HISTORY OF OUR LADY OF THE LAKE CHURCH

EDINBORO, PENNSYLVANIA

Indeed, a church is far more than just a dwelling made up of brick and mortar, it is the embodiment of the spirit of Christ: Catholic families in the area, "Rejoice, the Kingdom of God is at hand."
 

Prior to 1932, Catholic families in the area, Catholic students at the Normal School, and Catholics among the summer vacationers went to St. Anthony's at Cambridge Springs where Fr. Simpson was assisted by his nephew, Fr. Dwyer, or to St. Phillip's at Crossingville. Then just a "missionary stop" for diocesan priests whose responsibilities were to celebrate Sunday Mass for the handful of Catholic families and students, the Catholic "church" in Edinboro, from 1932 to 1949 consisted of a make-shift altar located in a double classroom in Loveland Hall located on the campus of Edinboro State Teachers College. Several priests from the Diocese, along with Fr. Dwyer from Cambridge Springs, took turns celebrating Mass. In 1949, William Flynn, Al Herrmann and Aimee Doucette, as an official delegation, sought permission from Bishop John Mark Gannon of Erie to initiate the construction of a church. After obtaining the necessary consent, their first purpose was to obtain an appropriate landsight. Harry Engh, owner of Culbertson Hills Country Club, not only donated the considerable property on Maple Drive, but gave them an additional $1000 toward the construction costs. Much later, when the church was completed, Engh proceeded, with the help of some personal friends, to provide the church bells.
 

After the initial excitement created by the acquisition of the property, the families were faced with the unavoidable and arduous task of raising money to continue. Donations were collected among members themselves and the townspeople. To subsidize the contributions, the women of the member families involved themselves in the usual money-making projects of bake sales, rubbish collections, dinners, bazaars, raffles, and card parties until most of the $50,000 needed was raised.
 

On May 28, 1950, ground was broken for the church building of "concrete block construction along New England colonial architectural lines with a seating capacity of 325."
 

Edinboro has always been primarily a farming area. In the springtime ground was broken and turned over in preparation for planting, so that the older, more seasoned soil could serve to nourish the new seedlings to be planted. When Rev. Harry A Simpson consecrated and broke the ground that Spring in 1950, he, in similarity to the farmer, was repositioning the past ideas and ways that they might give impetus to new beginnings.
 

The church was designed by architect Oscar Brenot of Erie. It was decided that the ground plan was to be in the shape of a cross and that there would be a steeple with a cross on the top. It was most important that the design be as authentically colonial as possible to coincide with the general design of most of the buildings and homes in the town.
 

Although the actual construction work was contracted, most of the labor was done by men, women and children of the parish family.
 

On August 6 of that year the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Gannon. By autumn the shell of the church was completed, and the knotty pine interior was finished.

St.Severin at Drifting near Morrisdale donated a statue of Jesus, pews, lights, a collection box and a beautiful antique crib set, hand painted in Germany. St. Bridget's Church in Meadville donated two statues. Although they have since been refinished, these statues are still in the church at Edinboro.
 

Bloom, a woodcraftsman who lived on the lake, made the lectern, Bible stand, first bench used by the altar boys and the crucifix which is still in the sacristy. The altar was hand carved by Tellers Organ in Erie, where the first organ, a pipe organ, was also made. Al Herrmann donated the Stations of the Cross and William Keyser built the frames around them. Keyser also donated and built the intricate cabinet that is in the sacristy and used for storing vestments and altar linens.
 

Work continued day and night, and was completed in time for the First Mass to be celebrated by the Rev. George Dwyer on the Feast of Christ the King, October 29, 1950. At that time, the building was designated to be a chapel which constituted a mission of St. Anthony's Church, Cambridge Springs, with the Rev. Harry A. Simpson as pastor.
 

On May 28, 1953, Bishop John Mark Gannon raised the Mission of Our Lady of the Lake to the canonical status of a parish and the Rev. Dwyer was named its founding pastor.
 

