July 20, 2016 // Local

St. Paul Chapel to celebrate 75 years of faithfilled history

St. Paul Chapel, Fremont, will celebrate 75 years of serving the faithful on Sunday, July 24, with an outdoor Mass and pot-luck dinner on the grounds at 8780 E. 700 N in Steuben county.

The year was 1941. Europe was in the throws of war and the United States little suspected the attack on Pearl Harbor which would draw them into the war by year’s end. Gas could be had for twelve cents a gallon and a new car was $850. The average new house sold for $4,000, and workers received an average annual salary of $1,750. As the big bands had everyone swinging and swaying Steuben County trustees placed a white clapboard schoolhouse in Fremont on the auction block. With the winning bid going to the Diocese of Fort  Wayne, St. Paul Chapel at Clear Lake became a reality.

Under the direction of Father Leonard Wren, OFM Conv., who served as pastor of St. Paul’s Chapel from 1940 to 1942, transformation of the school house began and was finished for dedication on July 27, 1941. In 1964 additional acreage surrounding the church was purchased from W. E. Esterline. The additional land contributed greatly to the current park-like setting.

The parish’s tranquil rural setting and intimate worship space, which seats 375, appeals to those seeking a church where parishioners know one another and affectionately refer to their fellow parishioners as their church family. Being located in the center of lake country, St. Paul Chapel sees a dramatic increase in people attending Mass during the summer months. In 1981 a community room was built to accommodate social functions as well as overflow seating for summer weekend services. In 1991 the building was expanded yet again. This time classrooms were added for Religious Education and restrooms were reconfigured to allow indoor access. Today Masses are offered at 9 a.m. every Sunday and during peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day a 5 p.m. Saturday Mass is added.

Over the years the facade of the church has changed from the white clapboard structure of 1941 to one of mid-century modern architecture. While the appearance of the church has changed, one thing has remained the same. Since its inception, the Conventual Franciscan Friars who also serve St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Angola have served as priests for the parish.

Father Wilfrid Logsdon, who is retired and living in the Friary at St. Anthony, offers his services to the parish as presider at Mass. Father Wilfrid replaced Father Phil Schneider who, after many years of service to the parish, retired and currently resides with the Franciscan Friars in Carey, Ohio. This is Father Wilfrid’s second assignment to St. Paul Chapel having served previously from 1978 to 1988. Father Wilfrid reports being back at St. Paul Chapel is a wonderful assignment for his retirement as the parishioners are all so open and welcoming. In addition he states it provides him the opportunity to renew old acquaintances as well as form new ones. Father Bernie Zajdel who served as pastor of St. Anthony during Father Wilfrid’s prior assignment is also once again reassigned to the area and serving as Assistant Pastor at St. Anthony. Father Bernie explained that while he was the pastor of record for both parishes during Father Wilfrid’s previous assignment the day-to-day activities of running the Chapel fell to Father Wilfrid who consulted with him when necessary which, Father Bernie admits, was rare. Father Bernie reports his connection to the Chapel goes one step further in that Father Earl Zajdel, brother of Father Bernie, served at the Chapel under the direction of pastor Father Conrad Schweibold in 1965 when the stone and stained glass entry that transformed the building exterior was constructed.

But St. Paul Chapel is more than brick and mortar. It is a group of strong faith-filled individuals committed to building community among it’s members and extending God’s love beyond its walls. Members of the Chapel answered the call to serve the poor a number of years ago when they partnered with the Franciscan Mission in Zambia, Africa to aid the Friars in their mission to bring God’s love to the unfortunate. Through the generosity of the parish a significant amount of money is sent annually to the mission. The Chapel has an active women’s group and a men’s group as well as an organized program for children. Another key organization at St. Paul is the Booster Club whose purpose is to foster spiritual, social and educational growth in the parish. Members can be found throughout the year putting on aprons and cooking up culinary delights to raise funds for their various endeavors. Their bi-weekly Lenten fish fries rival those of the finest restaurants and once every summer members fire up the grills for their famous take-out barbecue ribs. What makes these events so successful? Parishioner Pat Kocsis believes the secret ingredient is the fun and camaraderie the members share preparing and serving the food. She states the laughter that fills the air when they are cooking is infectious and puts guests at ease creating a family-friendly dining atmosphere.

Father Robert Showers, the current pastor of both St. Anthony and St. Paul Chapel is excited about the upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary celebration. He states the parishioners have been busy refreshing the landscaping and installing a new electronic sign to greet all who pass by with inspirational messages and information on upcoming events. Father Bob also reported a bronze statue of their patron St. Paul, commissioned by the parish to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the parish, has arrived and been erected on the front lawn of the church just in time for the celebration.

The members of St. Paul’s Chapel firmly believe they have been blessed. Over the years in addition to their normal Sunday attendance, St. Paul’s parishioners have welcomed thousands of visitors from near and far who stopped to worship while vacationing at the nearby lakes. The anniversary celebration will take place Sunday, July 24, starting with an outdoor Mass at noon at 8780 E. 700 N. No reservations are necessary. Simply bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating and a dish to share at the pot-luck dinner being held immediately following the Mass.

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