695 Smithson Avenue
  Lawrence Park, PA. 16511
          (814) 899-3000




A History of the Parish

A Description of the (original) Church

Interior Description of the (original) Church

List of Patrons

Our Misfortune in 1942



A History of the Parish

The church of St. Mark the Evangelist is located in Lawrence Park, a separate Township adjacent to Erie, Pennsylvania.  The Parish was created June 3, 1938 by the Most Reverend John Mark Gannon, D.D., D.C.L., Bishop of Erie, when Reverend Charles A. Ward was appointed, by His Excellency, to found and establish the parish in this locality. Father Ward, a native of New Haven, Connecticut, was then an assistant to Right Reverend David Hickey, Vicar General, pastor of St. Bernard Church, Bradford, Pennsylvania.  He assumed duties assigned to him late in June,  and the first Mass, ever celebrated in Lawrence Park, was offered on the last Sunday of that beautiful June.  While at work in organizing the newly created parish, Father Ward made his residence temporarily with the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity at Gannondale. 

Through the kindness and generosity of the members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Mission,  services were held for considerable time in their church auditorium, a short distance from the present location. 

Ground was broken for the new structure at Smithson Avenue and Morse Street on the Feast of Christ the King in October, 1940.  Bishop Gannon presided at the ceremony, in the presence of many clergy and laity.  The cornerstone was laid, a year later in the autumn of 1941, by Monsignor Hickey of Bradford, who acted in his official capacity as Vicar General in the absence of His Excellency.  Reverend Edward P. McManaman, S.T.D., Rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral, delivered the sermon.  In mid-summer 1942, the progress on the church construction received a disastrous set-back, when fire swept through the partially completed edifice.  Services were already being held in the social section, the First High Mass having been offered on Easter Sunday, 1942.  While the work of restoration was being continued, the First Solemn High Mass was celebrated at the main altar of the church proper, at Midnight of Christmas, 1942.  Most of the work on the edifice, from the digging of the foundation to the finishing of the lofty ceilings, has been the voluntary manual labor of the Parish.  Because of their magnificent generosity, unlimited skill, and unstinted sacrifice, the great financial burden necessarily attendant upon the erection of such a building, has been greatly lessened.  Their magnanimous spirit attracted nationwide attention and brought to them creditable acclaim and deep personal satisfaction.  At the same time, as if not to be outdone by the male members of the parish, the ladies, by their exquisite needle-work and sewing craft,  provided all the vestments and the linens necessary for the Divine Services.  Likewise, too, the children offered their innocent prayers for the successful completion of the undertaking, and, from their limited allowances, they generously provided one of the nave windows, which shall always testify to their loyalty by bearing the title of “The Children’s Window”

A Description of the (original) Church

The new church, of St. Mark the Evangelist, is a complete departure from the customary plan used in the construction of Catholic Churches.  This departure results from placing the Church proper, the Presbytery, and the Social Hall within a single unit.  Although cruciform in design, the transepts are extended not unproportionately, however, so that while the one on the right houses the residence of the clergy, the one on the left is dedicated to the social life of the parish.  Still, in spite of this unique feature, the beauty of the edifice is enhanced by its simplicity, proportion and straightforward design.  It is distinctive in its complete lack of heavy ornament and cumbersome detail.  The interior composition of the building invites peaceful concentration, without enticing distraction.

To harmonize with the semi-urban character of Lawrence Park, the designs modified English Gothic inspired by examples of rural churches in the Lowlands renowned for their beauty and simplicity.  These churches, we should remember, are built low and are surrounded by spacious churchyards. 

The entire exterior of the building is constructed of Briar Hill sandstone, quarried in a random ashlar of varied tone and cut to size in order to produce the desired effect.  Very little stone trim is used around the building except over the windows and to mark the sills and doorways.  Then a distinctive gray is used to set these off, by contrast.  The roof is constructed of a varied shade of green asphalt shingles lending a rustic touch by their verdant hue.  As the church is cruciform in plan, a proportionately high fleche of copper surmounted by a Maltese cross in gold leaf conveys a pleasant effect to the meetings of the various departments.  The simple fašade of St. Mark’s, with pointed Gothic porch and lofty circular window, is equally attractive.  Standing above the entrance is a Celtic Cross, chiseled from quarried limestone.  The window spacing, in the nave, is high and rectangular.  The entrances are low and the doors, hewn from medium oak, have their severity broken through the installation of varied colored lights.  Antique Swedish iron light fixtures reach upward to provide illumination for the threshold, during evening services.

