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Our Lady of the Lake marks 60 years in Leominster

Posted By June 12, 2014 | 1:29 pm | Featured Article #3
6-13 LadyLake5WEB

By Michael O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – Aimee Perkins has been attending Mass at Our Lady of the Lake Church practically since the beginning, signing up with her husband back in 1955, a year after the church officially opened. She’s seen a lot of changes during that time.
“We didn’t have nearly as many buildings as we do now,” she recalled this past weekend, looking around at the church, parish center addition, parking lot and expansive grounds along Route 13 in the North Leominster. “It looks nothing like it used to.”
Mrs. Perkins, still active in the church today, was one of 400 or so who showed up Sunday for a Jubilee Mass to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the dedication of Our Lady of the Lake. The large crowd packed the church hall, filling up the pews to near capacity, on this beautiful weekend morning, and many stayed for an afternoon cookout outside, near the back of the building.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger, a former associate pastor here from 1974-1977 who has returned for many events over the years, delivered the homily. He spoke of how Our Lady of the Lake flock’s spirit reminds him of the images of Pentecost Sunday – how Jesus’ return brought fire and joy to the land.
“As I look out at all of you today, I am reminded of the fire and joy of the Pentecost,” Bishop Rueger said. “You are not a small church – you are a very big church. You are filled with fire, and you are filled with joy.”
Our Lady of the Lake is one of the youngest of the nine parishes that serve Fitchburg and Leominster, opening within the same time frame as St. Anna’s and 10 years earlier than Holy Family of Nazareth.
In the first year, 230 families signed on, including owners of vacation cottages along Lake Whalom and young couples moving into the fast-growing section of town. By the early 1960s many of the cottages had turned into year-round residences.
Over the years attendees started to come from a broader radius, from other parts of Leominster and parts of nearby Fitchburg, Townsend and Lunenburg. Betty Schwall, a parishioner who’s attended Mass here since 1980, said she has never thought of going anywhere else.
“I love the parish – everything about it – the people, the priest, the closeness of all the people,” Ms. Schwall said. “Plus, the fact that it is ‘Our Lady of the Lake’ – that makes it special. I have a special devotion to her, the Blessed Mother. This just fits everything in my life.”
Today, there are 1,750 families registered in the parish.
“We just truly enjoy being here,” Tony Latino of Leominster said, enjoying hamburgers, potato salad and watermelon with his wife and two daughters during the Our Lady of the Lake picnic. “It seems we are welcome as part of the family.”
This celebration was the ninth monthly novena event the church held honoring the 60th anniversary. Other events included Bishop McManus celebrating the faith of the church “Still Burning Through the Ages” on Palm Sunday, former pastor  Father Timothy Brewer speaking about a “Family of Believers,” and former pastor  Father James Houston encouraging attendees to always remember that they are “Disciples of the Lord.” Other former pastors and associates who participated include Father James Hoey, Father Edward Niccolls, Father Michael Clements, Msgr. James Mongelluzzo, and Father Tomasz Borkowski.
Father Dennis O’Brien, pastor since 2012, chose “One Spirit, One Church” as the theme of the anniversary celebration.
“It’s a celebration of our identity,” Father O’Brien said. “It captures the one spirit of the church – the evangelism of the church, how, since day one, people have been involved from the ground up. Every time there’s a need, someone steps up. That’s why we chose the feast of the Pentecost to celebrate the dedication of the church. It was that moment in history that God entrusted the mission of Jesus to us. These people have taken up that mission for 60 years.”
Communicant Elaine Sullivan, 62, had a similar take.
“I think it means all of us can come together regardless of where we’re at in our Catholic faith,” she said. “We’re coming together as the Body of Christ. We came together as a family here.”