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Huber Heights parish marks 50 years

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Dec. 1, 2010
By David Eck
DAYTON DEANERY — Retired Archbishop of Cincinnati Daniel E. Pilarczyk spoke of the giving relationship God has with His people during a special Mass Nov. 21 celebrating the feast of Christ the King and the closing of the 50th anniversary year of St. Peter Parish in Huber Heights.
A true monarch, Archbishop Pilarczyk explained, provides what the people need to live and thrive. The king looks out for the peoples’ well-being and gives food, shelter and a sense of worth. That’s the connection Christ has with each of us, he continued.
“Without Him we are helpless, alone, ignorant, at the mercy of our enemies,” Archbishop Pilarczyk continued. “Without Christ we cannot survive or even begin to live. We are His subjects and He bears the responsibility for all of us.”
The archbishop said he was pleased to be back at St. Peter, which was the parish of his father and stepmother for many years. He asked if the complex in which they lived still existed.
Fathers Earl Simone, pastor, Patrick McMullen, associate pastor, and Patrick Crone, who served as associate pastor from 1971-73, concelebrated. Several deacons assigned to the parish attended the Mass along with transitional Deacon Scott Wright, a parishioner who will be ordained to the priesthood in May.
“It’s great to see the [vibrancy] of the parish during the anniversary,” said Wright, who grew up in the parish and will be its first parishioner to become a priest. “It’s just a great occasion.”
The refurbished chalice used at the anniversary Mass will be next used by Wright during his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Peter. It will then become his chalice.
St. Peter was established to serve the suburbs of north Dayton after Catholics in then-Wayne Township and Huber Heights realized a need for a new parish. Until then, the area was mainly open farmland, but was beginning to grow rapidly.
Then-Cincinnati Archbishop Karl J. Alter named the parish after St. Peter and assigned Father Leander Schweitzer, a high school teacher, as pastor. The first rectory was a house on Rosalie Road with the garage converted into an office and small chapel. Weekday Masses were held in the chapel while Sunday liturgies celebrated in a nearby public school. Holy Day Masses were celebrated at Our Lady of the Rosary Church.
Founding parishioners say Father Schweitzer was a frugal, traditional priest who put the parish’s best interest first.
“He had a great personality, very warm, friendly. To me he was just very Christ-like,” said Jean Schons, a member of the parish since it was founded. “He cared about the people. He was on the right path to do whatever God wanted him to do for our parish. We loved him a lot.”
The first church was built on the current Chambersburg Road site in 1962, and an addition for a school and convent was completed the following year. By the late 1970s, St. Peter was serving 1,250 families. With the parish population continuing to grow, the need for a larger church became evident. The current church, which features a 47-foot bell tower, was dedicated on Dec. 16, 1979, by then-Archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin, with an estimated 1,000 parishioners in attendance. The parish’s family life center opened in 1994 and the Father Victor Ries Center opened in 2004.
Father Schweitzer served as pastor until 1968. Father Victor Ries was pastor from 1968-82, and Father Lawrence Krusling was pastor from 1982-92. Father Simone has led the parish since 1992. The parish has had 16 parochial vicars. There are seven active permanent deacons assigned to St. Peter.
The parish celebrated the anniversary year with a special logo used in displays, shirts and promotional items and in the weekly bulletin. Display boards detailed major events in the parish’s history. Banners in the church noted the anniversary, and a yearbook was published to commemorate the milestone.
Outreach is a key element of the parish, which now serves about 2,400 families.
There are numerous parish ministries including nursing, young Marines and a food pantry. One of the largest efforts is the annual Thanksgiving dinner the parish offers to the entire Huber Heights community. Each year hundreds of families attend the free dinner.
“I think it’s a very large parish, but it’s a welcoming parish,” said John Houck, chair of the pastoral council. “We’re not closed off to what’s going on around us in the bigger Huber Heights community.”
David Eck can be reached at [email protected]
A Massgoer greets retired Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk after the Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of St. Peter Parish in Huber Heights.
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