Location: Lancaster, New York
Reproduced from the Lancaster Enterprise-Times, April 26, 1928, (the newspaper's 50th Anniversary Issue)
The history of St. Mary’s Church, which was printed in detail in St. Mary’s Messenger throughout the days of the bazaar in 1903 states that Rev. John Nicholas Mertz was the first visiting priest to come here about the year 1830.
Father Mertz was followed by Rev. Alexander Pax who came here often to baptize and instruct. He was followed by Rev. John Nepomucene Neuman who builded the Church upon the hill, a small rough board building that was later replaced by a frame structure. Rev. Neuman remained in Lancaster until 1840 when he joined the Redemptionist Fathers, was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia, and died in the year 1860. This site was purchased by the Catholic Society of Lancaster from Truman and Lauretta Luce in 1834.
Father Mertz, the founder of St. Mary’s died in 1844 and was laid to rest under the sanctuary of the Church at East Eden.
The name of Father Noethen enters the records of the Church next. He came from St. Louis Church in Buffalo.
The school which was built under his predecessor, Father Neuman, was a small frame building on the corner of Broadway and Transit Road. Mr. Schwam kept this school which was attended by about thirty scholars.
Later, in 1842, Mr. Smith set up his school house on the Hill. The first school apart from the family home was in the house of a Mr. Lambrix, a grandfather of Henry Lambrix, John Lamhrix and the late George Lambrix. This was on Cook Lane, and was kept only during the winter months. Two years later the children were taught by Veronica Buchler, a maiden lady, in a frame house in the neighborhood of Transit Road. She instructed them for a year and a half and after that Mr. Phillips kept the school In a list of the first families who formed the parish on the hill we find the names of Meyers, Stockl, Bund, Schwartz, Raynor, Buber, Ott, Jerge, Smith, Kaiser, Eisemann, Weisbeck, Ringeisen, Lambrix, Messmer, Forness, Landin, Laux, Nabb, Kirchholder, Suttell, Grant, Merge, Zimmet, Zugg, and Beyer. Father Krammer followed after Father Noethen and from 1848 till 1850, the Redemptorists of St. Mary’s Church, Buffalo, took charge of the affairs of the parish.
In 1850, July 28, there came as parish priest, Rev. Sergius de Stchoulepnlkoff who remained till Dec. 27, 1851. Father Surich directed affairs at St. Mary’s from January 31, 1852 until November 13, 1853 and Father Sergius Stchoulepnlkoff returned and remained until September 8, 1856. Father N. Sester, remembered by many of our older citizens today, was the parish priest from 1856 till June 5, 1859. Father Stchoulepnlkoff began a brick church on the present site of the handsome edifice known as St. Mary’s. Those of the parishioners who possessed horses, drew brick from the yards of what late was known as the Lancaster Brick Company. He also built upon the hill an Orphan Asylum. This was apart from the regular school and under a separate keeping of two or three sisters. This orphanage gave shelter to 60 or 70 homeless who were later given over to the care of Father Baker at Limestone Hill. Mr. Michael Smith, who set up the first school on the Hill, as related above, stayed about seven years. The Brothers of St. Joseph followed him remaining here two or three months. Mr. Lux was next and after two years he was succeeded by Mr. Franz. The last menthioned was here but three months and his successor, victor Irr, ruled much longer, some twelve years. After Mr. Irr, came John Leininger who taught many who are alive today. Mr. Loham taught a year after Mr. Leininger and he was followed by a brother of Mr. Smith, who occupied the teacher’s desk for four years. Mr. Rengel then came to the hill and kept the school for some 20 years. After him, Mr. Kaiser the organist, and the last of the schoolmasters.
Father Sester, in the meantime, having raised the debt of the old French Church in Buffalo, was welcomed heartily on his return to Lancaster. He began immediately that work of this 27 years pastorate, much of which is seen today in the garden-like hill and the beautiful old cemetery, fast-filling with those of the faithful who have been called to the final resting place.
The first assistant priest assigned to St. Mary’s was Father Michael Krischel who came to help Father Sester in June 5, 1890. However, Father Krischel tarried but a few months before the arrival of Father Phillipps. After three months, Father Phillipps left and Father F. X. Scherer for two or three months. When Father Sester left for Dunkirk in 1891, Father Frey took into his hands the rule of the parish. Father Vincent Sheffels next became the pastor in March 1892. Father Scheffels was there six years and his stay is linked with many acts of kindness, charity and forbearance.
After the long stay of the schoolmasters, the school was handed over to the care of the Miss Nardins whom Father Sester brought from Buffalo. With the school, they kept a boarding school for those who lived a distance from Lancaster. They left during the vacation of 1898 after a fruitful stay of many years. On August 28, 1898, the Sisters of St. Francis were invited to take over the school. Five sisters came up to the hill and this Order has been in charge of St. Mary’s School continuously up until the present time. On November 30, 1900, Rev. Father Schaus came to Lancaster to take charge of the rapidly growing church and school. Father Schaus celebrated his silver jubilee in 1925, the year of the diamond jubilee of his parish. His is still at St. Mary’s beloved by his parishioners and respected by all who are not of his Faith. Rev. Martain H. Ebner S.T.D., and Reb. Louis Witkop are his assistants.
No mention of St. Mary’s would be complete without some word of the young men called to the priesthood. They are: Rev. John P. Lutz S.J., Michael H. Lutz, S.J., Peter A. Lutz, S.J., Rev. Edward J. Rengel, Rev. Michael Anstett, Rev. Joseph Stephan, Rev. Joseph Jerge, Rev. Roman Nuwer, Rev. Edward Ott, Rev. Joseph A. Bach and Brother Albert Lutz, S.J., Rev. Anthony Nichter.
There were 33 young women of the Parish who joined the Sisterhood and three who joined Miss Nardins.
In closing it might be of interest to say that with the coming of the Sisters of St. Francis, the school flourished beyond all expectation. The registration increased from three to seven hundred and the teaching staff from three to nineteen Sisters.
St. Mary’s School became the first Parochial High School in the United States, In June 1904, Regents Examinations were held and in 1912, it was officially chartered under the Regents of the State of New York.
The Lancaster Enterprise-Times, 1928 Anniversary Issue