano, Rev. S. Faiola, Rev. P. Magiewski, Rev. E. Halloran, Rev. F. Barrato, Rev. James Cotter, Rev. Herbert Engelhardt, and Rev. Joseph Spahn.Following Fr. Fernan’s death in May 1959, Rev. Alan Zielinski served as interim administrator until the Rev. Dennis P. Shea became pastor Aug 16, 1959.
In its July 9, 1953 issue, the Evans Journal published two pictures of major construction sites nearing completion: the Lake Shore Central Junior-Senior High School on Beach Rd. and Most Precious Blood’s Elementary School on Prospect St. When MPB’s school opened in September 1953, twelve young teenagers were members of the eighth grade class, which would become the first graduating class of the Parochial Grammar School of Most Precious Blood Parish. The total enrollment in grades K-8 numbered approximately 235 in the first year of the school’s existence. The first graduates (1954) were Gayle Chiappone, Patricia Grady, Joan Guzzeta, Thelma Helberg, Sarah Holcomb, Kathleen Knack, Patricia Laws, Donna Lischarelli, Joseph Reinard, Thaddeus Sara-nia, Sandra Sciarrino and Noreen Smith. Through the years, MPB Parochial School served its parish well, providing a Catholic education for children of its faith community. As total enrollment increased, so did the number of graduating eighth-graders: 20 in 1955; 45 in 1962; 48 in 1966. Enrollment numbers were relatively steady through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, but began to dwindle in the 2000s. As a result, plans began to emerge for the school’s closing in 2007, after 54 years of educating over 1300 children.Members of the last graduating class were: Alisa Butlak, Zachory Kosnik, Daniel Lohr, Nicholas Lopez, Geoffrey Panfil, William Rogers and Rachel Szwed.
After Fr. Shea became pastor in 1959, he acquired property on Prospect St. (inward from Lake St.) for a proposed driveway. This was followed by a groundbreaking July 30, 1961 for a new church and rectory. The first Mass to celebrate their completion took place June 21, 1962. One can see in the photo that the wall figures, now located on the outside of the church building, originally were placed inside the church, around the crucifix above the altar. The Parish Council voted unanimously in January 1969 to build a new convent adjacent to the church. Construction began in July with its completion and occupancy in 1970. The parish celebrated its Hundredth Anniversary in 1971. Assistants to Fr. Shea were: Rev. H. Huber (1959-1967); Rev. Fred Fingerle (1967-1969); and Rev. James Kasprzak (August -November 1969). Fr. Shea retired as pastor of Most Precious Blood in 1981, remaining as Pastor Emeritus until his death June 24, 1995. Church of the Most Precious Blood1871 -Angola, N.Y. -2021Most Precious Blood Parish commemorated the hundredth year of its founding with a week-long celebration. The banner shown above contained the official logo of the Centennial and announced the event from the front lawn. In a letter to parish-ioners, printed in the Centennial program book, Fr. Shea wrote: Today we begin the celebration of the Centennial of our parish with the Apostolic Blessing of his Holiness Pope Paul VI and the visit of our Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Pius A. Benincasa. The Bishop will offer with us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in gratitude to Almighty God and for one hundred years of grace and blessings bestowed upon our parishioners through these years.The schedule of the week’s events included:Sunday -Pontifical Opening Mass (Aux. Bishop Benincasa); Dinner for clergy and nuns; Parish reception.Monday -Pre-teen skating party.Tuesday -Latin Mass for the Living; Discussion --“Liturgical Changes”.Wednesday -Rosary Altar Society card party, Smorgasbord; Teen Folk Mass ; Teen Dance.Thursday -Mass for the Deceased.Friday -Centennial Bingo.Saturday -Barbecue and Kiddy Rides; Mass for the People of the Parish.Sunday -Thanksgiving Closing Mass (Aux. BishoP Bernard J. McLaughlin).Fr. Shea continued his message by adding: "I feel honored and privileged to be your Pastor on this joyous occasion and I am grateful to all who have assisted me in any way in my 11 years at Most Precious Blood Parish. In return I shall continue to show my gratitude by remembering you all in my daily Masses and prayers. May Almighty God continue to bestow His graces and blessings upon this parish and its parishioners for as many years as it shall exist. "
The Rev. J. Grant Higgins was pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish from 1982 until 1998. His assistants were Rev. Charles Zadora and Rev. John Hajduk. The lake property, on which St. Peter’s Chapel stood, was sold and the structure demolished. The statue of Our Lady of the Lake, which had been donated by Dr. and Mrs. Walter King in the early 1950s, was moved to the church grounds. The parish property in the village acquired a small structure for the use of the school --a relocatable classroom. And the parish benefitted from the services of its Permanent Deacons. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) re-established the Permanent Diaconate in the Church, allowing married men to be ordained ministers of the Church and to perform the duties of a priest with two important exceptions: Reconciliation and the Consecration. The first permanent deacon at Most Precious Blood was Joseph Kane, a parishioner and Chief of the Village of Angola Police Department. He served from 1977 until 1998. Deacon Kane was joined in the 80s and 90s by Deacon Paul Schreiber, working with RCIA; Deacon Richard Kelsey, involved with the school; and Deacon Frank Polizzi. Deacon David Velasquez served in 2006 and 2007 and to date was the last deacon at MPB. Deacons were eligible to deliver homilies, attend to the sick and dying and to preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals. In addition to their spiritual duties at MPB, they also took an active role in parish carnivals , lawn fetes and other fundraisers.
