Search billions of records on

1863 - 1938
Pittsburgh, PA

St. Augustine's Church is now (2011) known as Our Lady of the Angels. It is located on 37th Street, Lawrenceville, PA

(Contributed March, 2011 by Nancy J. Smith,


1863-1938                                                                 ST. AUGUSTINE'S  PARISH HISTORY                                                                         Page 55



The Monastery—1889

In whom you also are built together into an habitation of God. —Eph. II, 22.

  When the Capuchin Fathers assumed the pastorship of St. Augustine's Parish in 1874, they found the old rectory a very poor substitute for a Capuchin cloister. True, some years before, Father Tamchina had remodelled the house at a cost of $8,000.00, but nevertheless it remained a simple rectory wholly unsuitable to serve as a friary. Hence when enlarging the church, it was decided to remodel the rectory in keeping with the Capuchin requirements. Accordingly, two three-story wings were added, one to the right and one to the left, with the original building in the middle. Since it would have been unfair to burden the congregation with this added expense for the friary, the Capuchin Fathers, through contributions from abroad and through the fruits of their labors, contributed the sum of $3,000.00 toward the enlargement of their friary.

  The friars dwelt in this cloister from 1875 till 1889 when again it became necessary to provide better accommodations. In those years many friars had come from abroad and, residing at St. Augustine's they acted as chaplains to various religious communities and as assistants to the diocesan clergy. As already noted, Father Maurice Greek, O.M.Cap., was pastor of the church from 1887-1890, and as he had just finished building the new school in March, 1889, he lent his co-operation to Father Francis Wolff, O.M.Cap., Provincial, who at that time planned to build a friary a part of which should provide offices and parlors. Messrs. Moeser and Nickel, architect and contractor of the school, were also employed for the erection of the Capuchin monastery. During the week of March 31, 1889, the friars vacated the old rectory and took up provisional residence in a brick house on the north side of the school. On June 13, 1889, Father Francis Wolff, O.M.Cap., laid the corner stone of the monastery in the presence of the Capuchin family and of the church committee.

  The monastery was finished on November 21, 1889, and the parish was invited to visit it before the Papal enclosure should go into effect. The women of the parish spent days cleaning the corridors and rooms, making the monastery presentable for the friars who would shortly take up residence. During the week of November 3, and even after, many people availed themselves of the rare privilege of entering beyond the enclosure of a Capuchin friary. Wondering eyes gazed on the utter simplicity of this large convent, with its bare wooden floors and utter lack of anything superfluous. There was the Capuchin choir or chapel, with simple brown altar and curious stalls where the friars would assemble five times daily for chanting the office, the canonical prayer of the Church; there, too, was the refectory with long monastic tables running along the walls, and there were the cells, the little rooms measuring seven by twelve, with bed, desk, chair and crucifix, where the individual friar would work and pray in silence.

  On November 21, 1889, Father Hyacinth, delegated by the Father Provincial, blessed the monastery in the presence of the local Capuchins: Fathers Maurice, Guardian and Pastor; Gregory Maria, Vicar; Fidelis, Lect. Em., Irenaeas, Leo, Charles; and the brothers, Elzear and Guido. The total cost of the Capuchin convent was $35,000. Of this sum $25,000 were contributed by the Capuchins who through parsimonious living and through donations of friends were enabled to raise this money. The other ten thousand dollars were the contribution of the parish toward its rectory. The Capuchins moved into their monastery on November 26, 1889.(1)

(1) Hyacinth Epp, Kinderfreund, IX, 141-143. In 1905 a third story was added to the monastery.

  Page 56                                                          ST. AUGUSTINE'S  PARISH HISTORY                                                                    1863-1938

  Besides the erection of the school and of the Capuchin Monastery, this second pastorate of Father Maurice was noteworthy for other significant happenings. On December 25, 1888, Father Benedict Wich, O.M.Cap., another son of the parish, celebrated his first solemn Mass and had the unusual distinction of administering first communion to his father, a recent convert.(2) The same day marked the close of a triduum commemorating the beatification of Blessed Felix of Nicosia, a Capuchin. A patriotic celebration was held on Tuesday, April 30, 1889, when the centenary of the inauguration of George Washington as first President of the United States was commemorated with solemn Mass, sermon and Te Deum. Before the Mass the church bells were rung for half an hour.

