Sesquicentennial event Sunday
Organizers of a dual celebration for St. Columbkille Parish’s sesquicentennial and the church building’s centennial have planned for an overflow crowd for the 2 p.m. Sunday, June 26 Mass. To accommodate an overflow, there will be live streaming video and audio of the Mass to the undercroft (basement). Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr will celebrate Mass. The Knights of Columbus, wearing their colorful regalia, will escort the archbishop into the church.
After Mass, a reception will be held. Attendees will include former St. Columbkille pastors and former St. Columbkille parishioners who became clergy.
The celebration is open to the general public.
WILMINGTON — The first Catholics to settle in Clinton County were three Irish families in the Cuba area around 1807, according to a history of the St. Columbkille Catholic Church parish written by Doris and Isaac Pease.
The first Mass in the county was celebrated at the Michael Devanney home in Wilmington in 1852 by a priest stationed in Xenia. In June 1866, ground was broken for the first Catholic Church building in Wilmington, located on the same Mulberry Street block as the current Gothic-style church, which was built 100 years ago.
This Sunday, Wilmington Catholics and others will observe the parish’s sesquicentennial 150th year, as well as the century milestone for the existing church building.
Completion of the first church building was delayed when a tornado destroyed the roof on March 16, 1868. But parishioners were more shaken when in 1882 Father John O’Donoghue was murdered in Morrow.
The first resident pastor of St. Columbkille was Father Michael O’Donoghue. He had a one-story rectory built in 1884, and this home was badly damaged when, on May 5, 1893, a tornado again lifted the roof from the church, “this time depositing it on the rectory,” states the Peases in their “St. Columbkille Catholic Church: A History of the Parish / A Study of Art in the Church.”
After the congregation outgrew the original building, plans to build a new one began. Mrs. Katherine Denver Williams donated the marble communion rail, the five sanctuary windows, the St. Cecilia window in the choir loft, and the pipe organ, the last in conjunction with the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
The marble baptismal font was given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. William Haley. Two holy water fonts were gifts of the Georges families.
The stained-glass windows in the building were paid for before the church was built, said Carolyn Cervantes Warner of the Sesquicentennial Committee. However, because they were commissioned with a company in Munich, Germany and World War I intervened, the beautiful windows were not delivered and installed until 1920, she said.
According to the Building Committee minutes of Nov. 1, 1916, the five sanctuary windows cost about $145 each; the two large windows (Nativity and Resurrection) each would cost approximately $580; and the six smaller windows cost about $333 each. No cost was listed for the St. Cecilia window.
In the mid-1920s, Father Charles Ertel, the pastor from 1916-1931, invited the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County, Ohio to teach St. Columbkille parishioners. The association lasted through 1986.
In 1932, Father Theodore Stuber became pastor, and turned out to be St. Columbkille’s longest-serving pastor, remaining 33 years until his death in 1965. He was the military chaplain for many years to personnel stationed at the Clinton County Air Force Base.
Father Francis B. Lay, pastor from 1965 to 1972, led the parish in making the liturgical changes resulting from Vatican II.
Father James “Jim” M. Wedig, pastor from 2000 to 2012, was at St. Columbkille for the unification of the parishioners of St. Michael, New Vienna, into St. Columbkille when St. Michael parish closed in 2003. In November 2005, Holy Name Chapel, Blanchester, became a part of St. Columbkille Parish.
Currently, some of the St. Columbkille Parish organizations are St. Vincent De Paul including its food pantry, an American Heritage Girls troop which is a character development program for girls ages 5 to 18, and the Knights of Columbus Council 3369 which sponsors Wilmington Oktoberfest, fish fries, and a right to life spaghetti dinner.
Thirteen young people from St. Columbkille are planning to go to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland in late July. World Youth Day is a worldwide encounter of youth with the pope every three years in a different country.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.