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St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th anniversary with Mass, reception

News of the Diocese

October 18, 2023

St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception
St. Mary Parish, Lorain marks 150th  anniversary with Mass, reception

In 1873 when St. Mary Parish was established, Lorain was a very different place. In fact, it wasn’t even named Lorain.

A small number of Irish, German and Polish Catholic immigrants settled in the Village of Black River (later named Lorain) in the second half of the 19th century. The faithful traveled to St. Mary Parish in Elyria to attend Mass since that was the closest church.

In 1878, the congregation built a small, wood frame church named St. Mary of the Lake. In 1883, a larger building was constructed and the frame church was converted to a school. The following year, St. Mary was elevated to parish status by the Diocese of Cleveland. It is the oldest parish in the city of Lorain.

(See photo gallery above.)

Bishop Edward Malesic visited St. Mary on Oct. 15 to celebrate Mass in honor of the parish’s 150th anniversary. He thanked the pastor, Father Dan Divis, for the invitation to celebrate with the parish community.

“Throughout the years, there has been exponential growth which blossomed from the foundation established 150 years ago,” the bishop said. “Today’s celebration provides us an opportunity to remember all the clergy, consecrated religious and resolute laity over the years who have given of themselves to ensure that St. Mary Parish in Lorain was, is and will always be a joyful, welcoming community centered in the Eucharist. Through prayer and liturgy, God gives us the grace to grow in faith, love and service with Christ at the center of our lives.”

The bishop said the parish grew but also endured hardships in its early years. The church was destroyed by fire in 1895. As work began on the new church, German parishioners decided to withdraw and establish St. Joseph Parish. The larger, new church was dedicated by Bishop Ignatius Horstmann in 1897. A new elementary and high school building opened in 1923 and on June 28, 1924, a tornado destroyed the church and damaged other parish buildings.

A new sandstone church in the Georgian style was constructed to replace the damaged structure.

During the 20th century, the parish experienced much growth. Additional classrooms and a gymnasium were added to the school. St. Mary High School closed in 1969 after the establishment of Lorain Catholic High School.

The Lorain economy struggled and many parishioners moved to nearby Amherst and Avon Lake, causing a significant drop in the parish membership.

The bishop said it takes many talented people to run a parish – clergy, religious and dedicated lay people – “who work together to make the parish a vibrant place with a sharp focus on bringing people closer to God.”

He offered his thanks to all who have had and continue to have “any part in keeping this house of the Lord a wonderful place of worship, prayer, sacrament and service. May God bless you for your faithfulness and resilience. And may the Lord bless this parish in its sacred mission to bring people closer to Jesus while serving the needs of the community for countless years to come.”

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