  The sympathy and charity of Father Maurice, the public-spirited Franciscan, are also seen in the solemn Requiem on June 4, 1889, for the victims of the Johnstown flood, and also in the collection ordered for the relief of the surviving sufferers. He announced the collection in the following words:

  You have already heard of the terrible disaster that has befallen Johnstown. In order to bring quick relief to these unfortunate people, we shall take up a collection at all the Masses. Those who are unprepared for the collection are requested to bring their offering to the rectory this afternoon. Dear Parishioners, I beg you to do your very best on this occasion and you will earn not only a great reward but also, under God, the grace of protection from similar calamities.(3)

  The collection amounted to $470.00. From its earliest days St. Augustine's never lacked generous souls whose solicitude for the things of God prompted generous benefactions. In 1889, Mr. Joseph Vogel presented an imported monstrance valued at $800.00. The gems and lunula for the latter were worth $200.00 and were the gifts of Mr. Michael McCullough, the benefactor of the school. In 1890, Mr. Edward Frauenheim presented a set of gold-embroidered red vestments for solemn Masses. Other gifts of vestments, chalices and statues were presented from time to time so that both church and sacristy were well equipped for all occasions.

  Father Maurice retired from the pastorate in August, 1890. He spent the next six years as superior and pastor of St. Alphonsus' Church in Wheeling, returning to Pittsburgh in 1897, where he died on March 17, 1898.

  The next pastor was the well-known and well-beloved Father Hyacinth. However, he remained pastor only from August, 1890, till October, 1891, when the chapter in the presence of the Most Reverend Bernard Christen of Andermatt, General of the Order, unanimously elected him Provincial. During his brief pastorate there occurred from September 22-25, 1890, the fourth celebration of German Catholic Day in Pittsburgh. On Monday evening after the Angelus the pastor ordered St. Augustine's bells to be rung for fifteen minutes in joyful welcome of the event. Hundreds of priests crowded the city, and among the prelates were: Bishop Frederick Katzer of Green Bay; Bishop John Janssen of Belleville; Bishop John Kain of Wheeling; Bishop Joseph Rademacher of Nashville; Bishop Kilian Flasch of Fort Wayne, and Bishop Leo Haid, O.S.B., of Belmont, North Carolina. Among the distinguished Catholic laymen was Dr. Ernest Lieber, a member of the German Reichstag.(4)

  Father Joseph Anthony Ziegelmayer, O.M.Cap., succeeded Father Hyacinth in October, 1891. Born in Augsburg, Bavaria, on April 9, 1854, he entered the Capuchin Order on April 12, 1872. Desirous of joining his brethren in the American mission, he came as deacon to the United States in

(2) Very Rev. Benedict Wich was born on Jan. 24, 1866, at Pittsburgh. Invested with Capuchin habit on Oct. 14, 1882. Ordained Dec. 22. 1888. Studied at the University of Innsbruck from 1889-1891. From 1891-1931 he was lector of moral theology at Sts. Peter and Paul's Monastery. Cumberland. Md.   Provincial of the Capuchin Province of Pennsylvania from 1909-1915 and from 1918-1921. Since 1936, guardian of the Cumberland Monastery, and since  1937, definitor of the Province.
(3) Announcement Book, June 2, 1889.
(4) The Report of this convention was published under the title: Verhandlungen der Vierten Allgemeinen Versammlung der Katholiken Deutscher Zunge der Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika in Pittsburgh, Pa. Sept. 22-25, 1890. Herausgegeben von Rev. A. Fischer und Chas. Jaegle. Druck des Beobachters.

1863-1938                                                                 ST. AUGUSTINE'S  PARISH HISTORY                                                                         Page 57       

1876 and was ordained by the Most Rev. John Tuigg in St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh, on September 23, 1876. His ability as a practical administrator was soon recognized as is evident from the important offices of Guardian, Master of Novices, and Provincial, one or the other of which he almost constantly filled.

  One of the first things Father Joseph did as pastor was to take up a complete census of the parish. 740 families with 3800 souls were reported. He then undertook many improvements, notably the frescoing of the church at a cost of $1,200 and the erection of new Stations. He also had the interior of the school painted for $485.00. In the spring of 1892, Father Joseph purchased the ground for the cemetery. Hitherto the parish had buried its dead in St. Mary's Cemetery, Forty-sixth Street, but as space was becoming scarce and the price of lots correspondingly high, the pastor obtained the Bishop's permission to acquire thirteen and one sixth acres in Shaler Township as burial ground for St. Augustine's Parish. The price was $290.00 per acre. After laying out .the roads and planning the lots, the pastor had an iron fence erected at the cost of $583.63. On August 26, 1892, a massive iron cross with gold-plated corpus was erected for $491.00, the gift of Mrs. Mary Regina Frauenheim.(5)

