Tuesday, July 23, 2024

St. Margaret Mary Parishioners Express Gratitude, Trust in God with Celebration of 75th Anniversary

From the celebration of first Masses in a Studebaker showroom to today’s liturgies in a new Romanesque-style church on a spacious plot of land, the members of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Harrisburg are giving thanks for those who have gone before in a family of faith that’s now celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Members of the suburban Harrisburg parish filled the church on Sunday, October 15 to rejoice in the milestone with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer. Offering congratulations to the parishioners for the occasion, the Bishop Emeritus of Harrisburg expressed “prayerful best wishes to you all as we remember the past 75 years with gratitude and as we place our trust in God’s Providence for the present and the future of your parish.”

Joining Bishop Gainer in concelebrating the Mass were Father Leo Goodman, pastor, and Father Samuel Houser, retired and in residence at the parish where he formerly served as pastor.

In his homily, the bishop shared the story of the parish’s patron saint, to whom Christ appeared in four apparitions over a period of three years, beginning in 1673.

“In those visions, Our Lord charged Margaret Mary with spreading devotion to His Sacred Heart through frequent reception of Holy Communion and a Holy Hour of reparation every Thursday evening in commemoration of His agony in the garden,” Bishop Gainer told the congregation.

“Biblically, the heart indicates the center of the person, where our sentiments, where our true intentions can be found,” he said. “What are those sentiments and intentions of the Sacred Heart of the Redeemer? There, we find the fire of Divine Love for you and for me, for all humanity; the Divine Will for all to come to salvation; the Divine Mercy for us sinners; the source of that life that has conquered sin and death.”

“His heart is on the outside in order to make visible His human and divine love for us,” the bishop said. “Because our hearts are so often scattered, we need to make reparation for the sins against His Divine Love. We need to give Jesus the gift of our love for His great love. That’s the message Our Lord entrusted to St. Margaret Mary.”

During the celebration of the Mass, Bishop Gainer blessed an image of the Lord’s appearance to St. Margaret Mary, painted by parishioner Virginia Thomas. The painting, which is framed and hangs in the church, is a replica of the original piece in the Vatican Museum.

A Beautiful and Vibrant Community

Bishop George L. Leech established St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in the Penbrook area of Harrisburg on March 1, 1948, to serve the overflowing Catholic community worshiping at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg. Father Francis A. Kirchner, then the assistant at the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick, was appointed as pastor and celebrated the first Mass for the parish six days after its establishment. Until a church was built, Sunday Mass was celebrated in the Studebaker automobile showroom owned by parishioner Paul Camplese, and weekday Masses were in a private home. Father Kirchner worked out of an office in the back of the showroom while residing at St. Peter’s rectory in Steelton.

Parishioners worked hard throughout 1948 and 1949 to raise funds for the original church, school and social hall, built on Herr Street just a few miles east of the capital. Bishop Leech celebrated the first Mass in the church on October 29, 1949.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived in August that year to open the school, which welcomed 110 students on its first day. As enrollment increased over the next several years, new classrooms were added to accommodate students. The School Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school until 1985.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate were invited to serve the parish from 1970-1995 in response to a shortage of Diocesan priests. Today, the parish is under the care of Diocesan priests, with Father Goodman as its pastor. St. Margaret Mary’s current membership is 1,500 households, a three-fold increase of its original membership 75 years ago.

To accommodate for the burgeoning growth, the parish expanded more than a dozen years ago, establishing a new church, social hall and grounds on 19 acres along the suburban Paxton Church Road. The Romanesque-style church was dedicated on April 10, 2010, by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

Today, St. Margaret Mary Parish includes its church and campus on Paxton Church Road and the campus on Herr Street in Penbrook, where the school continues to offer Catholic education for students in grades PreK-8.

Addressing the congregation at the conclusion of the anniversary Mass, Father Goodman expressed his gratitude to the parishioners, many of whom serve in various capacities for the good of the parish and the community.

“We have such a beautiful community here. We are a vibrant community, and we are so blessed,” he said.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

- Advertisement -spot_img

Submission Deadline

The deadline for submissions to the biweekly Notebook/Parish Obituaries listing is every other Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Please refer to the Publication Schedule for edition dates and deadlines.

Other News