LOST IN THE MISTS OF TIME: Early in May an Immaculate Conception parishioner came to weekday Mass in Dunbar. As she explored the grounds she made an interesting discovery, one that had eluded my “eagle eyes.” There was a time capsule buried in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother that was to be opened this August. Knowing that the present church had been built in the late 1960s my first thought was that it was buried THEN, to be opened on the 50th anniversary of the building. After going out to investigate myself I realised that my initial thoughts were completely WRONG.
As can be plainly seen in the photo below the capsule was buried on the “125th Anniversary” of the parish in 1994.
I was immediately taken aback; quickly doing the math in my head I deduced that AD 1869 was being used as the founding date. I had always understood the parish's founding to be LATER that that. (An understanding that preceded my assignment to Dunbar; having done MUCH genealogical research for myself and for others, I had a familiarity with the Saint Aloysius sacramental books.) And OF COURSE I would be personally AGHAST if I had let such an important anniversary go uncelebrated! (Although everything is NOT up to the Pastor; It would have been incumbent upon parishioners to organise an anniversary committee and move forward.)
Further research revealed a VERY FAMILIAR problem when dealing with parishes founded in that time period (and earlier): Precise records are just NOT extant. IF they ever existed at all. The same problem obtained when trying to determine the correct year for Immaculate Conception's sesquicentennial. In a recent conversation with the editor of the Catholic Accent he said the same thing. Basically, a date to celebrate has to be arbitrarily chosen. Whereas with newer parishes (Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Rita of Cascia) we have the decrees canonically establishing the parish, in most instances - if ever such decrees even existed - we have NOTHING.
Last week I decided to consult Fr. Andrew Lambing's magisterial “A History of the Catholic Church in the Dioceses of Pittsburg [sic] and Allegheny from Its Establishment to the Present Time.” The book was published in 1880 and is a FASCINATING read for anyone interested in the Catholic history of central and western Pennsylvania. The author, Msgr. Andrew Lambing, was the brother of the Very Reverend M. A. Lambing who was Pastor of Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale from 1879 until his death in 1931 (and also Vicar General of the Diocese for some time).
Msgr. Lambing writes:
The congregation of Saint Aloysius’ and the village also owe their origin to the presence of a blast-furnace built there a few years ago, which naturally drew a number of laborers to the place, the greater part of whom were Irish Catholics. Mining and coke-burning have since added to their number. Mass was first celebrated by Father Waters [the first Pastor of Immaculate Conception] in March, 1869, and from that time forward he visited the place once in the month on a week-day. In 1873, when the congregation had increased considerably, he began to visit it once in the month on Sunday. But the distance from Connellsville did not prevent the better disposed among the people from going there to Mass occasionally.
[I have blibber-blabbered too much; I will continue next week!]
COVER PHOTO: On Cinco de Mayo (5 May) our second graders made their First Communion. (One girl got sick and didn't make hers until a fortnight later.) I am only now sharing the First Communion photo as I was in the midst of highlighting the Easter work of the Environment and Art people at the four churches on the bulletin covers (something I didn't want to interrupt, even for one week, because … well, you know how people can be!) and I didn't want a small version on the inside pages; a momentous event such as receiving the Lord Jesus for the first time definitely deserves the FRONT PAGE!
Please continue to pray for these boys and girls (their names were in the bulletin the week following the celebration) and for their FAMILIES. Father Dan and I have been DELIGHTED over the past weeks to give many children their second, third, and even fourth communion! For us as priests NOTHING is sadder than seeing a child make their FIRST COMMUNION only hardly ever to return.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW BULLETIN