  The spirit of demonstration in behalf of the faith—typical of those days—was clearly in evidence on September 18, 1892, when the cemetery was solemnly dedicated. To the observer of this distant day, the great parade that marked the occasion might be suggestive of a great army going out for conquest. Fully aware that the parish would turn out en masse, and distrusting the safety of the Forty-third Street bridge, the pastor warned the people from the altar not to walk in step while crossing the bridge so as to prevent its rocking. Reading the chronicle of Father Hyacinth, we can readily understand the reasonableness of the warning. He says: "The ceremony was imposing. Amid the music of bands, eighty horsemen, one hundred and sixty carriages and more than three thousand people came in procession to the cemetery to witness the blessing of their last resting-place and to pray for the grace of a happy death."(6) Father Hyacinth, delegated by the Bishop, blessed the cemetery and Father Joseph Anthony delivered the sermon. The latter also started the pious custom still in vogue, of a parish visit to the cemetery for an All Souls' devotion in the early part of November.

  Since there had been no mission in the parish for eleven years, the pastor invited the Jesuits—Father Peter Schnitzler, Francis X. Neubrand and Louis Buchholz—to conduct a mission from January 29-February 12, 1893.(7)

  Towards the end of 1893, our country passed through the great depression of the "nineties" which meant difficult days for the parish. The church's debt was still $45,136.63, and the pastor saw no prospects of reducing it according to his hopes. Indeed, there was question as to whether the parish would be able to meet its ordinary obligations. Convinced that among the parishioners there were some whose financial outlook was quite favorable, he made an earnest appeal to them to do more than their share in this present crisis.

  But Father Joseph did not rest with appealing in behalf of the church. In true Franciscan spirit he urged the parish as a unit to take up the cause of the poor. For this reason he started the St. Augustine's Benevolent Society which organized as follows: President, Father Joseph; Vice-President, Mr. William Eichenlaub; Treasurer, Mr. A. Reiman; Secretary, Mr. Peter Ritter. Other active members were: Wm. Helbling, Caspar Boberg, Ferd. Voelker, Titus Berger, Peter Halli, Louis Krekeler, Robert Fey, Joseph Bienemann, John Fink, Peter Kerner and Martin Hager.

  As in apostolic times, the parish was divided into districts, each district having its responsible captain. These captains studied the needs of their districts, making sure that the cases were deserving, collected alms in money, food and clothing and de-

(5) Total cost of cemetery was $3,788.00 exclusive of lawyer's fee of $124.31. Expenses on dedication day were $95.85. Account Book of Cemetery.
(6) Hyacinth Epp, MS., II Abschnitt, pp. 99, 100.
(7) On Fathers Schnitzler, Neubrand and Buchholz, cf. Enzlberger, op. at, p. 71.


1863-1938                                                                 ST. AUGUSTINE'S  PARISH HISTORY                                                                         Page 59       

livered them at the rectory. Every Wednesday from two till six o'clock, the rectory was open to receive articles of every description for the needy. Once a week the committee met with the pastor and reports were made as to the work done and the work to be done. During the winter months of 1893 and 1894, more than sixty families of the parish received support. Noted among the disbursements are: 775 bushels of coal, 70 sacks of flour, 46 bushels of potatoes and similar portions of substantial food, besides plenty of clothing. In this way the society brought immediate and substantial relief to the needy families of the parish.(8)

  At the time it was intended that the St. Augustine's Benevolent Society be absorbed by the St. Vincent de Paul's Society, but it seems that the organization disbanded with the betterment of working conditions. Generosity to the poor meant also generosity to the church for Miss Clementine Frauenheim who, in this period, donated a sanctuary lamp valued at $500.00.

  Father Joseph Anthony completed his term as pastor in August, 1894. His successor was Father Herman Joseph Peters, O.M.Cap. Born in Breberen in the Rhineland on October 5, 1850, he entered the Carmelite Order and was ordained on December 8, 1873, at Zenderen, Holland. In 1877, he came to the United States and was stationed at Holy Trinity Church, Pittsburgh, till 1882, when he obtained Papal permission to transfer to the Capuchin Order.(9) Previous to his appointment to St. Augustine's, he had been active in Pittsburgh, Cumberland, Peoria, Wheeling and Dover.

