August 5, 2016

Celebrations, ministries highlight St. Lawrence Parish’s upcoming 175th anniversary

St. Lawrence Church withstood the deadly flood of the Ohio River in 1937, when more than 1 million people were left homeless and 385 people died. (Submitted photo)

St. Lawrence Church withstood the deadly flood of the Ohio River in 1937, when more than 1 million people were left homeless and 385 people died. (Submitted photo)

By Mike Perleberg (Special to The Criterion)

LAWRENCEBURG—The bricks that were fired on site and serve as the walls and foundations of St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceburg withstood the deadly flood of 1937.

Now 175 years since the parish was founded in 1842, when Mass was celebrated in a 60-foot by 40-foot house in the heart of the southeastern Indiana city, its people are flooded with pride and anticipation of the parish’s anniversary celebration of their treasures—past, present and future.

“The challenge that I’m presenting to the parish is that we have received this legacy. What is the legacy that we are going to pass on to the next generations?” said Father Peter Gallagher, the parish’s pastor since 2010.

Father Gallagher and a small group of the parish’s leaders have planned several events and ministries to mark the start of the celebration of the parish’s 175th anniversary during the Holy Year of Mercy.

The ministries include Breaking Bread, a free community breakfast for those in need. It is held every Saturday morning in the basement of the church.

“Breaking Bread is a simple way that our parish is reaching out to help those in need. Some come to make breakfast because they need to serve, others come to enjoy breakfast because they need food, company or a glimmer of hope,” said Eileen Weisenbach Keller, one of the ministry organizers.

Father Gallagher and other dedicated parishioners are also taking the Good News to inmates at the local Dearborn County jail every week.

A new ministry called Homes from the Heart is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a local family.

Those members who can enjoy the fellowship of Mass and other events at the parish have been bringing updates from the parish, food, and companionship to sick and homebound parishioners.

“When you talk with older people, they like to reminisce about the school and how things happened then, how they walked to school or went home for lunch,” said parishioner Sherri Horn.

St. Lawrence Parish’s first 175th anniversary event exhibits the parish’s sense of humor. Parishioners will gather on Aug. 10 for the first activity—a grill-out and pitch-in dinner for the feast of St. Lawrence. The parish’s namesake was a martyr for the faith who was punished by being roasted over an iron grill, but according to legend still quipped to his torturers, “Turn me over,” and “I’m done on this side.”

The celebration continues on Sept. 24 with a tour of stained-glass windows at churches throughout Lawrenceburg. St. Lawrence Church’s 12 windows were donated in 1899 by parishioners and organizations including the Knights of St. Lawrence and St. Ann’s Ladies Sodality. They depict scenes ranging from Jesus Christ’s resurrection to the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to 14-year-old St. Bernadette Sourbirous in Lourdes, France.

“Sources such as articles from the newspaper and have allowed us to research the stories of the families who also donated windows,” said Horn, who has been researching the stories of the families behind each window for a booklet to be published.

In October, the longtime parish will recognize the Sisters of St. Francis based in Oldenburg for their many years of service to St. Lawrence. Their efforts were instrumental in the founding of St. Lawrence School, which opened in 1927.

Details of a parish mission in November and a cultural food festival in March 2017 remain in the planning stages, with more to be shared in the coming weeks and months.

St. Lawrence Parish’s 175th anniversary celebration will culminate in August of 2017 with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin.

In addition to the events, the 175th anniversary of St. Lawrence Parish will be commemorated with a time capsule, special books, shirts, banners, prayer cards and more.

“To have accomplished 175 years of a parish and its history continuing is significant,” Father Gallagher said.

(Mike Perleberg is a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg.)

Facts about St. Lawrence Parish

  • The parish was considered mission territory when families started holding Masses in a rented home in 1840. The parish was founded in 1842.
  • It was one of the first parishes founded after the then-Diocese of Vincennes, which later became the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was founded.
  • The cornerstone of the first church was laid in 1842, on the west side of Walnut Street, near where U.S. 50 exists today. It was dedicated in 1847.
  • The foundation work of the current St. Lawrence Church was started on April 9, 1866, at a lot on the east side of Walnut Street just across from the original church’s site. It was dedicated on June 2, 1867, with a large crowd of visitors traveling from Cincinnati and Indianapolis by steamboat or train.
  • During the parish’s 150th anniversary in 1992, Father Carmen Petrone, the parish’s pastor at the time, successfully led a fundraising campaign to complete updates to the church. Father Petrone died suddenly in 1993, and the new street-level entrance and handicap accessible elevator were named “The Carmen Connection” in his honor.
  • St. Lawrence Parish is now exploring the addition of a community gathering space and other building improvements.

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