By 1960, the parish, which consisted of only 50 families when the church was erected, had grown to 165 families, and served almost 700 Catholic students at the college and an increased number of summer vacationers. An active Newman Club was supervised by Rev. Joseph Petulla.
 

Fr. Dwyer's health was failing, so he could no longer keep the pace his responsibilities demanded. In June 1959, Msgr. James Gannon assumed the duties of pastor and in February, 1960, was appointed as administrator of Our Lady of the Lake.
 

In May, 1960, ground was broken by Monsignor Gannon, for a new addition, 120 by 60 feet, to be attached to the rear of the church facing Sunset Drive. This structure is our present Parish Center which was dedicated on October 29, 1961, the eleventh anniversary of the church. A very functional building, it serves as church-extension, social hall, and gymnasium where many church barbecues, sauerkraut and pork dinners, smorgasbord spreads, wedding receptions, Thanksgiving dinners, and breakfasts were and are presently being held.
 

From 1960 to 1965, many changes occurred. A mother's room was added inside the front entrance, and a choir loft was built on the second floor. A side altar was built, where the organ and choir had stood previously, to house the relic of the true Cross which Msgr. Gannon had brought back from Rome. The statue of the infant was placed there on an Italian marble pedestal donated by Fr. Dwyer's mother.
 

Although Msgr. Gannon stayed a relatively short time he was greatly loved by his parishioners. They reluctantly let him go in 1965 to assume the position as pastor of St. Andrew's Church in Erie.
 

Father Francis P. Tushim was appointed pastor in May of 1965 with Father Robert F. Bower, his assistant and Newman Club chaplain. They faced an exploding student population of over 3,000 students and the church parking lot became a test of Christian patience before and after Sunday Mass. The house and property on Sunset Drive, which now serves as the rectory, were purchased, and a brick facing was placed on the Church and Social Center.
 

Father Tushim found it necessary to oversee many alterations in the church due to the changes in the Liturgy, such as the transition from the standard Latin Mass to the English Mass with more participation on the part of the congregation.
 

The altar was dismantled and replaced by a simple oak table-type altar. The altar railing was entirely removed. Sliding doors had already been installed behind the altar, opening into the Parish Center.
 

The smaller electric organ was replaced with a beautiful large one, and the vestibule and aisles were carpeted.
 

The expansion of Edinboro College and the rapid growth of the town itself made a Newman Apostolate near the college imperative. In the fall of 1970, a Newman Center was built on the campus thereby easing the pressure of numbers, and Fr. Bower was assigned there along with Fr. Leon Doleski, who served as Campus Minister until 1982.
 

Fr. Tushim remained as sole pastor of Our Lady of the Lake until May, 1972 when he left to take a position as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Mercer.
 

Rev. John Danszewski, Fr. Dan as he was affectionately called, served but a short time as pastor of Our Lady of the Lake from May 1972 until July 1973.
 

Rev. Edward Q. Franz, Ph.D., was appointed in July, 1973. He continued in the tradition of family-centered parish activities with a dynamic participation on the part of everyone. The membership of the parish had taken a sudden leap in new members due to so many people moving into the Edinboro area. To make it easier to get acquainted with newcomers and to keep in touch with old friends, the parish successfully instituted a coffee and social hour following Sunday Mass.
 

Qualified lay people joined priests and sisters in providing the religious education of the children. Classroom space was provided by dividing the area in the balcony of the Center. Classes were also held on the floor of the Center by using dividers to separate the classes.
 

In 1974, Larry Herrmann constructed a brick base in the churchyard for a new statue of Our Lady, which was placed there for the 25th Anniversary ceremonies in 1975. The Altar and Rosary Society purchased this statue with funds from individual donors combined with their own.
 

Pope John XXIII dusted off the old traditions of Catholicism and opened the doors to the fresh air of the Ecumenical Council. In willing obedience, the Catholic church gave up many precious ornamental furnishings and private modes of worship in the spirit of simplicity and more communal devotion. Music and art made the folk Mass a moving religious experience.
 