  On assuming office Father Herman found the church debt to be $43,479.92. With energy becoming his great physical powers he determined to reduce that debt. A tea party in 1895 cleared $2,710.99; another in 1896 netted $4,501.94, while various picnics enriched the treasury by several thousands. In 1897, he started a house collection and although unable to complete it before the expiration of his term, succeeded in collecting $2,700,19. When he retired from office after three years, he had the satisfaction of knowing that he paid off $15,219.73, leaving the parish debt at $28,260.19. Among the interesting expense items of 1895 is the donation of $55.20 for the Apostolic Delegation in Washington, D.C.

  Desirous of fostering Capuchin devotions, Father Herman arranged for a triduum from February 1-3, 1895, to commemorate the beatification of Blessed Didacus Cadix. Three different preachers were engaged for the occasion, Father Anthony Joseph Zielenbach, C.S.Sp., Father Christopher Schiesl, C.P., and Father Patrick Leinsle, O.M.Cap.(10) The triduum was well attended and twelve hundred communions were distributed on the three days. On May 30, 1897, the Third Order fraternity commemorated the silver jubilee of Pope Leo XIII as a tertiary of St. Francis. A solemn Mass was celebrated and the tertiaries took up a collection amounting to $362.00 which they sent to the Holy Father.

  Another gesture indicative of devotion to the Papacy in those days was the protest of all Catholic societies against the unjust spoliation of the Holy See by the Italian Government. In 1895, it was twenty-five years since this injustice had been committed, and by order of Bishop Phelan all Catholic societies were asked to sign a protest. Accordingly, after the Mass on September 22, the presidents and secretaries of all the societies in St. Augustine's met at the rectory and signed the official protest.(11)

(8) St. Aug., Jan., 1927, pp. 13, 17, 95. Announcement Book, Dec., 1893.
(9) Hyacinth Epp, MS., I Teil, p. 84.
(10) Rev. Anthony J. Zielenbach, C.S.Sp., was born on Jan. 28, 1855 at Wendershagen, Prussia. Ordained on Oct. 27, 1878. Came to the United States on Oct. 8, 1879 and was connected with Holy Ghost College, now Duquesne University. Rev. Christopher Schiesl, C.P., was born on Dec. 20, 1848, at Buffalo. Joined the Passionists on July 5, 1872. Ordained Sept. 8. 1878. Curate at St. Michael's, Southside and other places. Died at Dunkirk, N.Y., on Aug. 29, 1913. Rev. Patrick Leinsle was born on May 6, 1856. at Ober-Kammlach, Bavaria. Came to the United States on Aug. 4, 1875. Ordained on May 20, 1880 at Pittsburgh. Labored as curate at St. Augustine's, Pittsburgh, at Dover, O., and Hays, Kans. Died at Hays on Sept. 26, 1912. Enziberger, op. cit., pp. 237, 239.
(11) Announcement Book, Sept. 22, 1895. St. Aug., Sept., 1927, p. 183

  Page 60                                                          ST. AUGUSTINE'S  PARISH HISTORY                                                                    1863-1938

Undoubtedly, it was just such and similar reminders coming constantly from the Catholics of Italy and periodically from those of the outside world that bore ultimate fruit in the Lateran Treaty of 1929.

  After three years of untiring service to the parish Father Herman Joseph was transferred to the pastorate of St. Joseph's, Dover, Ohio. Later he spent some years as pastor m Wheeling and in Munjor, Kansas, where he died on June 9, 1911.

  Father Peter Kemper, O.M.Cap., was the next pastor of St. Augustine's, assuming office in August, 1897. He was born in Clearfield, Pa., on December 7, 1862, and was ordained priest on August 25, 1889. Before his appointment to St. Augustine's, he had spent fruitful years in the parishes of Cumberland, Wheeling, and Dover. His pastorate lasted but one year during which time he reduced the parish debt by $1,189.86. The debt reduction is all the more remarkable, since in addition thereto Father Peter acquired the property of the present Sisters' convent at a cost of $4,829.50. A new convent was indeed badly needed, for the Sisters, using the top floor of the hall (present Casino) as dormitory, were constantly disturbed by the celebrations in the hall below. With unanimous approval Father Peter began the erection of the convent and during his brief term of office saw the laying of the corner stone on May 15, 1898. The Most Rev. Richard Phelan officiated at the ceremony. Father Didacus Rottlaender, O.M.Cap., preached in German and Father John T. Murphy, C.S.Sp., in English.(12)

  The following priests sang their first solemn Masses in 1898: Father Augustine Noelle, O.M.Cap., on June 19; Father Bon-aventure Becker, O.M.Cap., on June 26. Father Felix M. Lex, O.M.Cap., preached for Father Augustine, and Father Joseph Anthony Ziegelmayer, O.M.Cap., for Father Bonaventure.

