Saint George History
The Legend of Saint George
Several stories have been attached to Saint George; the best known is the Golden Legend.
In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep.
Into this country came Saint George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon, and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the kind, George distributed it to the poor, and then rode away.
Our Founding Sisters
The Sisters of Mercy came to Saint Geoge School in September of 1945. At the end of the 2005-2006 school year, the last two sisters to teach at our school ended 61 years of dedicated service to this parish by their religious community.
The History of Saint George
Schulfrau Katherina Uhr had to be a missionary of note. It was she who in 1863 opened the first Catholic School for German Catholics in her father’s store in Kearsarge. During its peak, the three R’s and the truths of the Catholic Faith were taught to 60 students.
However, it was not until 1922 that ground was broken for the first Saint George Church under the leadership of the founding pastor the Reverend Alfred J. Fischer who resided at St. Vincent Hospital and also served as the hospital chaplain. A red brick building was constructed and completed on August 6, 1922 for approximately $12,000. A highlight of the dedication was the presence of all four Fischer priest brothers: Fathers Cornelius, Edward, Alexis, and Alfred. Father Alfred was born on October 18, 1883 in Meadville and attended Saint Agatha Elementary School and the local public high school. He received his preparation for the priesthood at Saint Bonaventure College and Seminary. He was ordained by Bishop Charles H. Colton of Buffalo in Saint Bonaventure Church, Allegany, New York on June 15, 1910. Father Alfred’s first appointment was Saint Agnes, Morrisdale where he temporarily replaced his brother Edward who left on a European trip. After his return, Father Alfred was transferred to Saint Leo Church, Ridgway as an assistant pastor and remained there until 1914 when he was given temporary charge of St. Mark Church, Emporium. In 1915, he was appointed pastor of Saint Mary’s Church, Sartwell where he served until January, 1922 when he was chosen to organize the new parish of Saint George, Erie. He retired in 1942 because of poor health and passed to new life on March 29, 1962. His final resting place is in Saint Agatha Cemetery, Meadville.
Father Fischer was succeeded in 1942 by the Reverend W. Lawrence Franklin who also continued as editor of the Lake Shore Visitor. In 1944, Father Franklin initiated the ground-breaking for a two story school annex to the church building. The growth of the school under the Sisters of Mercy rose from 48 pupils in 1947 to 103 in 1948. Consequently, the continued development of the suburban area demanded the erection in 1954 of a complete new school. It opened in the fall of 1957.
By September, 1958, Monsignor Franklin had plans to build a new church for the burgeoning parish. It would be one of the first churches to be constructed in a more modern style and would accommodate about 1,000 worshipers. It cost $500,000 and was dedicated on October 7, 1959.
William Lawrence Franklin was born in Buffalo, New York on May 24, 1909. He received his early education in both parochial and public schools in Erie. He attended Saint Bonaventure College, Allegany, New York and Saint Charles College, Catonville, Maryland. He studied philosophy and theology at Saint Mary University and Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland. He was ordained by Bishop John Mark Gannon on May 10, 1934. His first assignment was to Saint Mark Church, Emporium (1934 -1940). The second appointment took him to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Erie (1940-1941). On November 11, 1941, he was appointed editor of the Lake Shore Visitor where he remained until May 6, 1961 while at the same time pastoring Saint George Church where he was appointed on May 4, 1942. In the meantime, he had been appointed on November 11, 1941 as the pastor of Saint Phillip Church, Crossingville.
