St. Mary Parish photo
Girls perform liturgical dance at St. Mary's anniversary Mass.
St. Mary Parish photo
Girls perform liturgical dance at St. Mary's anniversary Mass.
ALBANY — St. Mary Parish this summer celebrated this riverside town’s history of Catholic faith — 125 years of it.
Archbishop John Vlazny celebrated the anniversary Mass and installed Father Andrew Thomas as the ninth pastor of St. Mary’s.
“Most of us are ready to accept the Lord’s invitation to be saved, but we prefer doing so on our own terms,” the archbishop told the large congregation during a homily on the day’s scriptures, which dealt with the “narrow door” to salvation.
“It’s through a disciplined life that salvation is ultimately received, the discipline of Sunday Mass, daily prayer, sacrificial giving, loving service and patient endurance,” the archbishop said, adding that God chooses to give us the help we need through the church.  
Pointing around the wooden church interior, the archbishop said that the building is holy ground where people have heard God’s good news, received baptism, received the Eucharist, gotten married, been confirmed and been commended to the Lord before burial.  
“How can we not regard this anniversary as one of significance in the lives of each parishioner here as well as the life we all share together as members of this civic and church community?” the archbishop asked.  
Archbishop William Gross came here in January 1886 to bless the new little church of St. Mary, which had been remodeled from an old schoolhouse. Eventually, the Benedictine Sisters from Mount Angel came to open a school.  
The impressive 1898 church burned in 1989, but parishioners rebounded and rebuilt in just three years.  
The anniversary Mass took place on a beautiful day. The sky was blue, the sun warm but not terribly hot. Most of all, parishioners were filled with the happiness of being part of a legacy of faith.
The Mass began with instrumental music as the people gathered in the church — it was a single Mass for the day with two liturgies combined.  
A little after 10 a.m., Kathy Riley, pastoral associate, came to the lectern and announced that the children would now perform a series of songs in honor of the event. The children, large and small, went to the front of the altar and began to sing. Each song was also accompanied with hand movements, younger children looking for assurance to the older ones and the older ones leading the way with enthusiasm. Each song was received with hearty clapping.
Musicians from the Hispanic community played uplifting instrumental music. As the time for the celebration of the Eucharist was about to begin, young women and girls in white flowing dresses solemnly waved silk scarves over their heads and danced in circles and lines.
The English-language choir began the opening songs.
A retinue of the Knights of Columbus in full regalia took position along the main aisle leading to the sanctuary. The procession was led by many of the parishioners active in different parish ministries: lectors, eucharistic ministers, acolytes and then Father Andrew Thomas and Archbishop Vlazny.
After Mass, there was more music inside and out with tables set up in the gathering space and tables outside with colorful umbrellas covering the entire parking lot. An outside band played in the corner of the lot which continued the fun and festivity of the celebration.
“The playground was spectacular with the tents and the flowers, and the live band playing.  So much fun,” said parishioner Carol Hawke.
The parish has been working for months to gather faith stories for a parish book to be published this fall by St. Mary Parish Press. Volunteers stood by to collect the last minute stories and give extensions of time to those who needed just a few more days to get their stories in.
Anniversary T-shirts, bags and suncatchers were on sale to commemorate the event. The sun catchers will be found hanging on Christmas trees and in windows from of homes in Albany and beyond, reflecting the rays of the sun — and the faithful followers of Jesus who have kept the faith for 125 years in Albany.