  Father Charles Speckert, O.M.Cap., succeeded Father Peter. Born at Langenbruecken, Baden, Germany, he entered the Capuchin Order in May, 1880, and was ordained priest on December 20, 1884. About 1887 he came to America and labored in the Capuchin parishes of Peoria, Wheeling, Herman, Cumberland and Pittsburgh. The five years of his pastorate at St. Augustine's were crowded with apostolic activity and significant celebrations. On December 18, 1898, the Sisters' convent, begun by Father Peter, was dedicated. A plain, substantial building, the convent has a neat chapel and rooms for twenty Sisters. Including the price of the ground, the cost was $20,530.08.

  With the Sisters housed in their spacious convent, the upper floor of the hall which they had occupied as dormitory, reverted to the parish for purposes of entertainment. For a few years, however, part of this hall was used for a kindergarten. In 1900, the pastor had both the hall and the school painted for the sum of $443.00. Two drinking fountains were also installed in the school. The month of August, 1898, brought to a close a very successful tea party and contest that netted $11,817.10. In 1898, Miss Rose Frauenheim donated $400.00 for an artistic crib purchased in Europe.

  The years 1899 and 1900 witnessed many celebrations significant of spiritual progress. On April 3, 1899, solemn Mass was offered to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the coming of the Capuchin Fathers to St. Augustine's. A large crowd attended and joined in the grateful Te Deum following the benediction. Father Joseph Anthony, Provincial, preached the commemorative ser-

(12) Rev. Didacus Rottlaender was born on Oct. 11, 1837, at Roesrath, Prussia. Served in the Prussian Army and took part in the war against Denmark in 1864. Came to the United States on Sept. 8, 1875. Solemn profession as Capuchin on Aug. 31, 1878. Ordained May 20. 1883. Labored in Wheeling, Cumberland and Pittsburgh where he died on Feb. 27. 1900, while hearing the confession of a sick man. Enzlberger, op. cit., p. 315. MS., Annales, Parish archives. Rev. John T. Murphy, C.S.Sp., was at this time President of Holy Ghost College. He enjoyed a high reputation as an orator. Later stationed at the Apostolic College of his congregation at Cornwells, Pa. Nominated Bishop of Port Louis of the island of Mauritius on July 8. 1916. Died April 16, 1926. Cf. Acta Ap. Sedis, Rome, vol. VIII, 1916, pp. 321, 475, and vol. XVIII, 1926, p. 248.

1863-1938                                                                 ST. AUGUSTINE'S  PARISH HISTORY                                                                         Page 61       

mon. In the evening both priests and parishioners gathered in the hall to exchange greetings and well-wishing for the years to come. Among the guests was the first pastor, Father Hyacinth Epp, O.M.Cap.

  The month of May, 1900, marked the silver jubilee of the establishment of the Ladies' Sodality. On May 6, the members assembled in the hall and marched to the church for the Mass of thanksgiving. On the following day there was a solemn requiem for the deceased members. A banquet and entertainment in the hall on May 8, concluded the festivities.

  About this time the following sons of the parish returned to sing their first solemn Masses: Father Bernard Nickel, O.M.Cap., on June 25, 1899; Father Edward Heyl, O.M.Cap., on June 24, 1900; Father Francis X. Vogel, O.M.Cap., on July 1. The preachers on these three occasions were, Fathers: Agatho Rolf, O.M.Cap., Charles Speckert, O.M.Cap., and Augustine Noelle, O.M.Cap.

  These were days of holy joy both for the Fathers and for the members of the parish, for they were eloquent proofs of deep spiritual growth. These priests, too, were the last to confer such distinction upon the old church. For by this time the old period in the parish history was passing and a new was dawning. A new church—whose sudden rise and haunting beauty the pioneers of forty years before had never dreamed— was under construction. To the new church we must now give attention.

On to Chapter VI . . .

To contribute information to this website, please send Email to the address
listed on my "HOME PAGE" (link) below.
In your "Subject" line please indicate the nature of your contribution. Thank you!
Please use your BACK key to return to your previous page, or select a link below.
Back To Table of Contents

Back To Home Page