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The journey of St. Roch told through parish’s history

Posted By October 20, 2011 | 12:51 pm | Lead Story #1, Local

By Tanya Connor

OXFORD – St. Roch Parish celebrated 125 years of “keeping and sharing our faith that Jesus Christ is Lord” Saturday.
Beneath this proclamation on the Mass program and parish bulletin were nine names, with the explanation: “These are confirming their faith in the Lord and the Church he founded.”  The parish was looking forward – and up – as well as back.
“We have come to celebrate 125 years of persevering,” the pastor, Father Michael J. Roy, said at the beginning of the Mass. He spoke of looking to the future by celebrating the sacrament of confirmation for the nine youth who came to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord for them.
In his homily Bishop McManus recounted the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost.
“That Holy Spirit is moving through this Church tonight in power,” he told the youth. “If you do believe it, it can and will change your life.”
Their mission is to bring Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to others, he said. He noted the problem of youth violence and declared, “You are saying yes to peace, no to violence,” graced by the sacrament of confirmation. Ancestors’ faith continues as the pearl is passed on to a new generation, he said.
One of those saints – the parish’s patron – was made more visible through medals, holy cards and a display. At the end of Mass Bishop McManus blessed, and the newly confirmed and other parishioners distributed, St. Roch medals and holy cards with a photo of the parish’s window depicting the patron. On the card was a prayer that said, in part, “Like our patron saint we are a pilgrim people who little by little move forward on the journey to the fullness of life.”
The Mass program connected Saint Roch’s life with parishioners’: “We too are called to remain faithful to the Vicar of Christ on this earth – the Bishop of Rome. We are called to respond to the ‘plagues’ of our day whether they are physical or spiritual. St. Roch’s Parish is meant to be not so much a club for saints but a hospital for sinners, selflessly helping each other get to our true homeland.”
Set up in the church hall where the anniversary dinner was held were displays of statues, pictures and other items depicting St. Roch, and photos of churches around the world who claim him as their patron.
“St. Roch was a mystery to me,” said Robert Clouthier, the longtime parishioner who collects the items. “I thought there was one parish in the world with that name.”
He said his interest started several years ago when the religious education class he was teaching talked about saints and sacred art. He sought and eventually found statues of their patron for his students. Later he again turned to the internet and found more statues and other items as well as parishes named for the saint.
Father Roy said this parish’s past was recounted at the dinner by Jean M. O’Reilly, a parishioner who wrote “A People of Faith,” a book of its history, in 1987.
“It’s kind of exciting,” Joseph Roy, a pastoral council member not related to the pastor, said before the anniversary Mass. “I’ve been here for – wow – over  50 years. We started here when I was 12. I’m 65.
“It’s changed. I hate to say it – attendance has been down.” When he was in his teens there were five Lord’s Day Masses, at least some of them well-attended, he said. Now there are three.
“It’s still a vibrant parish,” he said. “You’ll see a demonstration of that by the sheer numbers of people that are here. We still have a very active youth program,” as well as festivals, a 334 Club fundraiser, and sessions about “Rediscovering Catholicism” which Father Roy recently started.
“Moving to Oxford in 1985, I walked into the parish and it was home,” said Terry Ann Renaud, director of religious education and coordinator of youth ministry. “It’s a true family. The teenagers call themselves, ‘Family of Friends Youth Ministry. We’re not a youth group; we’re a youth ministry,” bringing little brothers and sisters and parents to “anything that we’re doing.”
In a letter in the parish bulletin, Father Roy said God’s self-giving love has been the one constant in the parish’s preservation – “through two world wars, the Depression and the Cultural Revolution that goes on even today.” He said parishioners exercise that love by attending Mass, hearing God’s word and receiving Communion.
“It is what keeps us now and carries us into the future,” he wrote. Rejoicing over the confirmation students, he added, “As they continue to choose to decide for Jesus, they will fashion the future.”
Those confirmed at the anniversary Mass were: Stephanie (Ruth) Belanger, Olivia (Dorothy) Budney, Megan (Margaret) Demers, Benjamin (Thomas) Fitzpatrick, Brian (Michael) Merritt, Kevin (John) Merritt, Anna (Maria) Rodier, Kate-Lynn (Rosalie) Schraffa and Troy (John) Talman.