Erika Barron
Advertising Account Executive
August 23, 2022 // Diocese

75 Years of Loving Christ and Community at St. Dominic

Erika Barron
Advertising Account Executive

On July, 8 1947, a new chapter began for the Catholics of St. Dominic in Bremen. Father Ralph G. Hoffman was installed as permanent pastor, formally establishing it as a parish. Before this, St. Dominic was a mission parish, served by priests whose main duties were serving much larger parishes throughout the area. At the time of Father Hoffman’s arrival, St. Dominic was spiritual home to a modest 27 families. 

The church had been originally built in 1875, funded solely by the original 12 families and their collective donation of $1,200. Heated by a cast iron wood stove and illuminated only by kerosene lamps, the small church featured a large steeple, which in later years would be destroyed twice by two separate storms. With the sense of stability, the arrival of Father Hoffman brought the community together. The number of families quickly grew to 48. Father Hoffman’s immediate task was to begin repairing and rebuilding the humble church which had seen little change since 1875. This included replacing the wood-burning stove with a furnace, covering the interior walls with acoustic board, the exterior with a brown imitation brick, and rewiring the entire church. 

Father Hoffman’s rebuilding extended much farther than just the physical church. Bremen at the time was dominated by nine Protestant churches. With the Catholics of the community being a very small minority, Father Hoffman took the time to get to know the Protestant leaders, repairing some of the long-held stereotypes and misconceptions of their Catholic neighbors. 

In 1951, Father Hoffman received notice that he would be moved to a parish in Chesterton Indiana, as the town of Bremen had been placed within the boundaries of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, which until this point had been within the Diocese of Gary. Thus began a succession of priests over the years, who, while their time at the parish was short, left legacies behind of what each had done for the church and the community. In 1959, Father Ralph Larson, the new pastor, took on the challenge of enhancing religious education for the youth of the parish. By this time, there were more than 90 families attending St. Dominic and the need for a larger church was becoming evident. 

Father Larson began raising funds for the construction of a new church building, which would be designed leading up to Vatican II, for which the ground was broken in 1963. The changes in liturgy meant that there would be major differences in this new building, including a “reversable” altar, a lack of communion rails, and seating for nearly 400 people to accommodate the growing congregation. The exterior was covered in beautiful Indiana limestone. During construction, Mass was held in the downtown Bremen movie theater. 

On April 19, 1964, Bishop Leo A. Pursley dedicated the new church. Father Richard Urbine was pastor at this time and was joined by five other former pastors for this joyful celebration. 

Today, the parish of St. Dominic is still thriving. The parishioners continue the legacy of the founding families by painstakingly caring for the church; providing their time and talents to make their church a beautiful place of worship. 

“We have one of the most beautiful parishes in the diocese. It was laid brick by brick because the parishioners love their church so much,” Father Daniel Niezer, the current Pastor of St. Dominic shared. 

Another tradition that has been kept alive is the fundraising events, which the whole town attends. The annual fish fry serves thousands of people. This year’s was so crowded that it resulted in running out of food for the first time ever. Another popular event is the “Men’s Stag Party,” the event of the year for the 500-plus men who attend the night of food and fellowship, some even arriving in limos with their friends. 

The religious education program started by Father Larson continues to grow every year with upwards of 150 students, and St. Dominic is one of the few parishes in the diocese to have a weekly religious education class on Sunday for high school students. This year, there are more weddings being held at the parish than ever on record. 

To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the parish held a picnic after Mass on Saturday, Aug. 6, coinciding with the feast of St. Dominic, bringing together the parishioners and the community to celebrate the historic anniversary. One major highlight of the evening was the baptism and full initiation of catechumen, Jacob Pierce – an appropriate way for a parish known for their welcoming community to celebrate their milestone anniversary. 


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