HISTORY OF MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD PARISH
Although the Diocese of Buffalo was established in 1847, it was not until 1871 that the parish of the Most Precious Blood was founded. From 1850 to 1870 the spiritual needs of the Catholic residents were attended to by the Passionist Fathers of Dunkirk. At request of residents priests traveled to the area saying mass in the larger homes of the Town. This practice continued until 1871 when Most Precious Blood parish was established. Reverend Thomas Ledwith was Most Precious Blood's first pastor.
Father Ledwith purchased an unused schoolhouse on Lake Street and after much-needed repairs put it to use as the first church of the newly formed parish. The first baptism was performed March 26, 1871, for John Woods, born February 20, the son of John & Bridget Fitzgerald Woods. Father Ledwith performed the first marriage of the parish June 30, 1872, for William Eggston and Bridget Hannon.
The Reverend Thomas Carraher came to Angola in 1874 as pastor and purchased a lot on the corner of Transit and Brant-Angola Roads for a parish cemetery. Previously all Catholic funerals from Angola went to Dunkirk for Burial. The first burial in Holy Cross Cemetery was for the deceased, Dennis Graeney, March 7, 1879.
Following Father Carraher, the pastorate at Angola had many changes in the next few years. The Reverend Arthur Barlow was appointed in 1878, the Reverend Christopher O'Byrne in 1881, the Reverend George Burns also in 1881, and the Reverend J.P. Grant in 1884.
In 1886, the Reverend J.M. McCarthy came to Angola as its new pastor. He was to serve as pastor for the next sixteen years. Father McCarthy used the old schoolhouse for his church but began formulating plans for anew brick structure. The men of the parish arranged to buy an acre of land on Lake Street adjacent to the land already owned by the parish. They purchased this property from Abner Dewey for the sum of $145. The new structure was dedicated in 1897.
The Reverend Richard T. Burke succeeded Father McCarthy in 1902. Seeing the need for a parish hall, Father Burke had a basement dug beneath the church. He also bought additional property for the parish cemetery. Holy Cross Cemetery was dedicated October 21, 1904.
Eight years later, the Reverend John Keaven was appointed pastor to Angola. He began the practice of saying Mass at Angola-on-the-Lake for summer residents, using an enormous tent to do so. The Reverend John Campion continued this tradition after succeeding Father Keaven in 1929. He rented the pavilion at the Municipal Beach for the purpose of saying Mass. After a brief stay by the Reverend Michael Martin in 1935, the Reverend John J. Lalley was appointed pastor in April of that year.
When Father Lalley became pastor, the parish numbered 700 members; the church seated 300; and 2500 to 3000 summer residents took part in the Mass celebrated at the City Pavilion every Sunday. Seeing the need for better accommodations for the thousands of summer vacationers of the Catholic faith, Father Lalley approached Bishop Duffy about the possibility of erecting a chapel on the Old Lake Shore Road. The plan was approved at a meeting in the chancery and in 1938 reached fruition. The new structure was named St. Peter's Chapel.
Father Lalley also organized the first troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the parish. During his fourteen years as pastor he was assisted by the Msgr Bertrand J. Gulnerich, the Reverend W.L. Hatch, the Reverend Joseph L. Jensen, the Reverend Leo Hammerl, the Reverend Peter Huesges, the Reverend Paul C. Schreck, the Reverend Bernard D. Sexton, and the Reverend Paul Hammerl.
As the successor to Father Lalley, the Reverend Thomas E. Fernan came to Angola in February, 1949. During the next ten years the parish enjoyed a period of growth, improvements, and innovations. It saw the acquisition in 1949 of a convent to house eight nuns, the redecorating of the church, the refurnishing of the sanctuary, the installation of a new organ, and the most formidable of all projects, the acquisition of land on Prospect Street in 1951 and the building of the school on part of it. The doors of the school opened for classes September 9, 1953.
Serving as assistants to Father Fernan in the ten-year period were the Reverend Salvatore Cusimano, the Reverend S. Faiola, the Reverend P. Magiewski, the Reverend E. Halloran, the Reverend F. Barrato, the Reverend James Cotter, the reverend Herbert Engelhardt, and the Reverend Joseph Spahn.
After the death of father Fernan in May, 1959, the Reverend Allen Zielinski served as interim administrator until the appointment of the Reverend Dennis P. Shea as pastor on August 16, 1959
In 1960, Father Shea acquired property on Prospect Street inward from Lake Street for a proposed driveway. Ground was broken for a new church and rectory July 30, 1961. The completion of the church was celebrated with its first Mass on June 21, 1962, and its dedication by Bishop Leo Smith on September 9, 1962.
In January, 1969, the Parish Council voted unanimously to build a new convent adjacent to the church. Construction began in July of the same year with completion and occupancy taking place in 1970.
Assistants to Father Shea were Reverend H. Huber from 1959 to 1967, the Reverend Fred Fingerle from 1967 to 1969, and Reverend James Kasprzyk from August to November 1969.
The parish celebrated its' Hundredth Anniversary in 1971
The preceding history of the church was taken from material prepared for the publication entitled "The Church of the Most Precious Blood Centennial '71".
Father Shea retired as Pastor of Most Precious Blood in 1981 remaining as Pastor Emeritus until his death on June 24, 1995. Father J. Grant Higgins took over pastorate in 1982. Assistants to Father Higgins included Reverend Charles Zadora and Reverend John Hajduk.
Reverend Bernard U. Nowak became Pastor at Most Precious Blood in January of 1998. Under his leadership the sanctuary was renovated and updated to its contemporary looks. Also, a new chapel adjacent to the church was built in 2004. Chapel is being used for daily and school Masses, and well as, a meeting room for religious instructions and parish groups meetings.
Fr. Shea retired in 1981 as Pastor of Most Precious Blood but remained as Pastor Emeritus until his death June 24, 1995. Fr. J. Grant Higgins was pastor 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 chapel razed. The statue of Our Lady of the Lake, which had been donated by Dr.& Mrs. Walter King in the early 1950s, was removed from the chapel and relocated to the church grounds.
Rev. Bernard U. Nowak became pastor in 1998 and brought about many physical improvements to the church such as renovating the sanctuary, construction of a baptismal pool, refurbishing the church ceiling, and carpeting. He also replaced the roofing and boilers at several structures, including the school. After purchasing a new organ and sound system for the church, he began planning for the construction of a chapel adjacent to the church. The chapel was completed in 2004. In addition to its use as a place of worship for daily Masses, the chapel serves as a meeting room for parish groups.
Rev. Matt Mieczyslaw Nycz came to MPB on January 15, 2005, having been appointed by Bishop Edward Kmiec as the parish’s next pastor.
A major change to the parish occurred when the Diocese of Buffalo announced that Most Precious Blood School was one of the 13 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 the youth no longer being served by the school and a Youth Ministry was developed for high school children.
Through the direction of Fr. Matt, 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. Parishioners supported the project by purchasing commemorative bricks, pavers, medallions, benches and pedestal space. The statue of Our Lady was moved to a place of prominence on a new, black granite pedestal overlooking a cascade of flowing water. She became the garden’s central figure as well as its namesake. Our Lady of the Lake Legacy Prayer Garden was dedicated by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz February 11, 2010 enabling Fr. Matt Nycz to be present at the event before departing for his new pastoral assignment.
Rev. Msgr. Fred Voorhes was appointed the Temporary Administrator of the parish on Feb. 15, 2010.
On April 24, 2010, Rev. John S. Kwiecien was appointed pastor of MPB.