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St. Mary of the Angels to commemorate first pastor with play and tour

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OLEAN — The Olean Catholic community is celebrating the 145th anniversary of the appointment of its first resident pastor, Father John J. Hamel, and the establishment of Olean’s first Roman Catholic parish, St. Mary of the Angels. These historic events occurred on Nov. 24, 1876.

Historic window commemorating the 50th Anniversary of our parish in the Diocese of Buffalo. (Courtesy of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels)

To mark the occasion the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels is inviting all to join in the various celebrations at the basilica spread over two days.

On Wednesday, Nov. 24, a tour of the basilica hosted by historian Jennifer Kane will take place at 11 a.m., followed by a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at 12:15 p.m. At 1 p.m., a prayer of Thanksgiving and Renewal will take place in the basilica crypt where Father Hamel is interred. This is followed by light refreshments in the parish’s Bradley Centennial Hall. The expanded third edition of the basilica’s history book, “A Place Set Apart,” with additional stories and photos, will be released on this day.

On Sunday, Nov. 28, the FirstSunday of Advent will be celebrated at 8 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., “God’s Son, My Son,” a one-man play on the life of St. Joseph will take place. At 11 a.m., the First Sunday of Advent – The Light of Christ Dawning Anew in Olean will take place, followed by a basilica tour hosted by historian Jennifer Kane at noon. Learn about Venerable Nelson Baker who is on his way to sainthood, Olympian Louis Zamparini whose life was featured in the movie “Unbroken,” and American Trappist monk Thomas Merton author of “The Seven Storey Mountain,” who spent time in prayer at the basilica.

To commemorate the Vatican’s Year of St. Joseph during these anniversary celebrations, the basilica has invited Mike Sacilowski from Cheektowaga, to present the one-man play on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 9:30 a.m. He has presented many one-man saint plays throughout the years, telling the stories of St. Benedict, St. Nicholas, St. Patrick, St. Francis, and this year, St. Joseph. See how this quiet and silent St. Joseph put his trust in God’s plan for him and lived a life of obedience and action. Witness how he participated in the work of God and trusted in God to faithfully carry out the mission that God gave him. Listen to the patron saint of workers share his words of wisdom and insights into the purpose of work and how work can be a path to holiness. This presentation is free and for all ages.

Father John Adams, rector of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and pastor of both the basilica and St. John the Evangelist Church, said he is incorporating the diocesan “Road to Renewal” program into the celebrations to aid in healing for the local Catholic community during these trying times. 

“The Church is facing the need for repair and renewal trying to recover from crises, scandal, and societal secular influence,” Father Adams said. “With faith and resolve from God’s people, we pray and trust in the Lord that the past betrayals, struggles and disappointments will not keep us from our commitment to and mission of Jesus Christ. We need to keep our gaze focused on Our Lord. Let us resolve to renew our Church in the Southern Tier and beyond.”

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