June 8, 2016 // Local

Our Lady of Hungary celebrates a century of faith, fellowship

Built during the winter of 1916-17, Our Lady of Hungary began as a mission of St. Stephen’s Hungarian parish in South Bend. Here, a Holy Day is celebrated at the original church.

By Jodi Marlin

One hundred years after its founding, the sound and aspect of Our Lady of Hungary Catholic parish is different than it was in the days of the bevándorlás, or immigration, of former European Hungarians to the South Bend area. However, although English- and Spanish-language Masses have replaced Hungarian-language worship services, the deeply rooted neighborhood parish remains a warm, embracing community that holds fast to its legacy of active expressions of faith.

The community of Our Lady of Hungary first took form in 1916 as a mission church of St. Stephen’s Parish. Rev. Lawrence Horvath, St. Stephen’s pastor, built a church for Our Lady on Catalpa Street near Prairie Avenue; Rev. Paul Miller, a Notre Dame priest, traveled to the far side of the city to celebrate Masses and administer the Sacraments. The current name of the parish, Our Lady of Hungary, was adopted later in honor of the members’ homeland.

In December of 1921 the Right Reverend Herman Alerding, Bishop of Fort Wayne, appointed Rev. Geza Gyorfy as pastor of the mission and charged him with developing it into a parish. Rev. Charles Scholl, a non-Hungarian priest, was appointed to assist.

The parish moved once, in 1923, in order to make room for the expanding Studebaker car company foundry. Land was acquired on Calvert St., and the church was moved on rollers to  the new location.

Father John Sabo, who had become an assistant since 1930, succeeded Father Gyorfy when he retired due to ill health. Father Sabo became pastor on Jan. 26, 1935. He was later named a Monsignor, but continued on as pastor of the parish until his retirement in 1980.

Ground was broken in 1948, at the same location, for a larger church building that stands today. Its stately Romanesque Rival Style utilizes a cruciform plan. The rounded arches seen in the church’s doors, windows and the arcades along the nave are a defining aspect of Romanesque architecture. The most striking interior features are the altar triptych and the murals adorning the walls of the chancel and transepts. Services in the newly dedicated church were held on Christmas 1949, even though the worship space was not yet complete.

The Hungarian community was very close-knit, and the church played a role of primary influence on the education and socialization of most families in the immediate area. Students felt more like brothers and sisters than classmates, in many cases. May crownings and 40 Hours devotions were met with anticipation, and the children attended Mass not weekly, but daily.

Early Our Lady of Hungary parishioners were characterized by a deep loyalty to both God and country. A testament to those affections stands a short distance from the church, where in the same year the current church was dedicated The Purple Heart Memorial Tower outdoor altar was also constructed, in memory of parishioners who died in the service of the United States armed forces.

Among the 1974 graduates of Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School was an eighth grader by the name of Kevin Bauman. In 2011 Father Bauman returned to the parish — this time, as its shepherd.

At that moment in the parish’s history the demographics were not in its favor. The Hungarian population had grown older, and now waned in numbers. Under Father Bauman’s bilingual leadership the parish also reached out to the local Mexican community, which represented the newest generation in the parish’s environs.

Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School

Today the Spanish-speaking community joins its Hungarian-American counterpart in both liturgies and celebrations. Two English Masses and two Spanish Masses are celebrated each weekend, and the parish’s Rosary Society, Sacred Heart Society, St. Anne’s Society and Hispanic men’s Knights of Columbus groups enjoy strong participation; as does the youth group, Legion of Mary and St. Vincent de Paul Society. Parish life is punctuated annually by the Our Lady of Hungary Parish Festival, featuring the aroma of traditional and Mexican fare. Alumni pack the closed streets to listen to sit back and enjoy the sounds of Hungarian and Mexican musical groups.

The Most Reverend Father Michael Bloom, SVC, archbishop and papal nuncio to Uganda, Africa, and a former student and parishioner of Our Lady of Hungary, inaugurated the parish’s centennial year on Jan. 10 with a Mass concelebrated by Father Bauman at the parish. On June 26, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will be present to the community and preside over a culminating observance of its faith-filled history.

The bilingual anniversary Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Rhoades and Father Bauman at noon. A dinner reception will be served immediately following the Mass, at 2 p.m., in the school auditorium.




* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.