Looking Back and Forward at 100
This weekend, we celebrate 100 years of life as a parish. A century is a long time. Model T Fords began production in 1908. Now driverless cars are on the horizon. In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, NC. In 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and now we are talking about commercial space flight. So much has changed!
Here are some details about our humble beginnings: on May 8, 1919 our parish was formed and boundaries assigned. Father Leo Dineen (eventually first resident pastor) offered the first Holy Mass in the silk mill on Stiles Avenue, now where the municipal building stands. On September 24, 1920, the parish was incorporated, and on October 11th the same year ground was broken for our first church, between Main Street and Poplar Avenue.
Since those beginnings, so much life has happened at OLPH. It is daunting to think of the 1000s of babies baptized, beloved ones buried, weddings witnessed, and the 10s of 1000s of Holy Masses and Confessions. It is overwhelming, to think of the 1000s of children who were educated in our school and religious education programs. Trying to somehow capture the beauty and variety of spiritual life that has enriched our community is beyond my grasp. This is such a challenging letter to write!
Yet while the world has witnessed so much change, our mission has remained largely the same. We at OLPH continue to be dedicated to the Sacraments, to the Scriptures and the holy Tradition. We continue to try and pass along Gospel values to our children. And above all, we continue to give God praise and glory at weekly Sunday Mass. While the world around us is markedly different, our mission to spread and deepen the Faith continues. I wish I could say “continues unimpeded” but the culture is ever more adversarial to our sacred Faith. Now is the time for increased fervor and zeal!
As our Anniversary Committee was meeting, many shared stories of the 75th, of children in the school, bingo and past times. Present was a wistful spirit for bygone times, a former “glory days” (thanks Bruce!). While it is important to look back and recall our history, and to relish the beautiful moments we have experienced here at OLPH, it is just as important to look to the present, and to look forward to what awaits in the next stage of our parish life.
Our former Bishop, Most Reverend John M. Smith, was fond of saying, “Now is our time to be church.” Yes, today is our time. Now is our time to live parish life together, to do something beautiful for God. Now is our time to raise our children in Gospel values, and above all to give God praise and glory at weekly Sunday Mass, even as the world around us grows colder and more skeptical of our religion and values.
As we take in the great expanse of 100 years of spiritual life here in Maple Shade, I hope and pray we can look forward with renewed hope and vigor for what lies on the horizon, and to be bold and courageous in how we live our parish life together, and to do something beautiful for God. In the end, Beauty, Goodness and Truth will triumph. May those be the touchstones that guide the next 100 years.
Sincerely yours in Christ our High Priest,
Our Lady of Perpetual Help! Pray for us!