By Patricia O’Connell
LANCASTER – Bishop Daniel Reilly recounted how he once went to New York City. This was back in the days when more people went to church and participated in parish life.
“Where are you from?” people would inquire. “St Michael’s Parish,” he answered, noting that he identified more with his place of worship than with his hometown of Providence.
Bishop Reilly visited Immaculate Conception Parish at last Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. Mass, as part of the parish’s impressive 100th anniversary celebration. The four-month-long roster of events also included a nine-night novena, a banquet, blessing of the animals, a spaghetti supper, a discussion of Catholicism and a bus trip to LaSalette Shrine in December.
In a short talk after Mass, Bishop Reilly looked out among the people sitting in the packed pews and noted that the church has been in existence for 100 years.
“I’m almost as close to that myself,” he joked.
He said we can thank God for the occasion, as the parish marks this important milestone.
“Think of all the people who worshiped here since 1915,” he said.
“Thank God for all the blessings that he has bestowed upon this parish family for 100 years.”
Bishop Reilly said he loves to see so many people who love their parish, just before relating his own incident in New York City, when he first mentioned his parish home, instead of the city where he grew up. “That’s the way we thought in those days,” he explained. “Sad to say that’s not how people think today. But are they happy?”
Nevertheless, it’s very important that we live out our faith, Bishop Reilly noted. “May you be strong in your Catholic faith. Don’t be afraid to show your faith. Jesus tells us to give witness.”
Bishop Reilly then related a more recent anecdote. When he was in Rome, the late Pope John Paul II gave him a crucifix. One day, while wearing it around his neck, he went to CVS. Coming out of the store, an elderly woman approached him, and asked him if she could kiss that Cross.
“I’m not Catholic, but I love Jesus,” she told him.
Bishop Reilly noted that she was a good example of how someone was giving witness. “Don’t be afraid to let others know who you are,” he said, adding that “life would be empty without the faith.”
Pastor Thomas Hultquist noted that the parish, named after Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, has a very special devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
He noted how many of the parishioners had shared their gifts and talents, especially during the recent anniversary celebration.
“We hope you continue to build up this very beautiful parish, Immaculate Conception, for many years to come,” he said.
Father Hultquist explained that the parish began in 1915, as a mission of the former St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clinton. (In recent years, this parish was merged with two other parishes in that city. It was renamed St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish.) At the time, he said, this move generated “a little controversy.”
Right now, he explained, Immaculate Conception is the “only Catholic Church in Lancaster and we’re very happy it’s in existence.”
Following Mass, parishioners held a reception in the church hall, decorated in blue, the color often associated with Our Lady.
The hall also contained a poster display of the previous pastors. At a small table at one end of the hall a group of women sold 100th Anniversary cookbooks. These were recipes contributed by parishioners.
The spiral bound book contains 168 recipes, from appetizers to desserts, as well as photos of the inside of the church, prayers and psalms. The cover features a copy of a painting of Immaculate Conception, done by parishioner and local artist Sharon Jordan Bahosh.