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Tree planting among Ayrshire parish's 125th activities

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

AYRSHIRE – As a symbol of the strength of the parish today and continued life in the future, clergy and parishioners planted an oak tree following the anniversary Mass at Sacred Heart Church.

“One hundred and twenty-five years gives us a great reason to celebrate the Lord’s day,” said Bishop Walker Nickless, as he welcomed parishioners to the liturgy.

Bishop Nickless presided at Mass, which was concelebrated by Father Clem Currans, pastor; Fathers Emmet Farrell and Steve Brodersen, native sons and Father Peter Fransco, a retired priest of the diocese.

During the homily, Father Farrell referred to the day’s Gospel and recalled Jesus’ words to Peter: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” The priest noted that he has had the opportunity to participate in two “scavi tours” to view the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. On that tour, he could see the church had a strong foundation and that it was truly built upon Peter.

He told them for 125 years, Sacred Heart of Ayrshire has been part of that rock upon which have stood thousands of parishioners. The priest also stressed that each one of them was called to be rocks – firm in the faith.

“We, like Peter, have had our ups and downs, but like Peter we have also been faithful to the end. We are still here worshipping God after 125 years,” said Father Farrell, who recalled personal memories of the parish such as the school and making his first Communion.

He spoke of the parish’s 23 pastors, seven priestly vocations and 13 women who have entered religious life.

The homilist referred to the first book of Peter in which the faithful are called to be “living stones in a spiritual church.” Through baptism, Father Farrell said, the faithful are called to be holy, to evangelize and give testimony in the ways they live their lives.

And just as the priest had compared the parish to a rock, Father Farrell provided another symbol of strength - a sturdy oak tree. Given he and many parishioners are from Great Oak Township, located just outside Ayrshire, he came up with the idea to plant an oak tree in conjunction with the anniversary festivities.

As the ceremony drew to a close, Father Currans offered thanks to all who helped plan the celebration.

He told Bishop Nickless that Sacred Heart was a “great little parish. Eighty percent of the people are involved in some way.”

In closing comments, the bishop thanked Father Currans for his work in the parish, to which the congregation offered applause.

“As Father Farrell reminded us,” Bishop Nickless said, “the church is not a building, it is an assembly people.

It’s the living stones that make up this community of faith and for 125 years this community called Sacred Heart Parish has been gathering together to first and foremost worship God, to celebrate the sacraments – especially the Eucharist and confession – and to bring about the presence of Christ in this community.”

He acknowledged that parishioners who came before, built the foundation of the church. Now, it was time to continue to grow in holiness.

“We do that by what we have been doing for 125 years – coming together to worship, coming together to help and comfort one another when someone in our community dies, celebrating new life in baptism and celebrating all of the other sacraments,” the bishop said. “Continue the good work that was begun 125 years ago.”

Bishop Nickless said he hoped the youngest one in attendance would come back years from now and still find the oak tree standing.

Immediately following Mass, the congregation gathered outside for the blessing and planting of the oak tree that was to stand as symbol of the strong faith in the parish and as a reminder of the 125th celebration.

“We want to bless the oak tree and bless the memory of all the families that have been here over the 125 years that have kept the rock firm and the tree, the life of the parish growing,” said Father Farrell, who asked all parishioners to extend their right hands for the blessing.

Parishioners were invited to help plant the tree.

Ron Rouse, a parish director who helped with the planting, was pleased with the celebration.

“I am glad we were able to have the bishop attend this morning. We had a great crowd, great weather,” he said.
Deb Theesfeld, parish director, is a lifelong parishioner. As one of 18 children in the Henely family, she has many fond memories of the parish.

“We have an awesome parish,” she said. “Our parish works together, we don’t need to be asked to help we just pitch in. We are a true family. I’m very proud to belong to this parish.”

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