History of Our Lady of Angels Association
Inspired by the charism of St. Vincent de Paul, Rev. Martin J. Blake, C.M. (1881-1939) founded Our Lady of Angels Novenas in April of 1918. Father Blake was the Director of Seminarians at the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels and Vice-President of Niagara University.
The purpose of the Novenas was to honor the Mother of God and to spread devotion to her under the title of Our Lady of Angels, the Patroness of the Seminary and University. It was Father Blake’s hope to have Mary better known and loved, and to inform people of her great intercessory power, and to inspire in them confidence in the Mother of God.
In early April 1918, Father Blake sent a letter to the families and friends of the priests, seminarians, and other university students asking them to contribute “to the fund we are raising to meet our mortgage and for the rebuilding of our chapel and laboratories which were destroyed by a fire a few years ago, and which we sadly need at present.”
In return for their offerings, Father Blake assured the donors of a remembrance in a Novena of Masses to be offered for their intentions. The first Mass of this initial Novena was offered on April 17, 1918.
From this initial appeal, the Novena Office began to grow. While the primary purpose of the Novenas was to promote devotion to Our Lady of Angels, funds were also used for the Catholic education of University students and for the formation and education of the seminarians attending the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels.
During the early days of the Novena Office, a great deal of material assistance was given to the University: rebuilding the Seminary/University’s chapel which was dedicated on October 20, 1921; building the residence for the Vincentian community teaching at the University and Seminary, dedicated on March 25, 1927; building a dormitory; a new addition to the Seminary building; a new heating system and fireproof stairs were completed in all the buildings, and many other improvements to the grounds. In 1950 funds from the Novena Office helped to build a recreation center with a basketball court, food court and offices.
By the early 1950’s, the Novena Office which had been dedicated in 1926, had outlived its usefulness. There was a need for a more specious and modern office. The old office building was razed, and ground for the new building was broken on November 27, 1956. On May 13, 1957, the corner stone was set in place. A life-size statue of the Blessed Mother, made of carrara marble, was placed over the entrance of the building on October 29, 1957. The Marian House was completed by November of 1957.
From its foundation, the official title for the Novenas was Our Lady of Angels Novenas. On March 22, 1967, the title was officially changed to Our Lady of Angels Association.
In February of 1993, to be faithful to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the Association added a third purpose: to raise funds to assist the Vincentians and other member of the Vincentian Family as they strive to assist the poor.
On August 26, 1999, Alumni of the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels and Vincentians from Niagara University gathered with friends and members of Our Lady of Angels Association on the Niagara University campus to dedicate a newly constructed Shrine honoring Our Lady of Angels. The Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell, D.D.,Bishop of Buffalo, was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass which preceded the dedication ceremony.
Toward the end of August, 2002, the President of Niagara University asked that Our Lady of Angels Association relocate since the University had need for the Association’s Office. After a search for a new office space, a property was located about three miles from the University in the village of Lewiston (NY). After negotiations with and approval of the town zoning board, the University rented the building for the Association. After some necessary remodeling, moving of equipment, stock, etc. was begun on January 20th, 2003. The staff moved in on February 3, 2003.
As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Association, it continues to be faithful to the purposes expressed in its Mission Statement –
Our Lady of Angels is a Development Office for the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission. The Association promotes love for and devotion to Our Lady of Angels. Inspired by the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the Association also encourages its members and benefactors to support, through their prayers and donations, the education and formation of Vincentian priests, brothers and seminarians; and it encourages them to be partners with the members of the Vincentian Family in their ministries with and for the poor.
May God, through the intercession of Our Lady of Angels, continue to bless the works of the Association and its members and benefactors.
Rev. William J. O’Brien, C.M.