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Early History of St. Mary of the Angels Mother House

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   The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi was founded in Pennsylvania by the Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, C.Ss.R., Bishop of Philadelphia and three women who became nuns. This occurred April, 1855. This congregation was later divided into three provinces.


    The Buffalo congregation was established in December, 1861. In 1861 Sister Margaret, who was one of the original three nuns came to Buffalo with several Sisters and a postulant at the request of the Redemptorist Fathers at St. Mary Parish in Buffalo. They arrived in downtown Buffalo on Wednesday, December 18, 1861. Initially they took care of the sick poor in their homes, but very soon were given the use of some property in East Eden, NY, by Bishop Timon and began to teach school.

 

    Before long it became apparent that there was a need for housing for elderly men and women and the Sisters purchased some property on Pine Street in Buffalo and built St. Francis Asylum for those in need of hospitality. In 1882, the Sisters built their first with mother-house at 337 Pine Street near Broadway in downtown Buffalo. This building became the headquarters of the local community, as well as the novitiate in addition to providing housing for the elderly.


   


Saint Mary of the Angels Mother House Timeline


    October 1901 - Mr. John Blocher donated to the Sisters of St Francis, 337 Pine Street, Buffalo, New York, 100 acres of land with the understanding that a home for the aged be erected there.


    April 28, 1902 - Mother Juliana with three Sisters quietly opened the home for the aged by the reception of two men.


    January 25, 1906 - The Rt. Rev. Charles H. Colton, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, blessed a new bell at the Holy Family Home in Williamsville. The bell, a 400-pounder, was donated by Mr. and Mrs. John Kiefer of Buffalo.


    October 4, 1922 -Mother de Pazzi with three Sisters went to Williamsville to consider the grounds for the new Motherhouse.


    March 4, 1923 -Mother de Pazzi and her council discussed various means of raising funds for the new Motherhouse.


    August 17, 1923 -Mother de Pazzi and her council selected Mr. George Dietel to draw up plans for the new Motherhouse.


    December 5, 1923 -Mother de Pazzi and her council examined and discussed the plans and suggestions submitted by M. George Dietel, the architect.


    August 7, 1924 -Mother de Pazzi and her council decided to erect the new Motherhouse in Williamsville and buy enough land adjoining the farm for a driveway entrance to the convent.


    Fall 1925 - St. Francis Aid Society, established in 1922, increases membership and revenues for building fund for motherhouse.


    May 1926 - Pamphlet published to explain the history and work of the sisters and the need for the motherhouse. Luncheon at the Lafayette Hotel kicks off opening of campaign for funds.


    October 25, 1926 - Groundbreaking ceremony. Work for the new building which was being erected at a cost of $750,000 (including furnishings) was begun.


    August 14, 1927 - The Rt. Rev. Bishop William Turner laid the cornerstone for the new Motherhouse.


    1928 - Work in progress: Deitel and Wade, local architects, Shaddock Plumbing, Reibert Roofing, Orna-Metal Steel Works.


    August 8, 1928 - Kreiger property was purchased for $14,000 with frontage on Mill Street for access.


    October 28, 1928 - The new Motherhouse, St. Mary of the Angels, was solemnly dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop William Turner.


    November 6, 1928 - Forty Sisters left the old Motherhouse at 337 Pine Street to go to St. Mary of the Angels to take up their abode in their new home on Mill Street in Williamsville.


Gethseman Cemetery, Reist Street, Williamsville

    On July 16, 1939, the Rt. Rev. William J. Schreck, pastor of St. Gerard’s in Buffalo and episcopal representative for religious in the Diocese of Buffalo, blessed the cross and dedicated the four acres set aside for Gethsemane Cemetery. The Sisters Cemetery was established on the property with a tree lined road from Reist Street and designed as four quadrants of a circle with Lombardy poplars encircling the outside perimeter

    This cemetery, originally located to the west of the Mill Street motherhouse and novitiate, now forms the eastern landscape of the new Reist Street motherhouse. The landscaping of this central focal circle was redone in the mid- 1990s.

    In this central circle a 12-foot granite cross honors the memory of Mother Mary Francis.  When Sister M. Francis Bachmann (Kunigunda) died in 1955, she was buried in front of this cross which had stood there since 1940.

The Chapel near the Cemetery

    In 1902, Father Anthony Adolph, then pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Williamsville, built this small chapel just a short distance from the early 20th century Holy Family Home.  Residents of Holy Family and others could go there to pray.

    According to the Community Chronicle of St. Mary of the Angels, the chapel was built in honor of the Holy Family.

    “July 2, 1902, this Holy Family Chapel was blessed by the Rt. Rev. James E. Quiqley. The Rt. Rev. Bishop celebrated Mass during which about twenty Sisters received Holy Communion.  Many of the faithful laity heard Mass by remaining outside near the Chapel.

    The chapel made of stone quarried by hand from the quarry once located on the site of the present Youngman Highway at Main Street. It is “the only example in Western New York of the rustic French Gothic style of church architecture,” as explained in an Area Landmark piece with a sketch by Lawrence McIntyre which ran in The Buffalo News on Sunday, September 2, 1990.

    “It (the chapel) features arched lancet windows and front door, buttressed front gables and a slate roof.”

    A small chapel at the Reist Street Cemetery in Williamsville, renovated in 2003 as part of the 140th anniversary of the congregation, had fallen into disrepair and remained closed for many years.

     John Blocher donated many acres of land on Mill Street to St. Mary of the Angels Mother House for the Nuns of St. Francis. John Blocher also was the benefactor of the Blocher Homes for elderly people, constructed on his estate on Evens Street in 1904.

    Construction of new Holy Family Home (1962) located to the immediate north of the motherhouse.