By KATIE BORKOWSKI
DEDHAM – A celebration 125 years in the making was held Sept. 24 at St. Joseph Church.
Father Kevin Richter, pastor, celebrated the 11:30 a.m. Mass to commemorate the parish’s quasquicentennial. The concelebrants were Father John Gerald, parochial vicar; Father Brian Danner, a native son of the parish and Father Harry McAlpine, former pastor. The permanent deacons who assisted with the Mass were Deacons Louis Meiners, Tim Murphy and Gary Schon.
“All of us (priests and deacons) are pleased to be with you as we celebrate this significant and historical occasion – 125 years of this faith community,” said Father Richter.
Quoting the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the priest said, “Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call on him while he is still near.”
“Isaiah was speaking to the people in his time and his generation,” said Father Richter. “He was reminding them that God is always there with them. Generations of believers have sought to follow that, including your ancestors who came to these rolling hills of now southern Carroll County to establish this community. They made that the center of their lives – literally and figuratively.”
Literally, he said, the parish community became “the root and foundation of everything that Dedham was and is about.”
“No matter how we continue to build the community here in Dedham,” said Father Richter. “No matter how we move forward as a Catholic faith community in the future, God’s graces will always be with us.”
The priest acknowledged the church is changing and the community is changing “dramatically.” He pointed out Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the Diocese of Sioux City and not knowing how it will unfold with the shortage of priests.
“The vibrancy, the vitality of this faith community must be just as strong as it was when it was established 125 years ago,” said Father Richter. “We, too, must make it the center and anchor of our lives – literally and figuratively.”
There are many reasons to celebrate the “history, the strong Catholic identity that this community has had,” the pastor added. “May it continue to go forth for generations upon generations into the future, as we try to be the people of God we are called to be.”
At the conclusion of Mass, Father Richter welcomed Father Danner to offer the meal prayer before the congregation walked over to the city park for a picnic.
“Lord our God, we gather in thanks and praise to all our brothers and sisters from near and far, both living and deceased who have brought us to this point in our Catholic faith as we celebrate 125 years,” prayed Father Danner. “For all our blessings we praise you and bless you.”
After the 100th anniversary of the parish 25 years ago, parishioners knew they wanted to celebrate the 125th, said Linda Sporrer, a parishioner who helped plan the 125th celebration.
“It is important to recognize what our forefathers have done before us and to continue what they started,” said Sporrer. “Dedham is a town that likes to celebrate. In the last year, we were thinking about what we wanted to do. We didn’t do this as elaborate as we did our centennial. We decided on a one-day celebration.”
A group of volunteers came together to plan the celebration – parish directors, finance council, guild officers and others.
“All we had to do was ask people and they were more than willing to pitch in,” said Sporrer. “We have a great group of volunteers. We say, ‘We work hard and we play hard.’ Any time a project needs to be done all we have to do is ask people and everyone is more than willing.”
Along with the picnic, there were games planned and a live band from Coon Rapids provided entertainment. A parish directory is also in the works and will include pictures from the celebration along with the history of the parish.
Life-long parishioner Donna Ankenbauer, 83, thought it was great to be in attendance at the 125th celebration.
“I am glad I’m here,” she said. “My dad helped build the (current) church. I went to school here. When they tore the school down in 1992, I and another lady made all the meals in the church basement.”
Ankenbauer commented there is a feeling of knowing “you are welcome, this is the place to be and you know it will always be.”