Nestled in “Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” among Amish homesteads and Baptist churches, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish has been a bastion of the Catholic Church for a century.
For 100 years, parishioners have upheld the parish’s mission of living “the Catholic Tradition of Word, Sacrament, social justice, and respect for life” while welcoming all into “a believing, worshiping, loving, and serving community.”
On July 27, Bishop Ronald Gainer celebrated the parish’s centennial Mass, commending the community for its faithfulness.
“Many of our ancestors did without to get us to this wonderful anniversary moment – 100 years,” he told the congregation. “We pray the One that brought us to this parish centennial moment continues to bless this faithful community.”
“A parish is the family of all your families, and that is true at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish,” Bishop Gainer said. “This parish has a wonderful sense of history – how you have preserved your history and the beautiful production of your anniversary program is a testament to your appreciation for your history. You are to be commended on your wonderful work.”
Catholicism in New Holland, located on the eastern edge of Lancaster County, can be traced to the mid 1700s, when Jesuit Missionaries celebrated Masses in private homes.
The parish was originally a mission of the Redemptorists in Ephrata, whose congregation staffed Our Lady of Lourdes until 1999. In 1916, a Redemptorist priest traveled by horse and buggy to New Holland to tend to the flock, and rented the former Town Council Chamber on Main Street for $7 per month to celebrate Mass every other Sunday.
In 1920, a priest was assigned to the New Holland community; Masses were celebrated weekly in a chapel dedicated to the Little Flower. As industry grew in the area, so did the number of Catholics, and in 1940, ground was broken for a 90-seat chapel. The first Mass was celebrated there on Christmas Day in 1940. On April 20, 1941, the chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Soon, the number of parishioners outgrew the chapel. In 1970, Masses were held in the Ritz Theater while a Building Committee examined the need for a new church. The current church was completed on Sept. 2, 1972. Our Lady of Lourdes became a parish on Jan. 5, 1977.
In 1991, Father John Schmalholfer became the first Diocesan priest assigned as pastor, and he served until 2012. During his time at Our Lady’s, he oversaw the capital campaign and construction of a parish center.
Ministries at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish serve the parish and local communities and include prayer groups, youth ministry, a Knights of Columbus Council and Ladies’ Auxiliary, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a meal ministry and support of the New Holland Food Bank.
“We are the eastern most parish in Lancaster County, in a predominantly Amish and Baptist area. It is great to see the Catholic faith alive here at Our Lady’s,” said Father Steven Fauser, who was appointed pastor in June. “In 100 years, the parish has grown and thrived. I’ve found it to be a wonderful, warm and friendly parish. The people here are very devoted to the parish and love their faith. We’re very much looking forward to the next 100 years of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness