St. Mary of the Angels in Olean celebrates 100 years

Fri, Sep 11th 2015 02:30 pm
Staff Reporter
Father Gregory Dobson stands inside St. Mary of the Angels Church as workers put the final touches on the ceiling. (Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer)
Father Gregory Dobson stands inside St. Mary of the Angels Church as workers put the final touches on the ceiling. (Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer)

St. Mary of the Angels Parish has been a fixture of the Olean community since the current church was built in 1915. The parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary in September with a Mass and concert. Part of the parish's celebration includes a series of ongoing renovations that have been paid for by the parish's centennial capital campaign with funding from the donations of various benefactors.

Bishop Richard J. Malone will preside at the special anniversary Mass on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 11:30 a.m. Music for the Mass will be provided by the Parish Centennial Choir. Following the Mass, there will be a reception at the Old Library Events for invited guests and parishioners who have made reservations. Also, on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 3 p.m., there will be a concert by the Southern Tier Symphony at the church, featuring pieces, composed by Percy Aldridge Grainger and Jean Sibelius, who were popular 100 years ago.

"The parish celebration on Sept. 13 will focus on the goodness of the ministry of the parishioners here," said Father Gregory Dobson, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels. "The Centennial Choir is composed of parishioners of all ages. There will be a procession of ministries of the parish."

Thanks to generosity of benefactors who have donated to the capital campaign, St. Mary of the Angels has raised a significant sum to pay for much-needed renovations to the building. The goal of the capital campaign is $2 million, and as of early August, the gifts and pledges totaled nearly $1.8 million.

The donations have paid for a heating and air conditioning upgrade in the 100-year-old church, and the parish is still in the process of collecting more donations given to them by community members.

Benefactors have ranged from parishioners requesting memorials for loved ones who have passed on, to businesses, with nearby St. Bonaventure University making an especially generous donation. The parish has also set up an endowment, with gifts and pledges exceeding $330,000 as of early August. Father Dobson noted the special importance of having Bishop Malone come to Allegany County for the anniversary.

"Bishop Malone, as a successor of the apostles and our bishop, will add solemnity and poignancy to the occasion," Father Dobson said. "The bishop's presence brings the larger church to that moment. Civic, religious and diocesan leaders will be invited."

In addition to the updated heating and air conditioning, completed renovation plans included repainting the interior of the church, window restorations and an all-around refurbishment of the entire lower area of the church, which used to be the school cafeteria, turning it into a community room with a larger meeting room and new public restrooms. New parish and businesses offices were added to the parish life center, as well as a new chapel, which Bishop Malone blessed, and a conference center. More is to follow.

"We will be adding enhanced accessibility to the church and the parish life center," Father Dobson said. "The church will have an elevator soon. The expansion of the parking lot, a new side entrance and the refurbishing of the pews will not be done now because we do not have sufficient funds at this time."

The parish hired Buffalo-based Swiatek Studios Inc., to complete the interior renovations, including the walls, ceiling and the Stations of the Cross. Father Dobson said they were chosen for the project because of their positive reputation in the community and work they did for Immaculate Conception Parish in Wellsville. It also selected McHugh Art Studio, based in Clarence, for their exceptional stained glass.

In addition to Swiatek and McHugh, other companies that contributed to the improvement project have included Duggan and Duggan General Contractors of Allegany, Artisan Contracting of WNY of Olean, Kinley Corporation of Allegany and MJ Painting Contractor Corp. of Olean.

Father Dobson discussed the church's rich history. Emile Ulrich, the French architect who designed Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, came up with the design. In 1919, Bishop William Turner, the sixth bishop of Buffalo, consecrated the building. Several former pastors are buried in a crypt inside the church.
Recent restorations serve to highlight much of the historic beauty of St. Mary of the Angels Church. The architecture includes a Deegan hammered chime system in its west tower, which was considered state-of-the-art at the time it was built, although the chimes have since been turned off.

Father Dobson said oil paintings in the church are "much beloved," and there are medallions of the Mysteries of the Rosary and the Apostles, which Father Thomas Plassmann, OFM, past president of St. Bonaventure University, designed. The centennial Mass and celebration commemorate both this history and the future of the parish.

"The celebration in September will highlight the various and special ministries of this parish," Father Dobson said. "The people here know that they have been gifted with a treasure from Catholics a century ago, and clearly want to preserve, and pass on this legacy to future generations. The Parishioners understand that not only is St. Mary of the Angels Church a pre-eminent part of the Olean downtown skyline, but that the people who claim that parish and worship there have a significant role to play in the large Catholic community and the civic and cultural arena. That is the hallmark of this parish."

For more information or to make a donation to the St. Mary of the Angels capital campaign call 716-372-4841 or visit  

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