The Annex The small, white structure between the Parish Hall driveway and Lake St. has been part of the MPB “campus” since the 1980s. It was originally a Lake Shore Central “re-locatable” classroom but is now known as MPB’s “Annex.” The Lake Shore School District purchased three of these classrooms in the 1970s to accommodate overflow enrollment at three elementary schools. Each installed unit provided all of the necessary utilities: heat, electricity, water and plumbing. Sr. M. Theophane was principal when MPB school became a flourishing educational institution. She saw the need for occasional remedial services in grades K-8 but was unable to provide them. She contacted William Houston, Superintendent of the Lake Shore Central School District, and asked what could be done. Fortunately, New York State educational regulations had eased a bit to enable public school personnel to provide services to parochial students un-der a public school roof. Since there was no longer a need for all three classrooms at LSC, Mr. Houston made one available to MPB at the Prospect St. site. Public school teachers began to administer reme-dial lessons in reading, speech and math. Mr. Houston recalls meeting Most Rev. Edward D. Head, Bishop of Buffalo and accompanying him to the schoolroom. There the bishop blessed the structure as the superintendent looked on. After the school closed in 2007, the building eventually became property of MPB. Known as the Annex, it has been used as the meeting place for RCIA, Parish Council and many other church groups.
Rev. Bernard U. Nowak became pastor of MPB in 1998 and immediately made repairs and improvements to various properties and structures in the parish. He had the sanctuary renovated and updated; the altar was reconstructed and the acoustical tile was re-moved, revealing a magnificent wooden ceiling; carpeting was replaced; and a baptismal pool was con-structed in front of Mary’s altar. Roofing and furnaces were replaced at the rectory, school and convent. Through monetary gifts made by parishioners, Fr. Nowak purchased a new sound system and an Allen organ for the church. In addition to these projects, he had a chapel built as an addition to the church. This was accomplished with funds donated by parishioners. Completed in 2004, the chapel houses original paintings depicting the Five Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Through the years It has been used for Masses, religious instruction classes and as a meeting room for various parish groups and organizations. Fr. Nowak promoted a fuller participation by both men and women in parish ministries and encouraged girls as well as boys to become altar servers. The parish at this time numbered over 1,000 house-holds. The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, Introduced by Pope John Paul II in 2002, the Five Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary are recited between the Joyful and Sorrowful mysteries and highlight the role given to Jesus as the “Light of the World.” These mysteries, according to some sources, are commemorated on Thursdays. During the time that Fr. Nowak was MPB’s pastor and was overseeing the construction of the new chapel, he considered the Luminous Mysteries appropriate to identify with the new structure. He enlisted Chester Dimitroff and Rose Bogdan Szwed, the artists who earlier painted most of the wall art in the school cafeteria. The five paintings for the chapel were created by Rose, Chet and Fr. Bernie in the Dimitroff basement art studio. Their renditions favored symbolic concepts rather than the traditional illustrations of biblical scenes. Here, then, are the chapel paintings and their titles:
In January 2005, when Fr. Nowak left for assignments in Chautauqua County, Bishop Edward Kmiec appointed Rev. Matt Mieczyslaw Nycz pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish. Fr. Matt continued improvements and updates, renovating the liturgical brass in the sanctuary and replacing the stairs from the gym area to the cafeteria with a handicap ramp. He reorganized the Parish Council and created Finance and Maintenance Committees. In addition, he organized the Youth Group as well as adult funeral servers. In 2006 the ceiling and lights in the cafeteria were replaced and new round tables were purchased. Fr. Matt began the tradition of offering classical concerts as part of an outreach program. He formed a committee in August 2005 to bring performers to MPB and to promote the concerts. During the year that followed, nearly a dozen classical and sacred programs took place at the church. In addition, a Kurtzmann baby grand piano was donated for use in the sanctuary for worship and concerts. A major change to the parish occurred when the Diocese of Buffalo announced that Most Precious Blood School would be one of the thirteen Catholic schools to close in June 2007 as part of the diocesan restructuring process. Fr. Matt implemented many changes in the Faith Formation Program to accommodate youth no longer served by the school. A Youth Ministry was begun for those of middle and high school age.
