Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 10, 2014

HIGGS: More on St. Mary of the Cataract Church

Niagara Gazette — I am going to give in and refer to this series of articles as St. Mary’s as it is commonly known by both the parishioners and most of the area population.

The Rev. Nicholas Gibbons succeeded Father Lanigan when he became the rector of the Cathedral of Buffalo in 1896. Property was purchased from Mrs. Porter Burrell for $18,200 and construction began on a four-story, red-brick building, designed in the old colonial style as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy. Father Gibbons was not in good health and passed away in December of 1900 and was replaced by the Rev. William McNab who served the parish until his death in 1906. He kept up the pace of growth and remodeled the rectory and converted the old school into a home for working girls. This became the Casa Maria which was opened on June 20, 1917. He died in 1923 and was followed by the Rev. C. Killeen who also made many improvements in the buildings of the time and was responsible for the full high school course of education.

The Rev. P. J. O’Dwyer followed Killeen’s death in 1937 and was succeeded by the Rev. Felix Scullin, M.R., a former rector of Somerset and Limestone. The Diocese of Buffalo Historical Commission Files stated that “In the last 12 years St. Mary’s parish has given to the church eight priests and 18 sisters; and at present there are 11 young men studying for the priesthood.”

At the time (1914) of the writing of the document loaned to me by Michael Parsnick and titled “The Catholic Church in the United States of America Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X,” St. Mary’s of the Cataract church property consisted of the church, school, rectory and convent was valued at $250,000. The article noted the church had a seating capacity of 700. The new school and lyceum was in the course of construction at a construction cost of $90,000. The school had 380 pupils and eight Sisters of Mercy.

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