St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceburg is marking its 175th anniversary with a series of events happening over the next year. Photo by Linda Lehmann.
The bricks that were kilned on site and serve as the walls and foundations of St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceburg withstood the deadly flood of 1937.
Now 175 years since the parish was founded in 1842, when services were celebrated in a 60-by-40 foot house in the heart of the southeastern Indiana city, its people are flooded with pride and anticipation of the parish’s anniversary celebration of their treasures – past, present and future.
“The challenge that I’m presenting to the parish is that we have received this legacy. What is the legacy that we are going to pass on to the next generations?” says Fr. Peter Gallagher, pastor at St. Lawrence since 2010.
Gallagher and a small group of the parish’s leaders have planned out several events and ministries to mark the church’s 175th anniversary during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The ministries include Breaking Bread, a free community breakfast for those in need. It is held every Saturday morning in the basement of the church.
“Breaking Bread is a simple way that our parish is reaching out to help those in need. Some come to make breakfast because they need to serve, others come to enjoy breakfast because they need food, company or a glimmer of hope,” said Eileen Weisenbach Keller, one of the ministry organizers.
Fr. Gallagher and other dedicated parishioners are taking the good news to inmates at the local Dearborn County jail every week.
A new ministry called Homes from the Heart is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a local family.
Those church members who can enjoy the fellowship of mass and other events at the church have been bringing updates from the church, food, and companionship to sick and home-bound parishioners.
“When you talk with older people they like to reminisce about the school and how things happened then. How they walked to school or went home for lunch,” said parishioner Sherri Horn.
St. Lawrence Church’s first 175th anniversary event exhibits the parish’s sense of humor. Parishioners will gather Wednesday, August 10 for the first activity – a grill-out and pitch-in dinner for the Feast Day of St. Lawrence. The parish’s namesake saint was a martyr for the faith who was punished by being roasted over an iron grill, but still quipping with his torturers “Turn me over” and “I’m done on this side.”
The celebration continues on September 24 with a tour of stained glass windows at churches throughout Lawrenceburg. St. Lawrence Church’s twelve windows were donated in 1899 by parishioners and organizations including Knights of St. Lawrence and St. Ann’s Ladies Sodality. They depict scenes ranging from Jesus Christ’s resurrection to the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to 14-year-old Saint Bernadette Sourbirous in Lourdes, France.
“Sources such as articles from the newspaper and Ancestry.com have allowed us to research the stories of the families who also donated windows,” said Horn, who has been researching the stories of the families behind each window for a booklet to be published.
In October, the longtime parish will recognize the Sisters of St. Frances for their many years of service to St. Lawrence. Their efforts were instrumental in the founding of St. Lawrence School, which opened in 1927.
Details of a cultural food festival in March 2017 and a parish mission in November remain in the planning stages, with more to be shared in the coming weeks and months.
St. Lawrence Parish’s 175th anniversary celebration will culminate in August of 2017 with a mass that the parish is honored to have presided by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin.
In addition to the events, the 175th anniversary of St. Lawrence Church will be commemorated with a time capsule, special books, shirts, banners, prayer cards, and more swag.
“To have accomplished 175 years of a parish and its history continuing is significant,” says Fr. Gallagher.
St. Lawrence Catholic Church Facts
The parish was in what was considered mission territory when it was founded in 1841.
It was one of the first 10 parishes at the time the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was founded.
The cornerstone of the first church was laid in 1842 on the west side of Walnut Street, near where U.S. 50 exists today. It was dedicated in 1847.
The foundation work of the current St. Lawrence Church was started on April 9, 1866 at a lot on the east side of Walnut Street just across from the original church’s site. It was dedicated on June 2, 1867 with a very large crowd of visitors traveling from Cincinnati and Indianapolis by steamboat or train.
During the parish’s 150th anniversary in 1992, the later pastor Father Carmen Petrone successfully led a fundraising campaign to complete updates to the church. Petrone died suddenly in 1993 and the new street-level entrance and handicap accessible elevator were named “The Carmen Connection” in his honor.
St. Lawrence Parish is now exploring the addition of a community gathering space and other building improvements.