Catholic Free Press

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  • Aug
  • 21

St. Peter’s marks centennial

Posted By August 21, 2014 | 1:10 pm | Lead Story #1, Uncategorized
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By Tanya Connor

PETERSHAM – Members of St. Peter’s Parish illustrated their spirit with stories and memories as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of their church’s dedication.
Bishop McManus celebrated the Mass Sunday. Concelebrants were the new pastor, Father Edwin Montaña, priests who formerly served the parish and one from a religious order in town.
During Mass Bishop McManus officially installed Father Montaña as pastor of St. Peter’s and Our Lady Immaculate and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Athol. July 1 he began his pastorate at the three parishes, which form what people call the North Quabbin Catholic Community.
Bishop McManus congratulated the parish on its anniversary and said it was “very auspicious” to celebrate that when the new pastor was installed, because of the Eucharist’s centrality in the Church, and the fact that without priests there is no Eucharist.
Father Montaña acknowledged clergy and religious present, musicians (including an interfaith choir), and the oldest parishioner, 89-year-old Bart Germond.
Mr. Germond told The Catholic Free Press afterwards that he came to St. Peter’s in 1964. When asked what he likes about the parish, he said simply, “The people.”
Others said the same, in different ways.
Anne Marie Goodfellow said parishioners give visitors – and each other – a wonderful, spiritual welcome.
“When we talk to people, we talk to them,” she said. (They don’t just ask, “How are you?” as they’re walking past you.) “If something’s up, you know about it quickly.” And respond helpfully.
Mrs. Goodfellow said she experienced this last May, when she was hospitalized.
“Every prayer was like a little hug,” she said. “It was all the parishioners.” Her husband couldn’t get out of church after Sunday Mass because everyone stopped him to ask about her, she said.
“We’re just one big, happy, blessed family,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful little church, but it’s all about our family there,” said Debra O’Connor, a member for 28 years and currently chairwoman of the finance council. “Most of our friends we socialize with in town are from St. Peter’s.”
Visitors always say they get a special feeling at St. Peter’s, she said, adding that she thought the words they use are “friendly” and “welcoming.”
“It’s a very, very strong parish family,” said Donna Schlosser, who came with her family in 1984. “We are a family beyond our church. … We raised our children together. We participate in all the community events together and we socialize together. Even ecumenically, the churches are blended at community events.”
Leilani Magnino said the population in town, and therefore the parish, is small because of privately owned and protected land. St. Peter’s is hurt by the fact that there are not many Catholic families, she said. But she also said it is nice to come to a small parish and feel like she’s part of its spirit.
Father James B. Callahan, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in South Barre, spoke about family in his homily. A former associate pastor in Athol, who helped out at St. Peter’s, he said the day’s celebration was not just about St. Peter’s, but the whole Catholic family, and celebrating the family tree.
Carolyn Elliott May, 70, said over the years St. Peter’s has had priests who speak different languages, and now they have one who speaks Spanish, “which is great.” Some were hard to understand, “but we still went to church,” she said.
They went to church despite other difficulties too.
“We used to walk to church – almost three miles,” she said. She said her mother didn’t drive and her father couldn’t leave their farm.
“When we were born my mom wheeled a carriage,” she said. She took her seven children to Mass on foot. But sometimes they got a ride from people who had summer homes there and were going to Mass too. She said she still walks to church, but is delighted it’s only a half mile – and she can drive if she wants.
Asked what’s special about the parish she said, “It’s just always there when you need it, whether you need it or not.”
She said parishioners do what they can to keep it going – she arranges the flowers from ones she or others grow. Fellow parishioner Sun Kim helped her for the anniversary celebration, she said.
Among other anniversary projects, parishioners made bookmarks from old altar linens. The bookmarks, which were blessed and distributed at the anniversary Mass, have a St. Peter medal attached to them by ribbons – gold for the anniversary, blue for the Blessed Mother and green for the trees and grass of Petersham.
A year of anniversary events ends Sept. 14 with the 10th annual golf tournament at Ellinwood Country Club in Athol, a major parish fundraiser for renovations, said Michael Schlosser, coordinator.