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Holy Trinity Parish in Dayton celebrates 150th anniversary

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August 24, 2011

By Maggie Malach

DAYTON DEANERY — Marion Driver has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Dayton since she was 3 weeks old — 91 years ago. 


Holy Trinity in Dayton
Holy Trinity Parish in Dayton is marking its 150th anniversary. (CT/Jeff Unroe)

Driver’s family history is deeply rooted in the faith community. Her mother and grandmother joined the parish in 1900, and since then, numerous members of her family have been married in the church. Driver’s husband even converted after 49 years of marriage.


This summer, Driver joined her fellow Holy Trinity parishioners in celebrating the parish’s 150th anniversary.


The origin of Holy Trinity dates back to the mid 1800s when Emmanuel Church in Dayton started to become overcrowded. A group of parishioners imagined expanding to another parish, but first needed to travel to Cincinnati to obtain approval from Archbishop John Baptist Purcell. Their dream became a reality when the ground breaking for the construction of Holy Trinity Parish occurred on May 17, 1860.


The funds for the church were hard to come by; money donated for construction did not cover all of the costs, so often laborers were paid in groceries. The church was dedicated in August 1861 by its first pastor, German-born Father Francis Goetz. He referred to the Holy Trinity community as his “frontier church,” and remained pastor for 39 years.


Father Goetz’s initiatives as pastor proved he wanted the parish to be at the forefront of change. He petitioned Archbishop William H. Elder to allow African Americans to be permitted to attend Holy Trinity’s school, where the boys were taught by the Brothers of Mary and the girls by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. He also allowed the marriage between a well-to-do man and his much poorer bride, challenging the social prejudices of his time and setting a standard of acceptance for the church.


This philosophy is still present at Holy Trinity today. In 2002 the Missionaries of the Precious Blood took over Holy Trinity. The order breathed new life into the church, making it a part of a worldwide mission effort.


Precious Blood Father Rick Friebel served as pastor of Holy Trinity for eight years before leaving in July. He led the church in its focus on the Dayton community at large. With his guidance, as well as that of Precious Blood Fathers Angelo Anthony, Holy Trinity’s new pastor, and Ken Pleiman, parochial vicar, the parishioners continue to live out the church’s mantra of “Worship, Fellowship, Serve.”


“They are such a giving people, so willing to give of themselves. They believe in the giving of time, talent and treasure,” Father Friebel said.


He recalled one instance when the church building needed a new roof. He approached the parish with the cost of the renovation and was overjoyed when they raised the money themselves. He added that three years before he came to the parish, the church needed a new floor and new pews. The parishioners gave of themselves by raising the necessary funds and doing some of the labor.


“They did it over and over again in many ways,” Father Friebel said.


The church has come together to commemorate its 150th anniversary. The celebrations began two years ago with a ceremony recognizing when the ground for the church was first broken. The kickoff event included planting a tree and burying a time capsule to be recovered in 2035.


“It was a highlight culminating eight years as a parish community,” says Father Friebel, noting his time as Holy Trinity’s pastor. “(It is) 150 years as a believing community, a Eucharistic community, one who is the body of Christ.”


Judi Trick, LuAnne Lambert and Kathy Gilmore prepare to enjoy a special cake prepared for the anniversary celebration. (CT/Jeff Unroe)

The celebrations continued into August, including a night of dinner and dancing. On Aug. 14 the parish held a special anniversary Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr.


“Today, as we gather to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Holy Trinity Parish, we pause to thank God for the gift of this parish and the spiritual gifts we have received through the ministries of this parish,” the archbishop said during his homily. “We pause to thank God by our participation in the celebration of this Mass, in the celebration of the sacrament of the holy Eucharist. This sacrament reminds us that God often uses very ordinary elements to achieve the greatest goals. At the Last Supper, Jesus takes ordinary bread and begins a spiritual banquet for the whole world. As we take time to reflect upon the history and life of this parish, perhaps we see better in hindsight that here, too, the hand of God has been present in what might have been taken to be only the ordinary routines of a parish.”


“The parish history that was compiled for this anniversary celebration states, ‘The Holy Trinity Community is made of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in service to God and others,’” Archbishop Schnurr noted. “This could never have happened without God’s ever abiding presence.”


“I invite all of us today to be grateful, grateful for God’s presence to this parish in the past, grateful for God’s presence to us today and grateful for His abiding presence into the future,” he concluded.


“It is a culmination of a two-year celebration,” said Mary Cummins Wlodarski, Holy Trinity’s pastoral associate, regarding the Mass. “We celebrated the anniversary of breaking ground and, for two years, we’ve been preparing. It really has been a whole two years of enjoyment.”


Driver, whose involvement in the parish included volunteering at festivals and in the former school cafeteria, says the best part of the celebration was reconnecting with people she had not seen in years. The camaraderie was spiritually uplifting for her, a reassurance that the church has gone that far and is still going.


“It means we are doing something right,” says Driver. “Holy Trinity has always been a friendly place. I’ve always felt that whatever you needed was there. If you needed help, spiritually or otherwise, it was a place to go.”


For Father Friebel the anniversary celebration has been the chance to acknowledge the history of the parish and all who shaped it into what it is today.


“I believe it (has culminated in) the coming together of the people who came before us who began the parish, the people who were parishioners in years before, the people who have maintained the parish, the people who have come together to celebrate as eucharistic people and we who celebrate today,” said Father Friebel. “It’s a blending of time before and today in who we are as an anniversary people,” he said.

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