On Columbus Day, October 12, 1982, Fr. Franz, having served faithfully and well for over nine years, was assigned to teach again at Gannon University and to reside at St. Joseph Parish in Erie, and Fr. Leon Muroski came to Our Lady of the Lake. Fr. Muroski spent seven years as a teacher at St. Mark's Seminary and 15 years as Vicar for Vocations for the Diocese of Erie. During this time he was instrumental in the education process of 4,000 young men, and was able to see some 130 of his candidates enter the priesthood.
 

Fr. Muroski came to Edinboro as the Pastor of the Edinboro Catholic Community. His task, together with the associate pastor, Fr. Bower, was to further enhance unity, peace and understanding. Guided by their deep love for all people, as well as their many and varied talents, a united Catholic Community was formed. This is reflected in each parishioner's genuine concern for one another, as well as for the community at large.
 

One of Fr. Muroski's first tasks was to organize the governing body of the Parish. An interim council was formed in November 1982, the new Constitution was accepted in February 6, 1983, and the first Parish Council meeting was held April 14, 1983.
 

In January 1983 Our Lady of the Lake welcomed Sr. Rose Anne Fedorko as the Director of Religious Education and aide to Fr. Bower in Campus Ministry. She, in conjunction with the Religious Education Committee, guided the Religious Education program for the parish from Nursery School through Grade 12. Sister also assisted Fr. Bower with the Catholic college students on campus.
 

In order to accommodate Sr. Rose Anne with living quarters, the parish remodeled the rental property on Maple Drive.
 

In January 1986, Sr. Rose Anne decided to continue her ministry in Washington, D.C. Pat Baker, chairperson of the Religious Education Committee, assumed her duties.
 

One of Father Mursoki's priorities was teaching the Word of Christ. His homilies reflected his great knowledge of and love for Scripture. In order to teach as many people as he could about following Christ, Father started an Adult Education class in September, 1983, held in conjunction with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
 

Under the Family Ministries Committee of Parish Council, Our Lady of the Lake hosts sessions of Pre-Cana meetings every year. Each session accommodates between 25 and 50 engaged couples. Its purpose is to prepare engaged couples with some practical as well as spiritual insight into married life. This is an all day experience with speeches, discussions, movies and activities. Married couples in our parish conduct the entire program.
 

The organizations in our parish include the Knights of Columbus, Newman Club, Altar and Rosary Society, and Youth Group, which all contribute greatly toward supporting the parish both financially and socially.
 

Our Lady of the Lake has been genuinely concerned with and actively involved in the needs of the entire community. The Edinboro Food Bank was founded in April, 1983. A recycling program is in effect, and the "Thrifty Threads" operates in the former rectory on Maple Drive.
 

Father Muroski, with the approval of Council, computerized the parish in October, 1985. All church records are now stored in the computer, which facilitates all reporting and record keeping duties.

Erie Bishop Michael Murphy invited all interested parishes in the diocese to take part in the Renew program during information night at St. Peter's Cathedral Center November 13, 1985. Our Lady of the Lake parish had the largest delegation with 28 interested parishioners taking part.
 

In August, 1986, Sister Mary Frances Humenay became Campus Minister. After much input and many contributions, Sister departed in February, 1997, to assume the position of Campus Minister at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York.
 

In June, 1992, Pat Baker resigned as Religious Education Director after years of excellent leadership. Sister. Mary Frances assumed the position of Administrator of Religious Education and Father. William Fischer joined Our Lady of the Lake on July 6, 1992 as Campus Minister. He left to teach at Erie Cathedral Prep High School July 13, 1993.
 

Father Philip Oriole was selected to replace Father Fischer as Campus Minister, arriving August1, 1993. He departed June 30, 1994 for St. John the Baptist Church in Erie.
 

Father Bower was appointed Pastor of St. Anthony's in Cambridge Springs August 31, 1993.
 

Father Mark Nowak arrived July 1, 1994 to assume the position of Campus Minister and continues to ably fulfill that role presently.
 

Father Muroski's departure in August 1995 fittingly was recognized during an early "Parish Picnic". Such picnics have since become a popular annual tradition. He left to work at "The Christophers" in New York City.
 

