Centennial Committee members from Our Lady of Phourdes Catholic Church are, from left: Karen Smith-Kernc, Robert Quinlivan, the Rev. Steven Fauser, Yvonne McGee and Cathy Proviano.
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In 1919, seeds that were planted by Redemptorist missionaries in northern Lancaster County began to bear fruit.
That year, Catholics in Lititz purchased their first church. In New Holland, the inaugural Mass of what would become Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church was held.
On Saturday, July 27, Our Lady of Lourdes will host its Centennial Celebration Mass with Bishop Ronald W. Gainer presiding. The Mass begins at 5 p.m. and will include a number of pastors who previously served the church. A gathering in the church’s Parish Center will follow the Mass.
The date — July 27 — is significant.
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“It’s exactly 100 years since the first Mass that was said in New Holland for our parish family,” said Yvonne McGee, a member of the church’s centennial committee.
Church member Karen Smith-Kernc said the occasion “shows a long-term commitment and an investment by the community into the church.”
That first Mass marked the beginning of a parish that has flourished. Although early records show only a handful of Catholics living in the area, today more than 500 families consider Our Lady of Lourdes their home.
The story of the church is one of missions, ministries and growth over the past century.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Ephrata and St. James Catholic Church in Lititz were all begun by Redemptorist missionaries.
The term Redemptorist is a shorter term for the formal title — Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or, in Latin, Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris.
The Redemptorists, based in New York, had come to Ephrata at the bequest of the Diocese of Harrisburg to establish mission churches in Lancaster County. Our Mother of Perpetual Help was established in 1914, followed by St. James in 1917 and Our Lady of Lourdes in 1919.
“At their high point, (the Redemptorists) were at Lititz, New Holland, Ephrata and at St. Anthony’s in Lancaster,” said the Rev. Steven Fauser, priest at Our Lady of Lourdes.
On July 27 of that year, the Rev. William White, accompanied by a combined choir from St. Mary’s and St. Anthony’s Catholic churches in Lancaster, conducted the first Mass in New Holland. It was held on the second floor of the Witwer Building, which he named St. Rita’s Chapel.
In 1920, the chapel was moved to the roomier third floor of the building and the chapel was dedicated to St. Therese of Lisieux — the Little Flower of Jesus.
In July 1940, ground was broken for a new church on land that had been donated by the Lewis M. Storb family at the corner of Custer and Conestoga streets in the borough. In April 1941, the first Catholic Church in New Holland was formally dedicated by Bishop George L. Leech of the Diocese of Harrisburg. That building is now home to First Baptist Church of New Holland.
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Over the next 30 years, the congregation continued to grow. That growth coincided with the growth of the former New Holland Machine Co., which was acquired by Sperry Corp. in 1947 and today is a brand of CNH Industrial.