Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer
November 20, 2018 // Diocese

St. Rose of Lima Parish celebrates 150 years

Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer

Click here for more photos from the celebration.

St. Rose of Lima Parish completes 150 years in 2018. This significant anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the gift of faith, to embrace the enduring tradition of St. Rose and to give thanks for the longevity that has truly blessed the parish community.

Throughout the Bible, the Lord reminds all generations to share the news of His work on their behalf. One of the difficulties in writing history, though, is precisely that longevity — which became a consideration of pastor Father Lourdino Fernandes and the parishioners of St. Rose, who had 150 years of history to consider when planning the parish’s anniversary celebration. Parishioners who remembered the events of 50, 75 or at the most 100 years were consulted, and diocesan archives provided the remaining information.

The first St. Rose of Lima Church, a small, wood-frame structure, was constructed in 1868. Above is St. Rose Church as it appears today. — John Martin

Around 1840, Father Julian Benoit, a French missionary and pioneer priest who later built the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, often came to Monroeville to minister to 20 or so families and celebrate Mass in people’s homes. In 1868, Father E. P. Walters, from Fort Wayne, after a few monthly visits erected a small wood-frame church that served its sacred purpose for 19 years, until fire destroyed the church in 1887.

The Catholic faithful and even some Protestant neighbors generously donated money to build a new church. In the spring of 1888, Bishop Joseph Dwenger laid the cornerstone and on May 12, 1889, he dedicated the beautiful Gothic-style church. The church was named St. Rose of Lima, who is known as the first native-born saint of the Americas.

The first Catholics of Monroeville were mostly immigrants from France, Ireland and Germany and were devout in their faith. Only nine years after building the church, they constructed a parish school so that Catholic education could be passed on through the generations.

Max and Fay Meyers have been parishioners for 75 years. Both of their children attended St. Rose of Lima School. “To be able to keep the church, even after the fire, is a beautiful thing.” Fay reflected.

Pastor Lourdino Fernandes greets worshippers before the beginning of a Mass of thanksgiving for St. Rose of Lima Parish’s 150th anniversary.

Amy Sorrell, a parishioner for over 35 years, said she “really appreciates St. Rose’s small-town community, where I can recognize a face even if she cannot recall a name.” She also likes some of the modern Catholic practices such as female altar servers, which were not an option when she was a young girl.

The conscientious parishioners at St. Rose of Lima work together to complete any task. The planning for the sesquicentennial celebration began more than a year in advance, when a committee was established. The celebrations were formally inaugurated at the weekend of the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2-3, 2017, with a 150th Anniversary Board that was put on display at the entrance of St. Rose of Lima Church and complemented by a banner inside the church.

The highlight of the celebrations was a focus on the spiritual aspect and the revival and the growth of our parishioners in faith. Three evenings of Prayer and Reflection — one for the parish youth and the other two for the whole parish — were held. The formation of the Youth Group, the starting of the Rosary Crusade and all-day monthly adoration on each First Friday of the month were the fruits of the spirit from these evenings. There are now more than 30 committed parishioners participating in these programs now.

During the Mass Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades encouraged the congregation to continue reaching out to others, especially the poor, the suffering, the unchurched and nonpracticing Catholics.

The 150th anniversary celebrations concluded with a Mass of thanksgiving with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Nov. 17. Bishop Rhoades said in his homily, “I am very grateful for your strong commitment to your parish home, to St. Rose of Lima School, and to our diocese. I pray that, like your ancestors in faith here in this wonderful parish, you will continue to reach out to others, especially the poor and the suffering; that you will welcome and invite those who are unchurched or nonpracticing to come to St. Rose; and that you will pass on the faith with vigor to the next generations.” A gala dinner followed the Mass, at the Monroeville Park Pavilion.

As a lasting memorial of the sesquicentennial, the parish decided to build a much-need parish and community hall. The hall will act as a hub for a wide range of activities for all ages and will provide space for different needs for generations to come. The expected completion date of the project is February.

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