After its formation, the concert committee met regularly to make arrangements for each program. This included scheduling, promotion, admission, ushers, program book and post concert reception. While the concerts were considered public relations for the parish, they also served as fundraisers for MPB with the exception of two concerts that bene-fitted Operation Good Neighbor. When the committee first convened, the parish already had sponsored two concerts: Ewa Lewendowski, soprano, and Pawel Staszczyszyn, piano, musicians from Poland; and the Villa Maria Chorale. The third concert spotlighted Cristina Voto, piano, and Maria Szczepanik, soprano. The two sisters had been MPB parishioners in their childhood, had participated in the parish choir in their teens and later were organists/pianists and directors of the choir. This concert was followed by a string quartet that included another former resident of the area, Lynda Dimitroff, cello. During the next five years, various area groups performed at MPB: St. Mary of the Lake choirs and musicians, hand bell choir of the Angola Congregational Church, Canisius College Chorale, Chopin Singing Society, Chautauqua Children’s Choir, Fredonia Chamber Singers and the Lake Effects (Sweet Adeline) Singing Group that included parishioner Sandie Emhof. Lake Shore music teachers Annette & Jim Ieda also performed as did Tom Herlihy. Concerts often celebrated holiday seasons: Palm Sunday --the Kosta Manojlovich Choir of St. Stephen’s Orthodox Church, Lackawanna; the Gift of Christmas --Brittany Mruczek (soprano) and members of New Horizon; Eastertide --Resound with Joy (MPB Music Ministry). From April 2005 to May 2010, MPB hosted 28 concerts that included many professionals from outside of the county and state. The concerts were well attended with audiences not just from MPB, but from throughout Buffalo and Erie County.
Our Lady of the Lake Prayer Garden: Under the leadership of Fr. Matt Nycz, the creation of a prayer garden was the major project of 2009. While its purpose was to provide a serene area for contemplation, its plan incorporated handicap accessibility to the church, chapel and rectory.
Following Fr. Matt’s departure, Rev. Msgr. Fred Voorhees was appointed temporary administrator of the parish. On April 24, 2010, MPB Parish welcomed its new pas-tor, Rev. John S. Kwiecien. Fr. John had been pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in North Collins where he also served as part-time chaplain at the prison facility, a ministry he continued while at MPB. His service, in turn, inspired some from the parish to volunteer their time in this ministry. Parishioners soon learned that occasionally, within the celebration of Mass, Fr. John was inclined to play his guitar and sing during a psalm or hymn. Fr. John continued various maintenance programs throughout the buildings and grounds of MPB with spe-cial attention given to energy-saving projects: lighting, windows, heating. He also updated areas of the church, replacing the sound system and the carpeting and adding brass railings (donated by a parish family) at the altar steps. The school building, now known as the Parish Hall, became the venue for community outreach. It has been available for rental by community groups, such as the Girl Scouts, and by parishioners for private gatherings. In addition to a long-term occupancy by a Karate Club, the gymnasium is used by the Erie County Board of Elections to house some of Evans election districts for local, state and national elections. Most consistently, though, the Lakeshore Association of Christian Churches, through Operation Good Neighbor, continues to use the hall for its weekly food distribution to community recipients. To develop further a spirit of fellowship, Fr. John encouraged participation in the monthly Sunday parish breakfasts, the parish picnic, its pork chop dinner, the Holy Name Society’s chicken barbecue, and spaghetti dinners, the seasonal Mardi Gras celebration, St. Patrick Dinner and St. Joseph Table. He also began the ministry of Helping Hands, a group of parishioners who prepare and serve funeral brunches following the Mass and interment. The purpose of these gatherings is to provide a time of comfort for those who are grieving. Food for the Soul One might question why the dinners at MPB are so noteworthy when considering the history of the parish. Outside of the obvious “spirit of fellowship” motive, the dinners