On May 24, 1947, Father Franklin was honored as a Papal Chamberlain (Chaplain of his Holiness). Less than seven years later on January 24, 1954, he was elevated as a Domestic Prelate (Prelate of Honor). On August 1, 1974, Monsignor Franklin retired as pastor of St. George Parish, but in the following years with improvement in his health he continued to serve as an administrator and supply priest for a number of parishes throughout the Diocese. He passed to new life on December 13, 1986. Monsignor Franklin was a priest of considerable talent especially in the field of journalism and often wrote articles for Catholic magazines. The Reverend Daniel M. Martin, and Erie native followed Monsignor Franklin as pastor on September 27, 1974. Father Martin spent several years as teacher and assistant Headmaster at Cathedral Prep as well as chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy at Mercyhurst College. After a diocesan wide drive to build St. Mark Seminary and a number of Christian High Schools, Father Martin was appointed the first Headmaster of Elk County Christian High School on June 1, 1963. He became pastor of St. Joseph Church, Oil City on June 3, 1970 until his assignment to the Erie parish. He was named a Prelate of Honor in May, 1984. Sometime after his retirement on September 15, 1986, he returned to Mercyhurst as chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy. Also, during his pastorate an office and rectory complex was built in 1976.
Since the retirement of Monsignor Martin, the parish has been pastured by Monsignor Casimer A. Bogniak (1986-1989), Monsignor Joseph V. Reszkowski (1986-1989), Monsignor Jan C. Olowin (1992-1998), and the Reverend Monsignor Edward J. Kosik (1998-2000). It was during the latter’s pastorate that the 40 year old church was painted and renovated and new and improved facilities added to the school. Bishop Donald W. Trautman dedicated the 1.5 million dollar project on March 6, 1999. With the resignation of Monsignor Kosik on June 19, 2000, the Reverend Monsignor Richard G. Mayer was appointed pastor on August 1, 2000.
The so called Miracle Mile area of Millcreek Township has seen phenomenal development since Saint George Parish was founded. From 40 families registered in 1942 to more than 2000 families in the year 2009, it has become one of the largest parishes in the Diocese. At this time there are also 588 students enrolled in Saint George School.
Throughout the years Saint George Parish was served by the following assistant pastors (parochial vicars). The first assistant was Monsignor Edmund J. Donovan who was assigned to the parish shortly after his ordination in 1941. He also functioned as a chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital until he entered the service in 1943. However, it was not until the 1970’s that assistants were appointed on regular basis.
They included the following:
Reverend Alfred J. Fisher (1922-1942)
Reverend W. Lawrence Franklin (1942-1974)
Monsignor Henry Krebs (1960-1964)
Reverend Charles Skinner (1964-1968)
Reverend Leo Gallina (1970-1973)
Reverend Donald Cooper (1971-1975)
Reverend Daneil M. Martin (1974-1986)
Reverend Walter Packard (1974-1982)
Reverend Alex Amico (1978-1981)
Reverend John Barwin (1981-1983)
Reverend Dennis A. Martin (1982-1985)
Reverend Glenn R. Whitman (1983-1985)
Reverend Dennis Hadberg (1986)
Monsignor Casimir Bogniak (1986-1989)
Reverend Monsignor John T. Carter, Senior Associate (1987- 2007)
Reverend Michael Kesicki (1989-1993)
Reverend Joseph Reszkowski (1989-1992)
Monsignor Jan C. Olowin (1992-1998)
Reverend Scott Katren (1992-1993)
Reverend John Malthaner (1993-1999)
Reverend Chris Hamlet (1995-1996)
Monsignor Edward J. Kosik (1998-2000)
Reverend Richard Allen (1999-2002)
Monsignor Richard G. Mayer (2000-2009)
Reverend Christopher J. Singer (2002-2008)
Reverend Timothy R. Balliett (2008-2010)
Reverend Jonathan P. Schmolt (2010-2012)
Reverend Michael C. Polinek (2012-2015)
Reverend Brandon M. Kleckner (2015-Present)
Reverend Monsignor Robert L. Brugger (2009-Present)
Barcio, Robert, G. Msgr. Shepherds and Sheep. Erie: Meridian Creative Group, 2002.pp. 167-169.
Excerpt published with Msgr. Robert Barcio, Ph.D.'s permission. Shepherds and Sheep is available for purchase through the following link www.eriercd.org