After 152 years of educating young women, Holy Angels Academy in North Buffalo is now officially closed.
Students, parents, teachers and alumnae gathered Sunday afternoon at a closing Mass for the Catholic school at nearby St. Rose of Lima Church, where students received sterling silver angel wings. Afterward, there was a reception at the school, which stands at the corner of Hertel Avenue and Shoshone Street.
Many were emotional. Jim Koller, whose daughter graduated from Holy Angels in 2003, teared up as he spoke about the closing.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “I’m sad, and I’m mad. Those four years are the hardest for a kid growing up. And this was just a wonderful place. There were no cliques or anything. The girls supported each other.”
Koller called Holy Angels “the perfect place” to send his daughter. He wondered why the school’s administration didn’t communicate with parents, alumnae and benefactors earlier about its struggling finances and low enrollment.
“Just come right out and tell everybody exactly what you need,” Koller said. “Put the cards on the table, and then let’s see.”
It would have reportedly taken $2.5 million to save Holy Angels, and despite a plan proposed by graduates to raise the money, administrators said they had to close the school anyway. The original April 30 announcement that Holy Angels would close shocked students and parents.
Students like Nicole Buffamonti of Kenmore, who just completed her sophomore year, scrambled to find a new school. She, like many of her classmates, will be attending Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore next year, but she’ll still be losing a lot of her friends.
“I’m actually devastated,” Buffamonti said. “I don’t want to have to start over and make all new friends. ... Half of my friends are splitting up, and it’s horrible.”
She said she will miss playing on the volleyball team, attending sporting events and showing school pride during Holy Angels’ spirit week.
Susan Abbott’s two daughters graduated just in time – last year and this year. As she volunteered at a table selling what was left from the school’s bookstore, Abbott said she is glad she’s not one of the parents faced with finding a new school. But the Buffalo resident is sad the school is closing and wouldn’t know where else to send her child if she had another daughter.
“I just really felt that they were not just a number here,” Abbott said. “They were very much part of a community, and they learned how to be a lovely young lady.”
Generations new and old shared memories of Holy Angels. Jayne Cooley, of Buffalo, is part of the class of 1969. After school, she joined the Army Nurse Corps and served during the Gulf War. She attended the Buffalo General Hospital School of Nursing and the University at Buffalo after graduating from Holy Angels.
“I got a lot of things here that put me in a position to do something like that,” Cooley said.
She grew up nearby, at Sterling and Hertel avenues, and walked to school. She remembered the strict-but-helpful nuns, the family atmosphere, and joining the Spanish club and the basketball team.
“We just played other Catholic schools like Sacred Heart and things like that,” Cooley said of the basketball team. “Now, they expanded a lot since I went to school here, which is good.”
Despite the expansion, the rivalry lived on. Charlotte McLellan of Amherst just graduated from Holy Angels this year and is headed to Michigan State University in the fall. She also played basketball.
“The best memory was my junior year when we beat Sacred Heart two times,” McLellan said.
The two schools will never play each other again.