have developed into identifying who we are. They require hours of preparation, teamwork and con-geniality. Along with providing a purpose for some, they are known to build friendships and camaraderie among those who volunteer their time. Over the years, dinners at MPB became quite popular and attracted a larger group of diners each year. Even with limited or no advertising, some attendees at some dinners came from outside the parish, outside the village, outside the town, from distant areas of the county. Each of the three seasonal dinners has its own unique characteristics and attractions. Beginning with Mardi Gras, celebrated before Ash Wednesday, guests are provided with masks, beads and hats. Activities are designed to entertain all age groups: a parade, activities in the gym, movies with pop corn. The menu has included soup, pancakes, chili, hot dogs and King Cake. The Irish Dinner takes place close to St. Patrick’s Day and entertains with a live band and Irish dancers. The menu features classic Irish fare: corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes and carrots, soda bread and bread pudding. An alternate choice is a Reuben on Rye. The St. Joseph’s Day Table, March 19, is known for its absence of meat. It offers lentil soup, pasta, frittatas (omelets), fish, artichokes, burdock, dandelions, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, etc. The desserts usually include cannoli, sfinge, cuccidati and pizzelles. There is no charge for admission, but offerings are accepted. The proceeds, according to tradition, are donated locally to such charitable organizations as St. Vincent de Paul, Ladies of Charity and Operation Good Neighbor.
Fr. John was a member of Reynolds Battery, a group of Civil War
re-enactors who portray Union soldiers when they appear at schools
or in community programs. He was the musician-soldier who played the guitar to accompany his singing of the songs of the era. He presented a concert of these songs, Echoing thru the Camp, at MPB in April 2011.
The present-day Reynolds’ Battery is over 30 years old and is chartered by the NYS Board of Education. Its stated purpose and objectives are to inform, instruct and educate the public of the life and trials of a Civil War Artillery soldier during the 1860s. MPB Parish became a participant in its traditional activities (2013-2018) by annually hosting a Victorian Dinner that offered authentic dishes of the period. The purpose was to raise funds for the battery, enabling its members to continue to educate the public and to “keep history alive.” In 2015 the dinner commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Surrender at Appomattox. Also included in these annual events were demonstrations and displays of items associated with the Civil War era: a forge, medical tent, fashions, weapons. Revisiting the Civil War Era On October 8, 1861, 81 men and officers swore an oath to the Union and were mustered into federal service while stationed in Elmira, New York. Most of these men were from the Rochester area. On November 23, 1861, Company L reported for duty at Camp Barry, Washington, D.C. under the command of Captain John A. Reynolds. The captain used his own personal funds as a guarantee to secure the first six Model 1861, 3” Ordnance Rifles from the Phoenix Iron Works.
The Battery saw action in twenty engagements from 1862 to 1865. These included the Second Battle at Bull Run (August 28-30, 1862) (Manassas), the Battle at Antietam (September 17, 1862) and the
Battle at Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863). A total of 320 men entered the service as members of Reynolds’ Battery L. Of these 320, nine were
killed or died from wounds received in action, while 14 died from sickness contracted during their service.
Throughout the six-year cooperative venture with Reynolds Battery, MPB volunteers researched Victorian recipes to provide a variety of food at each banquet. Among the culinary achievements were: (Soups) split pea, Mullagatawny, mock turtle; (Meats) venison, pork chops, rabbit stew, pork pie, meat loaf, turkey, beef pasties; (Vegetables) onion casserole, stewed carrots, dandelions, sliced beets, cabbage stew, green beans; (Breads) corn bread, sweet potato rolls, biscuits, Sally Lunn bread, honey butter, maple butter; (Desserts) blueberry cobbler, maple rice pudding, Indian pudding, molasses cookies. Beverages included coffee, tea, fruit punch and artillery punch.