On Oct. 7, 1943, a group of Catholics in Tallmadge gathered to choose a name for their newly established parish. World War II was raging. It was the month of the holy rosary and after some discussion, they agreed on Our Lady of Victory. The early parishioners noted that praying the rosary is one way Catholics could win a victory over sin and evil.
Now, the much larger parish community is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its founding.
Beginning the anniversary year festivities was a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost on Sept. 30.
(See photo gallery above.)
In his homily, the bishop briefly recounted how one family that moved to Tallmadge in 1936 helped sow the seeds for the parish.
“Tallmadge was a very different place then,” the bishop said, noting some people were suspicious of Catholics. Eventually, that core group of early parishioners began to grow. A priest from St. Martha Parish in Akron celebrated Mass. As the numbers grew larger, representatives approached the diocese and requested permission to erect a new parish.
Soon, a plot of land was purchased and the bishop granted permission for the establishment of the mission parish of Our Lady of Victory. Growth continued, and in 1944, Our Lady of Victory was raised to parish status.
“A lot has happened in 80 years and you are a testament to that,” Bishop Woost told those gathered for the anniversary Mass. “You stand upon the shoulders of many who preceded you. This community continues to be a living witness to the presence of Christ in this community. This celebration tonight is about past, present and future.”
The bishop said the readings were applicable to the anniversary celebration because they reflected on the Promised Land and the trials and tribulations of the Israelites. Those who were not faithful to God lost the Promised Land saw the destruction of their city and temple and they were forced into exile in Babylon. After many years, they complained about the continuing exile, noting they had not broken God’s law. Instead, they were being punished for the transgressions of their ancestors.
Bishop Woost said the Israelites were encouraged to focus on how they were living their lives. Did they live lives of sin an iniquity or were they following God’s covenant? Those who lived according to the covenant would have a future and Jerusalem would be rebuilt.
“But where are we going?” he asked. “The community here 80 years ago, followed God. But in the future, will we be Christ for others?” he asked.
Adopting that attitude – being Christ for others – is what ensures we will have a future filled with hope, the bishop added.
He also talked about how we react to the presence of God in our communities. Reflecting on John the Baptist speaking at the temple, Bishop Woost said those considered sinners – tax collectors and prostitutes – were the ones who listened to his message and allowed their lives to be changed. “They would be the first to get to heaven,” he said.
It’s important to recognize God’s presence and grace in the community and to use your God-given talents and gifts to build up the community of faith for the future, Bishop Woost said. “Remember the shoulders of faith upon which this community was built.”
He told the congregation that God gives them what they need to live out the Gospel.
“By following him (God) and being Christ for one another, we can be sure we have a future of hope and we can proclaim that God is indeed with us,” he added.
Father Mike Matusz, OLV pastor, and Father John Hengle, pastor emeritus, concelebrated the Mass. Father Matusz marked his 10th anniversary as pastor on Oct. 1.
A reception in the parish hall followed the Mass and visitors could view photos of the first church. The current building was built in the 1960s to accommodate the growing parish, Father Matusz said.
Click here for more information on anniversary events. Bishop Edward Malesic is scheduled to celebrate the closing Mass for the anniversary year at 5 p.m. Dec. 7, 2024.