St. Mary the Assumption, Decatur celebrates 175 years
By Tim Johnson
DECATUR — There is a celebration of faith at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Decatur — a celebration of 175 years. But first, the planners of the parish had to consider, just when the celebration should begin.
St. Mary parishioner Louise Wolpert chairs the 175th Anniversary Committee and Roxyann Casper serves as secretary. Wolpert, who is also the county historian and works at the library, discovered the parish celebrated its centennial in 1938. The first Mass celebrated in Decatur was in 1838. However, the 150th anniversary of the parish was celebrated in 1990. On Nov. 12, 1840, the congregation was named St. Mary of the Assumption as Mass had been celebrated in homes, a tavern and even in the first framed courthouse. The first church was dedicated in 1847.
So the committee made up of several parishioners celebrated the 175th by honoring both dates and included activities for the last two years, beginning with Mass on the feast of the Assumption in 2013 and ending with the feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15) this year. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will celebrate at 1 p.m. Mass at St. Mary on Aug. 16 to close the celebration.
“St. Mary of the Assumption Parish stands upon the shoulders of all who have shown forth the Light of Christ and the Catholic faith in the Decatur community for the past 175 years,” described Father David Voors, who is the pastor of the parish with 1,227 registered families. “St. Mary’s is blessed in its long history and continues to proclaim the values of Jesus Christ. Our vitality comes from the same source as it has for the past 175 years, namely, being empowered by Sunday Mass, God’s Word and sacraments, and our desire to take on the likeness of Christ. Our parish is great not because of one or two members — but because of all.”
And St. Mary of the Assumption has many ways for “all” to form a community of faith.
Parishioner Roxyann Casper said the parish is “so blessed” with Father Voors as pastor. The parish is also served by Vincentian Congregation Father Jose Panamattathil as parochial vicar.
Known for his prayerfulness, Father Voors initiated the recitation of the Hail Mary at the end of every Mass for peace or Father Voor’s designation. The parish offers Eucharistic Exposition Monday through Wednesday, 4:30-6 p.m., Thursday from 8:45-9:45 a.m. and 4:30-8 p.m.
“He has really focused our parish on prayer life,” noted Casper.
During the 175th anniversary, the parish distributed 25 prayer cards, one a month, to parishioners.
Father Voors also welcomed faith and parish enrichment such as Christ Renews His Parish, faith-sharing communities and ARISE Together With Christ, which included almost 400 participants.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society operates a food pantry and clothing goods store. Other parish life organizations include Y-Disciples, a parish bookstore, choir, Sunday religious education, prayer chain, Communion calls, altar flowers, church cleaning teams, the Mary and Martha Circle that provides food at funeral dinners, the St. Joseph Cemetery, Women of St. Mary and St. Mary Fall Fest.
The parish has a men’s group including Rekindle the Fire. The Knights of Columbus Msgr. J. J. Siemetz Assembly 257 is also very active with many projects. The Knights gather one Sunday a month and pray for life issues, raise money for those with special needs, and for the Birthday Ministries, a ministry that operates Andy’s Coney Bar, where those with special needs work as volunteers and sell hotdogs and root beer. The Knights also provide scholarships.
The ministry of St. Joseph School also weaves into parish life. Jeff Kieffer is the new principal of the school with about 280 students in grades kindergarten through 8. The parish also offers a preschool and daycare.
“To use a movie reference,” Louise Wolpert summarized, “‘Our parish pays it forward.’”
Parishioners are quick to embrace St. Mary of the Assumption as their parish home.
Matthew and Abigail Dyer said, “St. Mary’s Parish is our second family. … The people of St. Mary’s Parish have helped us become who we are as a couple and a family. We have shared all those special moments in our life as a family with the people in our church. We have been supported through it all, our marriage, (Matt) coming into full communion with the Church, the loss of our first infant son, the birth of our next four children, miscarriage, and all the ups and downs of life.”
Abigail is a fourth-grade teacher at St. Joseph School and Matt serves on the Finance Committee. They participated in Christ Renews His Parish, ARISE and as volunteers at the Fall Fest.
“God is good,” they said. “He has given us a great support system and a second family at St. Mary’s Parish.”
Bill Whitright, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, Rekindle the Fire, CRHP and ARISE, summed up parish life: “It’s our family; it’s our home!”
• 1838 — First Mass in Decatur celebrated by Father Louis Mueller
• 1844 — Cemetery purchased in the southeastern part of the city
• 1846 — First church was built
• 1848 — First church bell purchased for $60 and shipped by canal from Cincinnati to Fort Wayne, then overland to Decatur
• 1852 — Father H.S. Schulties, first resident pastor, builds first rectory
• 1865 — Plans made for new church by Father John Wemhoff
• 1875 — New church completed by Father F. Von Schwedler
• 1880 — Father H. Theodore Wilken comes to Decatur, builds new school in 1881, new rectory in 1885
• 1894 — Forty acres purchased for a new cemetery west of the city
• 1915 — Commercial course added to school curriculum
• 1919 — Commercial course supplemented by a four-year high school course
• 1923 — School dedicated
• 1838 — Centennial celebration of the founding of St. Mary’s Parish
• 1948 — Brick church built in 1846 abandoned as a safety hazard. Church religious services were held in the school auditorium
• 1954 — May 31, new church dedicated by Archbishop John F. Noll
• 1962 — First organization of Home and School Association. Sisters of St. Agnes move into new home with same materials as church and is a tie-in with the school, providing five additional classrooms on the first floor
• 1967 — Closing of Decatur Catholic High School. Formal instruction classes for students in public schools conducted by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) personnel in St. Joseph School
• 1973 — Spanish Mass implemented at 4 p.m. once a month
• 1987 — Barbara McClure assigned as first lay principal of St. Joseph Catholic School
• 1990 — Sesquicentennial celebration of St. Mary’s Parish
• 1994 — St. Joseph Kiddie Center opens daycare (utilizing both school and convent)
• 2009 — Gymnasium completed at cost of $1,032,000 and dedicated by Bishop John M. D’Arcy
• 2011 — Ground breaking for Parish Hall
• 2012 — Parish Hall completed at cost of $1,546,000 and dedicated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
Vocations from the parish in active ministry
Msgr. Bill Schooler
Father Dan Durkin
Father Steve Colchin
Father Dale Bauman
Sister Clara Ann Rumschlag
Sister Dorothea Hartman, a Discalced Carmelite Nun
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.