Immaculate Conception Parish in Auburn reverently began a series of sesquicentennial celebrations Sunday evening, Jan. 9. Led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, the northeast Indiana faith community joined the bishop in raising their voices joyfully to mark the opening of 10 months of festivities commemorating the occasion.
The sung vespers service was the first official event to observe 150 years since the founding of the parish. From now until Oct. 8, the community will come together in several ways in praise and out of respect for their community’s uninterrupted legacy of faithfulness, devotion and evangelization.
During the service, Bishop Rhoades acknowledged the foundations of the Auburn parish and celebrated with parishioners its growth in faith, hope and charity. He memorialized their first priest, Father August Young, the sisters from Victory Noll in Huntington who taught catechesis before a school opened, and the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart who taught in the school from 1958 until it closed in the early 1970s. He then recalled all the generous and faith-filled laity who have worshipped there for the past 150 years.
“It is good that you will be celebrating your 150th anniversary with various activities this year, remembering and giving thanks for your past, while also building on this past as you move forward into the future as a Catholic community committed to evangelization, worship, service and witness to Christ here in Auburn and DeKalb County,” he told them.
The evening’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles focused on part of St. Peter’s speech to Gentiles in the home of Cornelius in Caesarea. In the reading, John the Baptist prepares the people for Jesus by his peaching of repentance and his act of baptizing them.
The Lord entered into solidarity with sinners through the same baptism at which the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus’ human nature with divine power. That Holy Spirit is also with the Church and empowers it for ministry, the bishop said.
“We can say that this is true throughout the history of the Church, including the history of Immaculate Conception Parish. The Holy Spirit inspires and guides us to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus, to do what He did – to go about doing good and bringing His love and healing to all those who are oppressed by sin and all those in need of God’s love and mercy.
“My brothers and sisters, during this sesquicentennial year, I encourage you to focus on your mission as a parish, to be open to the Holy Spirit, as you move forward in faith,” he told the parishioners present. “I encourage you to reach out to non-practicing Catholics in your parish and to invite them home. I also encourage you to continue to take great care in passing on the faith to the children and young people of the parish and to help them to grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord.”
The sesquicentennial year culminates in October, when the bishop said he hopes to return and celebrate an anniversary Mass. Between now and then, other sesquicentennial events include:
• The printing of sesquicentennial prayer cards, which will be distributed to parish families and available at the church office later this month. A sesquicentennial prayer written by former pastor Father Timothy Wrozek and printed on the cards will be prayed often, including at the end of every weekend Mass throughout the year.
• A sale of commemorative apparel noting the parish’s 150 years of devotion began Jan. 1 and will continue through Sunday, Jan. 16.
• In May, the joyful mysteries of the rosary will be sung by the parish choir, accompanied by musicians, in a special arrangement by Bob Hurd. A specific date and time will be announced on the parish website and in the parish bulletin.
• A commemorative walk from the location of the first Immaculate Conception Church, erected in 1874 on the corner of Fourth Street and what is now Indiana Avenue, to the East Seventh Street location of the current church and parish campus will take place June 25.
The anniversary is an opportunity for parishioners to show pride in their history of faith, parish administrator Father Mark Enemali reiterated recently. “We have many reasons to be thankful to God for the existence of our faith community and its impact here in Auburn for the past one hundred and fifty years.”
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