St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Decatur, closes 175th anniversary celebration
By Vince LaBarbera
DECATUR — “This historic parish of St. Mary of the Assumption here in Decatur is one of the oldest in our diocese,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in opening remarks at a solemnity of the Assumption Mass on Aug. 16 observing the 175th anniversary of the parish.
“I understand that the first Mass celebrated in Decatur was in 1838. Your research also shows that the Catholic community here in Decatur, early German Catholic settlers, was placed under the patronage of St. Mary of the Assumption in 1840,” he continued in his homily.
“There was not yet a church for the Catholic community here in Decatur in 1840, so the devout faithful celebrated Mass in private homes and then at a local tavern,” the bishop said. Even with no resident priest until 1852, the Catholic community purchased land and built a small church in 1846.
“We remember today these pioneers of the faith here in Decatur. We also remember and pray for all the priests, sisters and lay people throughout the past 175 years who, with great faith and love, built up this parish as well as St. Joseph School,” he said.
As the two-year parish anniversary celebration came to a close, Bishop Rhoades told the congregation that their parish is their spiritual home that has nourished their faith, many since childhood, with special memories of blessings received through Baptisms, first Communions, Confessions, Confirmations, weddings and funerals.
“This parish has a special place in your hearts, manifested in your generosity and stewardship of time, talent and treasure,” he related. “… We pray that the faith and devotion that is so much a part of St. Mary’s history may continue to grow and flourish here as the parish moves into the future with hope and confidence.”
“One of the titles of our Blessed Mother is ‘spes nostra,’ ‘our hope,’” he said. “The beautiful mystery of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, the title of this church and patroness of this parish, is a great mystery of hope. The Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother, at the end of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven. The hope of humanity became a reality, entered the world and its history, many years earlier when Mary said ‘yes’ at the Annunciation. ‘She opened the door of our world to God Himself’ (Spe salvi 49). In her, God took flesh and became one of us. Through her, the Lord of life came into the world.”
“… The Virgin Mary is, therefore, for us a consoling sign of our hope,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “We can experience so much peace and consolation and hope when we are close to the Blessed Virgin Mary, when we take hold of her motherly hand as we journey through life. She will never let go. How many of the faithful, your ancestors in the faith here at Saint Mary’s Parish, grasped Mary’s hand in their journey of faith. They passed on to you the most beautiful gift, the gift of our Catholic faith. They taught you to follow Christ and to love Him and His holy mother. We all need Mary’s help and comfort to face the trials and challenges of daily life. We live in hope, that one day we will share in her same destiny. May Our Lady, who was assumed body and soul into heaven, assist us so that we may follow her into our Father’s house, the Kingdom of her Son!”
Parishioners expressed their love and adherence to the faith heritage of St. Mary of the Assumption.
“Peace, home, faith are the three words that best describe St. Mary’s for me,” said parishioner Kelly Ehinger. She serves as the director of Adams Public Library and is a member of the parish choir and a St. Joseph School parent.
“I came to Decatur in 1997 as a single and I felt immediately drawn to this parish,” she said. “So many people were (and still are) always welcoming. At the time I felt as if the older ladies adopted me as part of the family, and I got to know many people in the church including my future mother-in-law.”
“Now as parents of teenagers, we are encouraged by faith formation of our youth, the steadfastness of our older parishioners, the sense of tradition and heritage of our parish, and the true presence of God,” Ehinger added. “We love this parish and are happy to call it home.”
Joyce Schultz has been a lifelong member of St. Mary Parish. She is active in the Women of St. Mary and Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes Bond of Love and Prayer ministries. Schultz shared with Today’s Catholic, “I have been a member of St. Mary’s Parish since the late 1950s. I am so fortunate to have had parents who instilled strong faith and family values in me and my 10 siblings.
“St. Mary’s Parish is an extension of my family and friends that I rely upon daily who share my Catholic faith,” she said.
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