By Denise Fedorow
St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish, Bristol, observed its 75th anniversary with a variety of events over the weekend of Aug. 13, culminating with a Mass and dinner reception Tuesday night, Aug. 16.
The celebration began Saturday evening with a Mass, followed by bingo and food. A blessing and dedication of the new bell tower took place Sunday, after the 11 a.m. Mass. Following the dedication, those in attendance enjoyed ice cream sundaes in Annunciation Hall.
On Monday, a Holy Hour featured music provided by Mark Forrest, followed by a light reception. Tuesday, St. Mary’s pastor, Rev. Robert “Bob” Van Kempen, celebrated the parish’s 75th anniversary Mass, with Father Neil Wach, CSC, Father Steve LaCroix, CSC, Father Jason Freiburger and Father Bob Garrow concelebrating. Seminarians Keeton Lockwood and David Honeck also participated.
During the homily, Father Van Kempen took the congregation on a short history tour of the parish. He stated that the parish had its beginnings before the church building existed. It was founded in 1941 and was dedicated to St. Isaac Jogues, a missionary Jesuit priest who came to share the faith with the Native Americans. A “dear friend” painted a picture of St. Isaac to commemorate the 75th anniversary.
“But then someone donated land for the church to be built, and asked only that the name be changed to honor his mother, Mary,” Father Van Kempen explained.
He mentioned the names of those who were recorded as the first to be baptized, married and buried from the parish in 1942-43. Since then there have been 2,388 baptisms recorded, 611 marriages and 485 funerals. St. Mary of the Annunciation has 750 registered families
Father Van Kempen asked those in attendance to think of those first parishioners and all the dedication that strengthened the parish over the years, including those from St. John the Evangelist in Goshen and St. Vincent de Paul in Elkhart who helped get the parish off the ground, and all the times the people gathered there.
“This is where everything happened — the parish church,” he said.
Father Van Kempen also recognized Father John Vrabely, who served the parish for 25 years. “He was someone who served God so faithfully;” he said. Regarding his predecessor, Father James Seculoff, he noted, his “greatest gift to the parish was its Adoration Chapel.” He then fondly recalled Pat Contas, calling her the “boss of the parish.” A longtime parish secretary, bookkeeper and director of religious education, Contas passed away last year.
“People grew in faith, as did the parish,” he said. “Priests come and go, but this is your home, your church, your parish … You don’t come here for a ‘feel good’ session, but you come to worship, to be nourished, to be fed, to grow in faith and open yourself up to God, because in the end, when you’re standing before God, he’s going to know what you did or didn’t do and it will be too late to change. The church is here to help,” he said.
“Tonight we laugh, we give thanks, we celebrate and share stories, (and) celebrate our faith in God. We have a great advocate and intercessor: If we give ourselves over to her, she will lead us to grow closer to her Son,” he said. “Let’s be mindful of what God has asked of us and be open to His Son, Jesus Christ.”
At the end of the Mass he thanked everyone for their hard work. “This is quite a joy-filled day for us, and we appreciate everyone being here with us.”
St. Mary of the Annunciation has 750 registered families.
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