Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
April 16, 2024 // Diocese

At St. Mary in Geneva, ‘We Work as a Team’

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

Among the beautiful and serene landscape of Geneva, on the southeastern edge of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, is St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church. Led by pastor Father Jonathan Agbedo, the quaint church was founded in 1856 with visiting priests celebrating Mass. In 1878, Father Joseph Uphaus began holding regular Masses for 19 Catholic families, most of whom were Irish settlers, some who generously donated land for the construction of a new church in 1880.

“However, as fate will have it, in October of 1881, the newly erected church was razed down by fire,” Father Agbedo told Today’s Catholic. “Nevertheless, in 1882, the congregation began the rebuilding of their burnt church, and with the help of their friends, the work was completed in 1883. This time around, it was built with bricks. But painfully again, on January 2, 1941, fire again struck St. Mary’s Church, and because it was rebuilt with bricks, the rate of damage was not as severe as the first fire incident, and that was why they were able to rebuild it almost immediately.”

“Presently,” Father Agbedo said, “the number of registered families at St. Mary of the Presentation Church are about 31 families, though we have about 40 (or more) other families from nearby parishes who regularly worship with us on Saturdays and Sundays, and a few of them attend our weekday masses also.”

The demographic of the community is mostly older, retired individuals who have been longstanding members of the congregation. They have seen an increase in young families, with visitors from the nearby town of Portland and communities across the border in Ohio.

“Since there are no industries or other related establishments to readily provide employment for the youths, all our youths migrated to the cities for greener pastures,” Father Agbedo said.

According to Father Agbedo, the mission of the parish – and of the wider Church – is to proclaim the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ to as many people as possible both within and outside of the church. They strive to build a community where people live for one another by carrying out charitable services to God through acts of service.

The parish and congregation have many unique characteristics, with a key one being that nearly all parish members have known one another from early childhood, through high school, to adulthood.

“The church is seen as a family church, and everyone makes selfless sacrifices to keep the church flourishing,” Father Agbedo said. “There are about 31 registered families now in the church, but the church hosts more than 70 families every weekend, as there are people from other nearby parishes who prefer worshipping in our church on weekends and during festivities (Christmas, Easter, etc.),” said Father Agbedo. “Our community comprises few Catholics who live nearby, Amish families, and some free thinkers. Not minding the differences in our profession of faith, we live happily and friendly here. Here is the most peaceful community in the state of Indiana, though a remote area.”

Though small in size, the parish community offers a variety of groups and activities in which the faithful can participate.

“Apart from Sunday and weekday Masses, we have introduced Eucharistic adoration which is held every Friday,” Father Agbedo said. “We have been hosting periodic and seasonal retreats; we have a women’s sodality,
and we are about to begin Bible studies and marriage preparation classes, as we have two of our newly registered members getting documented for marriage preparation.

Also, Father Agbedo said, “This is the year of Eucharistic revival. We have a series of events on the subject matter, where everyone should participate. We have our summer cookout, which brings us together to share common meals and play different games and felicitate with one another.”

Father Agbedo hopes all parishioners gain a deeper knowledge of God’s love and grows in their faith. He wants them to be able to share Christ’s Good News with people around them and have a faith that inspires them to live charitable lives.

Between 2022 and 2023, the parish carried out renovations to both the church and the rectory.

“We work as a team,” Father Agbedo said of the parish’s greatest strengths. “We are small in number but mighty in carrying out good works. We live and work as a family.”

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