By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
LONG GROVE — “A parish is a home where people come together to proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist,” said Msgr. Drake Shafer, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove. “We are a parish made up of a number of communities,” he added during the parish’s 175th anniversary celebration Oct.7.
The rain may have kept some people away, but more than 800 filled the church pews, extra chairs, and seating in the gathering space for the Mass. Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided. The bishop congratulated the parish community for 175 years of practicing the Catholic faith.
Msgr. Shafer gave the homily, beginning with, “What a wonderful day – rain or not — it’s a beautiful day — 175 years as a community of Catholic faith. This is the day the Lord has made — let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
He referred to debate about when the parish was established and why 1843 was chosen as the starting point. The diocesan history book dates the parish to 1840, making it one of the oldest parishes in what was then the Diocese of Dubuque.
Msgr. Shafer said exact records of when Bishop Mathias Loras formally established the parish don’t exist. But in 1843 Mass was regularly celebrated on Sundays in the Tobin family home, records show. The parish was established with 14 charter families. Many of their descendents are parishioners today.
The first church building was built in 1853 by the hands of those first 14 families on land donated by two of the families. “A house of God, built by the people of God,” Msgr. Shafer said.
The first resident pastor came to the parish in 1870. Turning to Bishop Zinkula, Msgr. Shafer said to him, “Bishop. That means that for 27 years the parish was led and maintained by the laity.” The crowd laughed. Turning to a more serious reflection, Msgr. Shafer said, “People become parishioners because they have found a home there for generations or because they have felt welcomed and invited.”
He recalled his first assignment at St. Ann’s in 1968 — not as a priest, but a seminarian. He taught religious education to high school students. He was assigned as pastor of St. Ann’s in 2009.
He thanked parishioner Nancy Youngbauer for compiling a history of the parish and its pastors. It will be updated with photos from the Oct. 7 celebration.
“The parish was once 14 families united by a shared faith. The parish was once all those people we saw in the picture gathered in front of the church at the turn of the 20th century. The parish was all those people who worked to build this present church 33 years ago,” Msgr. Shafer said.
“The parish is all of you gathered here today — to recognize Christ is the breaking of the bread. This parish is all of you gathered here to hear the Gospel proclaimed and to go forth from here to live the Gospel daily in word and deed.”
Following Mass, a photo of the congregation was taken inside the church. Rain prevented the recreation of the turn-of-the-20th century photo outdoors.
Noreen Noel Warren is a fourth-generation member of one of the charter families, the Noels.
Generations three through six were in attendance at the Mass. “This has been our church forever and we plan to keep it going.” She described the Mass as very impressive and was glad to see the turnout for the celebration. A meal followed in the great hall, with people lined up in the hallway and back to the church.