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Paynesville Press - September 5, 2001

Manannah church to celebrate 125 years

By Linda Stelling

Church of Our Lady The Church of Our Lady, in Manannah, will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Bishop John C. Nienstedt will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. with former priests and present and former parishioners. Following the Mass, a dinner, program, and reception will be held at the parish center.

More than 385 people have preregistered for the dinner, according to Julie Schmitz, parish secretary. The public is still welcome to join their friends for dinner at the church, Schmitz added.

The church started with 22 families in 1876 and 10 years later it had grown to 95 families and 250 parishioners. The church was incorporated as a parish in 1884 and was made a mission of St. Philip's Catholic Church of Litchfield.

The church still uses the original building, which was built in 1876. In 1885, the church was cut in half and separated, so an addition could be added to the middle. This project took seven years to complete.

An original member commissioned his German nephew to paint an artwork for the altar. When "Our Lady of Perpetual Help" arrived in 1880, the church member sold a horse to pay for it. The painting was positioned in a place of honor over the altar.

Later, the painting was moved from above the altar to the back of the church. When an art critic saw the painting in the 1950s, the congregation learned its value and it was returned to a prominent place at the front of the church.

Church of Our Lady interioe Many improvements were made to the church building over the years. In the early 1920s, stained glass windows and a new altar were installed. In the 1950s, a shorter bell tower was erected after the old one was hit twice by lightning. In the 1970s, a garage and handicap accessible entrance and bathrooms were added. A complete exterior and interior remodeling and addition of classrooms, and parish offices was done to the parish center from 1996 to 2001.

The church stayed open in the 1980s when many smaller parishes were being closed. With the closing of St. Peter's Parish in Eden Valley last year, 85 new people joined the Church of Our Lady, enabling the parish to move from a mission status to a small parish status within the diocese.

Today, the church has 480 members. The Church of Our Lady holds three masses every weekend, at 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and at 9 a.m. on Sundays.

The education program has 90 students in preschool through 12th grade, a three-year adult educational program, an active Council of Catholic Women, parish council, cemetery board, finance council, education committee, social concerns committee, prayer group, youth group, and Catholic Aid council.

Father Francis Garvey, a native son of the parish, is the only priest ordained from the parish in its 125- year history. He returned to serve as its priest in 1996. Father Garvey also serves as director of priest personnel for the diocese and parochial administrator for the Watkins parish.

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