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Bittersweet goodbye for Holy Angels Academy

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

It was a bittersweet goodbye for members of the Holy Angels Academy community in North Buffalo Sunday.

More than 700-attended a closing Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church.  A large reception followed at the high school on Hertel Avenue.

In late April, the school announced that it would close for good at the end of the  school year citing low enrollment as a major factor.

Many were tearful during the Mass as the school reflected on its rich legacy of educating women for 152-years.  Even some of the fathers attending with their daughters could not hold back their tears. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Closing Mass for Holy Angels Academy at St. Rose of Lima Church

Students were given a sterling silver angel wing necklace as a remembrance and officially inducted as members of the alumnae of the school.  It was difficult and emotional for students to say goodbye, especially for  the junior class, as they will have now have to finish their last year at a new school. 

Madison Courtney will be a senior.

"It's bittersweet, but at the same time, I'm looking forward to what's too come. I will always remember Holy Angels. It will always be a part of my past and I will always remember it and my friends," said Courtney.

Courtney is headed to Williamsville South.  But 96-of the more than 200-Holy Angels students will attend Mount Saint Mary's in Kenmore.  Others are heading to Buffalo Seminary, Nardin and Sacred Heart.  

At the closing of the Mass, 1996 Holy Angels graduate Carmen Ruby Floyd,Broadway star and actress, performed a solo song.  Floyd flew into Buffalo Sunday morning to attend and perform at the closing Mass.

Caren Ruby Floyd '96 HAA graduate sings at the closing ceremony.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Carmen Ruby Floyd, HAA Class of '96 returns to Buffalo to sing at closing Mass

"This was a great education.  I got to make bonds that I still have.  I was introduced to things I didn't know about.  I'm not Catholic , but I am Christian, Sister Mary Kathleen said I want to learn about you and I want you to learn about me," said Floyd.

Sunday's closing ceremony ends a 152-year teaching tradition at the all Catholic, girls school founded by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1861.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Sister Karen Marie, GNSH, beloved religion teacher at HAA for more than 30-years

Attempts by a group of parents and alumnae to raise funding in an attempt to keep the school operating was rejected by the Board of Trustees. 

Joan Thomas, president of Holy Angels said the students have risen to the challenge.

But Thomas admits there has been a great deal of backlash from parents.  Many asking why the school didn't announce the school was in trouble sooner.

Joan Thomas, president, explains why they didn't announce the closing earlier in the year.

"The minute you announce you are in trouble, every body goes away. We honestly think we didn't get the 60 to 70 girls we need, we only pulled in 40, because somebody said, somewhere down the line, Holy Angels was in trouble, and they went somewhere else. We had a strong freshman class this year of 64, but only pulled in 41 for the new school year," said Thomas.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
School poster in HAA classroom

There are a number of rumors about what will happen to the property off Hertel Avenue and Shoshone Drive. One of those rumors says D'Youville College is interested.  

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
HAA classroom

The building and land is owned by the Grey Nuns which constructed the building at that site 1929.  Thomas hopes it remains a school.

The HAA Chorus and those attending closing Mass sang the school's Alma Mater written in 1909 by Ada Ryan. Many tearful as the song was always part of joyous celebrations at the school.

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