By NANCY CZABALA
NORTH AUGUSTA — Our Lady of Peace Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary with a Mass and dinner on Friday, June 12. About 250 people turned out to remember past parishioners, priests and the history of the school and church.
Bishop David B. Thompson celebrated Mass along with concelebrants Father C. Alexander McDonald, pastor, and Father Luis Augusto Soler, parochial vicar. Six other priests who were formerly affiliated with the parish also concelebrated; Father Peter Clarke, Father Anthony Droze, Father Dan Havron and Msgr. Charles Rowland. Father Allan McDonald and Father Ed Fitzgerald came from nearby parishes
The Bishop congratulated and thanked everyone present for their contribution to helping the parish thrive over the years. Then, Father McDonald thanked his parishioners, saying that it was a celebration of the 1948 arrival of Father Joseph Murphy, the first pastor.
During the dinner Father McDonald said, “Our previous pastoral leadership was very strong and has helped build the church to what it is today.” Our parishioners have always brought a variety of gifts to the parish and have been willing to give of those gifts for the betterment of the community, said the pastor.
When it was decided that a school would be established the parishioners at Our Lady of Peace decided to give up their church for the kids. For 25 years while the school prospered in the old parish, parishioners celebrated Mass in the hall at the school. When Father Sam Miglarese was assigned as pastor in North Augusta, a new church was constructed.
The church began its anniversary celebration on Jan. 1, 1998, the day the parishioners chose to be their Feast Day, jointly celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, their patroness, and the World Day of Peace. The parish will continue their celebration until Jan. 1, 1999.
At dinner Dan Smith, a parishioner acting as the gracious Master of Ceremonies, welcomed the crowd. A display was set up with memorabilia and photos of the first wedding held at the church, communion classes and Father Joseph Murphy, along with other significant moments and people at the church. A display also featured Father Dan Havron, who spoke at the dinner, recounting his long history with the school and parish. Father Havron’s address recalled old memories and the people that helped create them. He entered Our Lady of Peace School in 1956 and went on to attend Aquinas High School in nearby Augusta, Ga. The spirited Franciscan Father has since established an outreach center in downtown Detroit, where he says “everyone in the neighborhood is part of our parish.”
Father Havron started by reading a quote, which was printed in the dinner program, from Father Joseph Murphy: “Those were the most Glorious Days of my life. Those days will always be in my memory.” For 20 years Father Murphy worked at building a church community at Our Lady of Peace, leaving a bounty of memories for those who came after him. The sisters, priests and Franciscans at the parish have deeply affected and changed us over the years, said Father Havron.
He talked of life’s journey, saying, “When I get discouraged, I think back and realize I’ve been given a lot. And that I must do the very best with what I’ve been given.” He recalled the sisters at Our Lady of Peace School and the sacrifices they made to give the students what was best for them.
When Father Havron came back to North Augusta to celebrate his first Mass, that same day St. John Neumann was canonized. He said that like St. John Neumann we are all called to be pioneers; the gospel calls us to move ahead. He said that “with Jesus Christ with us there is nothing we can do to fail.” We continue to move right through to the journey’s end.
John Felak briefly took the stage discussing the capital campaign for the parish. He told parishioners that they must look to the future and the betterment of Our Lady of Peace.
Father McDonald thanked his parishioners and attendees one last time for their effort in bringing the celebration together and their dedication over the years. He recognized Ed and Anne Kenny who are the 50th anniversary chairpeople as well as special guests, dedicated sisters and priests who have given their time in serving the parish. He then raised the guests’ voices in asking them to sing the closing prayer.
In a message to his parishioners Father McDonald stated, “As we remember the past 50 years, we can only be grateful for the sacrifice and generosity of those who have gone before us.”