Father John Jacquel was welcomed to our parish November 2, 1995, and quickly assumed responsibility. He enthusiastically leads our parish into the 21st Century.
 

In February, 1996, "small church communities" were formed for scripture and faith sharing and prayer. They planned and led retreat opportunities for the benefit of all, and celebrated during annual picnics.
 

Arkadelphia, Arkansas was leveled by tornados March 1, 1997. A tractor was loaded with "Arkansas Relief" and put on the road as soon as possible. Our Lady of the Lake volunteers were among those who arrived March 23, 1997 (Palm Sunday) in Arkansas to deliver desperately needed supplies.
 

The Knights of Columbus had relocated their meeting site to the basement of the present rectory on Sunset Drive by the end of 1996, allowing the ever-growing "Thrifty Threads" to expand their operation to include the entire Maple Drive facility January 11, 1997.
 

Our "Long Range Planning Initiative" began in earnest under the leadership of Harry Samol in May, 1997. The members did fact finding during the summer of 1998. A Long Range Planning Group was commissioned and began to meet February 8, 1999.
 

Sister Mary Ann White arrived July, 1997 as Director of Religious Education, and after a short but effective tenure, left in June, 2000, for St. Stanislaus in Erie.
 

In 1997, there was an initiative to establish the position of Director of Youth Ministry. From a selection of quality applicants, Mrs. Lin Gabriel became the first Director.
 

Ms. Marcy Fessler replaced Sister Mary Ann as Director of Religious Education in July, 2000.
 

Many Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Conversions, Confirmations, Marriages, and Funerals have taken place in the friendly confines of Our Lady of the Lake Church and Newman Center. Parishioners have laughed and cried together sharing happiness and grief. They've rallied to support one another in times of need. The church parking lot has been enlarged to accommodate the multitude of vehicles which carry the masses to the Masses. The Parish Center underwent an expansion which provided an additional needed six classrooms for Religious Education.

Parish Council proved to be instrumental in the continual development of the parish and evolved into the Pastoral Council as of February 1996. Committees like the Social Concerns Committee and organizations such as the Altar and Rosary Society and Knights of Columbus have provided many valuable services.

The "Weekly Bulletin" and the newsletter, "Just-For-A-Minute" have been published to keep the Catholic community of Edinboro always informed of the trends and developments in the parish. "Just-For-A-Minute" changed its format and title to "Canticle" effective September 1999.

As one of many services to the community in general, Our Lady of the Lake provides space for "Mothers of Preschoolers" (MOPS).
 

We have been truly blessed in our parish with priests exemplary in their priesthood. We thank God for them and pray for them daily. We trust our Lord to direct and guide us both individually and collectively on our journey toward God.
 

Many material advancements have been accomplished within these past fifty years of which the "families" of Our Lady of the Lake parish can be justly proud. The goal of the future lies in a spiritual uniting in a total communal relationship the separate family units working together as inter-familial relationships for the purpose of perpetuating the spiritual growth of the whole. This ideal, it would seem, is not only the least of what we as a parish family might strive to achieve, but is also a fitting memorial to Our Blessed Mother in her devotion to her Son, Christ the King, and the spirit of those early parish families. It was those families who made it their business to create for us a home where we might realize this growth as one family-one among many under the guidance of Rev. Alfred. M. Watson, D.D., Bishop of Erie, and now under Bishop Donald Trautman.
 

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the courageous, dauntless people who started our parish, to those who maintained it over the years and to the truly generous folks who keep it alive and growing today-both in front of and behind the scenes! It would be easier to pass out parish directories than try to list all of these exciting people - you know who you are; we know who you are; God knows who you are! Thank you and may God continue to bless us all.
 
 

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Historical data researched and written by James Wudarczyk, Pasquale Angelo, Father Edward Franz, Hazel Snyder, Joseph Ondrey, Aimee Doucette, Hugh Jennings, Jack Egloff, Mrs. William P. Flynn, Father Leon Muroski, Father John Jacquel, and Ron Sturga.  This history was updated for the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of Our Lady of the Lake Church held October 29, 2000, with Bishop Donald W. Trautman, presiding.