BELLINGHAM - The St. Blaise Catholic Church has a lot to celebrate. Fifty years, to be exact.
Fifty years of baptisms and funerals, weddings and ordinations, first communions and confirmations. But most of all, 50 years of coming together week after week to celebrate a faith that has built and bound a community.
Now, parishioners of St. Blaise Church are busy getting ready and making final preparations to mark the occasion of the church's Golden Jubilee in 2012.
"St. Blaise is a place where all are welcome and all are accepted," said the Rev. Michael J. Kearny, pastor. "Together we celebrate the rich history of St. Blaise and Assumption Parish and together we move forward as a community of faith."
The year-long celebration kicks off with an opening Mass in September and culminates with a closing Mass, followed by a reception, in April 2012.
Established on April 3, 1962, St. Blaise Church, located at 1158 South Main St., was constructed on the site of the Eugene Webber Farm on what was then known as Scott Hill Road. The Rev. Joseph P. Mahoney arrived a few short weeks later to serve as pastor of St. Blaise Parish.
The parish was most recently joined by parishioners of the former Assumption Church of South Bellingham when that church was closed in August 2004. On Sunday, Aug. 29, 2004, Assumption Church, Bellinghamâs oldest Roman Catholic parish, sadly celebrated its last Mass.
"It was one of the many church closings that occurred in the Boston Archdiocese around this time," said Parish History Committee Chairperson Laura Salamy.
The Rev. Brian McMahon, pastor of both Assumption and St. Blaise, welcomed his newly combined parish into St. Blaiseâs facilities. At the time, McMahon said: âTogether these gifted communities of faith have the opportunity to become one in Christ. We have to acknowledge the difficulty this process can bring with it. There is sadness and confusion, but where there is faith, hope is always present. It is in that spirit of faith and hope that St. Blaise has long maintained its mission ââto be a people of prayer dedicated to spreading the Good News of Godâs saving love to all as we journey together.ââ
Salamy said the parish has long given witness to this mission of peace, love, and social justice through its offerings of financial and volunteer assistance to programs like the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Ladies of St. Anne, sick and homebound visitations, âPennies for Peace,â and the Thanksgiving Basket and Christmas Gift programs.
"Because St. Blaise considers itself a true family of believers, members come together on a regular basis for social purposes and fun," she said. "Parish events include the Fall Fair, Bingo, various breakfasts and suppers, Irish Night, and coffee houses with parish musicians. If some of these activities should happen to raise money for worthy causes, all the better."
Added Salamy: "In short, St. Blaise is a spiritually dynamic and ever-evolving Roman Catholic parish family. Challenges face us, certainly, but we have met challenges before. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we invite all those looking for a place to belong, a place to make a difference."
The church is named after St. Blaise, a fourth century bishop who lived in Armenia. Devotion to St. Blaise has been popular throughout the ages. Much of what is known about the life of St. Blaise comes from the legends about his life. Historical proof exists that Blaise was martyred for the Faith in his diocese of Sebastea in Armenia in the year 316. The legends surrounding Blaise state that during the persecution of Licinius, Blaise was forced into exile into the hills in the backcountry of his diocese. There he lived as a hermit, spending his days in prayer and penance.
"Many current and former Bellingham residents share our history," says parishioner Ann Kane, one of the organizers taking part in the planning of the church's anniversary celebration.
Kane is among a group of parishioners, including Rev. Kearny and Parish Chairman Ron DeMaria, who have begun organizing events that will span a year-long celebration that kicks off with an opening Mass in September and culminates with a closing Mass, followed by a reception, in April 2012. In between there will be a series of anniversary events that will include, among other things, a dinner dance and family activities.
Organizers are inviting anyone who might be interested in helping to plan the celebration to call the St. Blaise Rectory at (508) 966-1258. Anyone with photographs or other memorabilia they would like to share can email Parish History Committee Chairperson Laura Salamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Parish Rectory.
"Look for more to come as plans progress for a spirit-filled, fun-filled St. Blaise 50th anniversary celebration," said Salamy, adding that more information about the anniversary celebration will made available as the planning evolves.