Interior Description of the (original) Church

Approaching the main entrance of the church, are two low steps which lead, at once, into the narthex.  The upper portion of the narthex screen is constructed of transparent glass, which permits the visitor to survey the interior with a single glance.  No ceiling above supporting the customary accepted choir loft oppresses the visitor and, instead, he is impressed by the expansiveness of the nave, unfolding itself into the choir and sanctuary. Four small wood carved crosses break the monotony of the ridge of the narthex screen.  Fastened against the south wall of the narthex, is a beautiful bronze-edged Honor Roll on which are inscribed the names of the servicemen and women of the parish.  Against the walls on either side of the doors, are oak tablets bearing a partial list of the donors and benefactors.  The floor of the narthex, as well as the three aisles, is laid the donors with off-shade brown and red tile, which give an appearance of permanence and beauty.  The confessionals are formed from a continuation of the narthex screen located in proper liturgical style on each side of the main entrance.  A half door in the center of these, covered with a penitential shade of burgundy velvet draping, adds a richness to their appearance.

The nave was planned to accommodate approximately 350 people.  In it the pews are a bench type open back of red oak to further the rustic atmosphere of the edifice.  The walls are of roughly finished plaster left unpainted.  They are divided into equal sections by strong laminated arches, which support the roof.  The ceiling is of celotex, in a natural tone, and the rafters and cross pieces are clearly visible,  giving the appearance of strength and sturdiness and, at the same time, symbolizing the inverted bark of St. Peter.  The only flash of color, provided in the nave, comes from the exterior light against the stained glass windows, and the subdued gold and blue on the wood carved Stations of the Cross. 

Suspended from the ceiling on circular chains, are two rows of ornamental church lanterns fashioned from Swedish wrought iron and delicately marked with red medallions to supply a dash of color.  Their design is likewise Gothic, in character.

Hearkening back to the Medieval spirit of the liturgy, the choir stalls are located between the nave and the sanctuary, lifted on either side in a slight elevation.  An attractively wrought iron communion rail, with its table of light oak, makes the division apparent.

The sanctuary provides ample space for all solemn occasions, or through the entrance on the right, which leads directly into the sacristy.  Here, one stands before the beautiful liturgical altar, resting on a solid predella of deep black terrazza.  The stepes, or supports to the table, are a Nubian shade of marble.  The background of the underpart is a highly polished Tennessee gray marble, in the center of which is the symbol XR “CHI RHO” wrought in bronze and offset by black marble.  The table surface of the main altar is hewn from a lighter vein of the same material.  Two filuted oaken columns rise gracefully above the altar, to support an ornate canopy trimmed with cardinal velvet and fringed with gold.  On the frontis-piece, of the canopy, are three heraldic shields.  The highest of these depicts the coat-of-arms of the present gloriously reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, during whose pontificate the church was dedicated.  The one on the right marks the episcopate of the Most Reverend John Mark Gannon, Bishop of Erie, who created the parish.  The third is emblematic of the ancestral shield in the background, while on either side of the altar riddle posts of wrought iron support a similar fabric, and at the same time, hold the Sanctus candle.

A free standing tabernacle of hand wrought bronze adorns the center of the altar.  Its distinctiveness has been preserved by, and exquisite design for, the revolving door, which depicts the vine and the wheat and the head of the lion, all symbols of the Blessed Sacrament and of St. Mark, the patron of the parish.  Boldly inscribed above these is the word “Sanctus”, in capital lettering, proclaiming the sanctity of this precious article.  Rising majestically behind the tabernacle, is a cast bronze crucifix of the vested Christ wearing his regal and sacerdotal robes.  Six hand-wrought bronze candlesticks, designed especially for this parish, stand as silent sentinels along-side the tabernacle.  On the Gospel side of the altar, standing on the floor of the Sanctuary, is an artistic sanctuary lamp over five feet high, in whose floral cup burns the white colored light indicative of the Blessed Sacrament.  Chiseled close by in the wall of the sanctuary, is an oaken ambry with the words Olea Sacra inscribed on the door.  On either side of the choir, but in complete view of the worshipper, are two oratories.  In the one on the north, is a delicately carved statue of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all graces.  Behind the wood carving, is suspended an exquisitely embroidered drapery gently falling from a canopy made of oak.  Since there is not sufficient depth to permit an altar, this oratory takes on the nature of a shrine.  On the south side, however, an altar has been erected where Mass can be celebrated, but as correctly planned, no provision is made to reserve the Blessed Sacrament there.  On this altar before the reredos, stands a wood carved statue dedicated to St. Joseph, the laborer, and the same type of fabric provides a beautiful background.


List of Patrons

Anonymous                                      Briggs-Hagenlocher, Inc

Trost & Steinfurth, Florist                   Young Brothers

Dan O’Malley                                    Thomas A. Blake

R. K. McMullin                                   Michael Horan

I. J. Swade                                      Stephen A. Filiepkowski

Wolffs’ Department Store                    Carl Anderson

John F. Kuhns                                   Dr. Ramsey, Dentist

Darling Flower Shop                            J. E. Cresciman

Misses D. & M. Weber                         W. W. Wakefield

         Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Thompson




Our Misfortune in 1942

When at Christmas, 1942, Midnight Mass was celebrated on the newly installed marble altar of St. Mark the Evangelist Church, at Lawrence Park.  This event crowned the efforts of those parishioners whose spirit was literally tested by fire and disaster, but whose resurgence will always gleam, in the history of the parish.  Following the disastrous fire of the previous mid-summer, it was suggested that the balance of the work, which was inaugurated with the volunteer services of the men of the congregation, should be finished by awarding its restoration and completion to contractors.  At once, the founder of the parish sensed an attitude of disappointment and reluctance, on the part of his faithful workers.  They would complete the task entrusted to them, by their Bishop.  Fire might destroy the physical work of their hands, but nothing could destroy the enthusiastic spirit of their hearts.  “Father,” they said rather sadly, “if we can’t finish the work in the church ourselves, we shall have nothing to rally claim as our own.  Strangers will take over where we left off.  The project will no longer have its personal appeal.  Truthfully, we could not point to the building as the work of our own hands.  Never more, could we tell our children the beautiful story of how we created this House to bring God into Lawrence Park.  Please let us finish it by ourselves, even though it may take a longer time.”  Consequently, a compromise was effected.  Contractors would repair the section damaged by fire; the men of the parish would complete the section dedicated to Divine Worship.  After five months of sacrifice of time and hours of arduous labor, there arose, phoenix-like from the ruins of the last summer’s conflagration, a newly completed church, at whose main altar, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated at Midnight on Christmas for the first time.  The event was a beautiful lesson of service to God, in times when men are so busily engaged in things of the world.  On the Sunday following the catastrophe, the Pastor said in part: “Men have always sought to resolve the enigma of life and how often in vain.  Today, many of us are asking the question, ‘why did this catastrophe happen to us?’  Only God knows the reason, and we may be confident that it is a comforting one.  However, when all the elements for combustion are present, a fire naturally starts.  Only a miracle could change the law of nature, and we do not feel worthy of having God work miracles for us, although those who suffer can hardly help challenging the wisdom of His Ways.  But, again, that wisdom is already manifesting itself, for from these ashes has already baffled those who came out Friday night to witness our trial and to extend to us the hand of sympathy.  We shall always remember the busy swarm of men and women, who all day Friday, with sadness in their hearts but with a gleam glistening through their tears, plunged into the task of cleaning debris to make ready for Sunday’s Masses.

“The destructive element of fire, in two short hours, erased your work.  No longer can you point with pride to the fruit of your hand, but your good deeds, your sacrifice, your hours of labor, your struggle with the cold and heat, your heartaches, your ambitions, your hopes and dreams – all these you offer to God and all these cannot be erased from the Book of Life, where they are chronicled always to remain until you come to reap your eternal reward.”

The Blessed Sacrament was not reserved in the church under construction.  Father Ward and his parishioners did succeed in saving the sacred vestments and vessels from the burning building.


In the plan of the church, there are seven nave windows recessed into the thick masonry walls.  Each, of these windows, is a fabrication of bits of glass imported from England and France before the war, as well as, the more recent domestic products.  The scenes are portrayed against a lighter background, outlined with a multi-colored bordering.  The background is designed in quiet simplicity, to conform to the simple English Gothic origin of the building.  It maintains sufficient translucence for lighting purposes, during the daytime.  At the same time, its slight opaqueness emphasizes the medallions that tell the various stories with a galaxy of colors, in terms of beauty and poignancy.  Each window endeavors to tell a story that would appeal to the various groups and stated of the parishioners.  For example, there is the Children’s window, donated by the children of the parish, in which the gentle Christ is seen blessing the children.  To its left, is the Wedding Feast of Cana, having its motif for the married.  The sick, the aged, and the infirm find their counterpart in a scene revealing the compassion of the Divine Physician for the afflicted.  The doctrinal message, of the Eucharistic Presence and the Resurrection, are combined in an idealism of color in the scene of Christ and His two disciples, at Emmaus.  The subject portrayed in the window, selected by the Bishop, is a scene in which St/ Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is baptizing his disciple, St. Mark, the Evangelist, after whom the parish has been named.

When one rises to leave the church, his eyes are at once drawn to the startling vision of Christ the King, raised high on the west wall in scintillating garments of red against a background of celestial blue and surrounded with the endless signs of the zodiac studded like individual jewels.  Immediately, over the door is the apocryphal figure of the Winged Lion with the simple lettering, “St. Mark,” at his feet.  The beautiful story of the Angelus rings out in the Annunciation window, and the Mystery of the Incarnate Word is told by the Nativity window.

Thus, we find in St. Mark’s beautiful window a story is told with two of life’s toughest substances, lead – baseless, and glass – scintillating, brilliant.  Together,  with God’s own sun beaming down on them, they become jewels, likened to the rarest diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.