Celebrating 190 years of their foundation of faith, the community of St. Peter Parish in Columbia gathered for Holy Mass on June 23 to mark the 190th anniversary of the parish’s first church.
“We wanted to take this opportunity to think about our parish history and thank God for St. Peter Parish,” Father Anthony Swamy, MSFS, pastor, said of the occasion.
Bishop Ronald Gainer was principal celebrant and homilist for the anniversary Mass.
“Anniversaries are wonderful celebrations – birthdays, wedding anniversaries and all parish anniversaries are special – but they are just not a look to the past. They are about being grateful for the present and about looking firmly forward to the future with the help of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Gainer said in his homily. “All elements of time come together when we pause to celebrate an anniversary.”
“Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus dismiss or send somebody away. He always invites and asks for people to be drawn toward him. There’s a lesson…as we celebrate 190 years,” the bishop told the congregation. “We often say we do not have enough or we are not good enough for that. Our Lord wants co-workers. If we give a little bit, our Lord will always make it be enough.”
Built 190 years ago for a dozen Catholic families who had previously traveled a dozen miles on foot to attend Mass in Lancaster, St. Peter’s original church was first served by priests from Lancaster. Expansion of the church was necessary by 1850 to accommodate the growing number of families in the parish.
That growth continued through the late 1800s, and a new St. Peter Church would be built. Its cornerstone was laid on Aug. 18, 1895, and the church was dedicated on June 20, 1897.
St. Peter Parish is currently home to 600 families. Father Swamy commended their support of community-outreach initiatives, including donations and volunteer hours with Columbia food banks, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Off The Streets Lancaster, which secures housing for the homeless by assisting with security deposits and furniture. He also commended the parish’s Council of Catholic Women and Holy Name Society, which serve the parish and are instrumental in the annual fish fry.
“Our parishioners are very involved, serving the community and the parish,” Father Swamy said.
“I see this anniversary as a time to thank God for our church, and for these 190 years,” he said. “I thank the pastors who served here so generously, and the people who handed on the Catholic faith over all these years. Throughout many challenges, they have kept the faith.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness