ARCOLA — The tones of “Panis Angelicus” rang out over the congregation of St. Patrick Church as parishioners awaited the appearance of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, celebrant of the anniversary Mass Oct. 28 commemorating the sesquicentennial of the founding of the parish in 1862. Members of the parish Knights of Columbus council, dressed in full regalia, preceded the bishop down the aisle of the small rural church, which was beautifully decorated and filled to capacity for the event.
In his homily Bishop Rhoades referenced the Year of Faith, which has just begun for Catholics worldwide and spoke of the deep faith of the founders of St. Patrick Parish 150 years ago.
“It is appropriate that today we remember our ancestors in the faith, including the devout Catholics who built this parish, who sacrificed so much that the faith would be handed down to their children and grandchildren, to successive generations of Catholics here in Arcola. It is our duty to continue their legacy,” he reminded them.
In celebrating the past, he said we must look to the present and the future. “A truly vibrant parish is an evangelizing community, one that spreads the faith. …” If it is authentic, he said, faith is a living thing, a grace, a gift by which we live. It involves our whole being, our thoughts and affections, our relationships and decisions, our daily work and activities, indeed our whole life. Each succeeding generation, like we ourselves and our ancestors, must take the journey of faith, he told them.
Following Mass, the congregation gathered in the parish hall for a reception, a meal, conversation and reminiscences.
Pastor Father Alex Dodrai welcomed all those in attendance on “an historic occasion in the life of St. Patrick’s, Arcola.” He warmly recognized parishioners important in that history, the Corbat and Wilhelm families, the Gus Nagy family, Rosina Harber and the Francie Strack family. All received a statue of St. Patrick and Father Alex’s heartfelt praise for their years of service. “One thing has not changed — the heart of St. Patrick’s Parish,” he said.
Parishioner Jim Battone spoke briefly about his and Dani Tippmann’s research into parish history and noted that the level of faith and commitment shown by their forebearers is still present today. Alex Pursley explained his and Phoebe Diamentes’ efforts to track down information on former pastors. “I helped a little,” she said modestly.
One former pastor, Father Cyril Fernandes, was in attendance and recounted the extensive construction project undertaken during his tenure, which resulted in a new parsonage and parish hall. “You see how God works” in the growth of a parish, he said with affection.
Long-time parishioner Mary Ellen Rice was effusive in her praise of that building program, calling Father Cyril the “gel” that made it successful. And we’re debt-free, she proclaimed proudly. Gus Trahin, a parishioner since birth, recalled his education at St. Patrick School, where a classroom contained four grades and the nuns maintained strict control. When those students went on to high school they were always among the top scholars, he pointed out.
The Tim Loomis family seemed to be enjoying the day’s festivities. He was a member of St. Patrick’s as a young child, then rejoined with his own family after moving here from Michigan several years ago. “It’s a wonderful parish,” he declared.
Bishop Rhoades’ closing remarks at Mass seemed especially appropriate as the program wrapped up just before dinner. He recalled the founders of St. Patrick Parish as committed Catholics who took joy in believing and passing on their faith. And he commended those present for being a testament to that commitment, calling them “a wonderful faith community.”
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