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Corpus Christi parish remembers a century of history

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July 13, 2011

By Mary Caffrey Knapke

DAYTON DEANERY — Within the first few years of the 20th century, Catholics in Dayton’s burgeoning northwest neighborhoods were organizing in support of a new parish, and in 1909, Archbishop Henry Moeller granted their request. After two years of hard work and dedication by the new Corpus Christi congregation, the distinctive Corpus Christi Church was dedicated on Christmas Eve in 1911.


Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr chats with Corpus Christi parishioners after the Mass. Pictured with the archbishop from left are Steve Koob, Lisa Bergman Dineen, Phyllis Dix and Ron Deger. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

The day before the dedication ceremonies, the Dayton Herald described the church at the corner of Forest and Homewood avenues as “a replica of the old Spanish missions in Mexico and California” and declared that “when the sun shines on the red tiled roof and white stucco walls, the church presents an Old World picture which is as pleasing as it is rare.”


That rare, pleasing parish church was the site of recent centennial celebrations including a special Mass on Sunday, June 26. Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr presided, while concelebrants included Holy Ghost Father Joshua Otusafo and Fathers P. Del Staigers, James R. Schutte, Thomas M. Gaeke and Richard W. Walling. Deacons Milton W. Royer and Thomas F. Platfoot also assisted. Introductory and liturgical music was provided by a brass quartet from Wright State University, as well as a choir of current and former members of Corpus Christi, Our Lady of Mercy and Queen of Martyrs parishes. A reception followed the Mass.


Additional anniversary celebrations have included a golf outing at Beavercreek Golf Club and a picnic dinner and reunion at the Corpus Christi Rec Center. For several weeks, the bulletin has contained a special section called the “Corpus Christi Moment,” highlighting brief bits of history previously published in the parish bulletin and newsletter. One article indicates that in June 1913 — just three months after Dayton’s devastating Great Flood —Father John Gallagher reported that “diplomas were distributed this morning to the first class to finish the eighth grade in the new school.” The parish school’s first graduates were Charles Klee, Pauline Pyle and Hortense Werst.


Since January 2010, there have been five baptisms and nine weddings at Corpus Christi Parish, which currently maintains a membership roster of 235 families. Membership in the three parishes of Pastoral Region Two of the Dayton Deanery — Corpus Christi, Our Lady of Mercy and Queen of Martyrs — totals 730 families.


Charlie Helldoerfer, director of stewardship and development, said his family history at Corpus Christi dates back to the origins of the parish. His grandfather sat on the committee that searched for a suitable site for the then-new parish church. Helldoerfer’s father, Charles S. Helldoerfer, was the first boy baptized at Corpus Christi. Also, in addition to Charlie Helldoerfer himself, his father, aunt, six siblings and three children all attended Corpus Christi School.


Ann Wourms has been a Corpus Christi parishioner since her family moved to the area in 1934, when she was in grade school. Wourms recalled that when she attended the parish school, students lined up in the school yard each morning and marched in to music played by a classmate. She also remembered that Corpus Christi feast days were celebrated in the 1930s with a procession up Homewood Avenue to a local park, where benediction was held. “There was a always a big crowd. I loved the pageantry of it, and being out in the neighborhood,” Wourms said.


The friendships and community spirit that characterized the parish in the past continue to define the Corpus-Mercy-Martyrs pastoral region today, Wourms added. “I would like to see [each parish] stay open, but I know you have to accept change. It’s hard to know what will happen,” she said of continuing changes in the pastoral region.


Corpus Christi Parish in Dayton is celebrating a century of history.

Still, she said she looks forward to continuing to create bonds within the community. At the anniversary Mass and celebratory picnic, Wourms enjoyed visiting with old friends and members of other “home parishes” in the pastoral region. “It was a very nice crowd,” she said.


Parishioner Ann Moore Szabo said she hopes that events such as the 100th anniversary inspire church members “to remember all the wonderful people who lived before us.”


In addition, Szabo said she hopes the pastoral region “continues to blend the traditions of all three former parishes … that we continue to grow in our faith and our service to each other and our neighborhoods, and that we remember that church is not a building but a community of believers.”


Father Joshua Otusafo has served as parochial administrator of Pastoral Region Two of the Dayton Deanery for one year. He said a unified parish council, faith formation program and other commissions and ministries contribute to a strong sense of community across the pastoral region. “A lot of great families have indeed passed through Corpus Christi Church,” Father Otusafo said. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to all our loving families within and without our pastoral region who made the celebration a memorable one.”


That sense of gratitude was emphasized in the archbishop’s homily at the anniversary Mass. “The purpose of anniversary celebrations is remembrance and thanksgiving,” he said. “It is all a matter of gratitude. For past and present and future, we owe the Lord our thanks. For the ongoing presence and action of Christ, we owe the Lord our thanks. For what the Lord has done for each and all of us, we owe Him our thanks. For what has been, for what is, for what will be, we owe the Lord our thanks.”  

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