JAY---St. Rose of Lima Parish is now in its third century of service as a place where the faithful of the Jay area gather together to be strengthened as a community, inspired by the light of Christ, and aided by the grace of the sacraments.
On Saturday, August 24, Bishop Robert P. Deeley will celebrate the 125th Anniversary Mass at St. Rose of Lima, located on 1 Church Street in Jay, at 4 p.m. Following the Mass, a dinner and reception will be held in the parish hall. Tickets for the dinner are $10 with all proceeds benefitting the parish’s social ministry program. Kids under 12 will be admitted for free. Tickets will be sold after Masses at St. Rose of Lima and are now available at the parish office. The dinner is expected to sell out.
In 1894, Bishop James A. Healy appointed Fr. N. Joseph Horan as the first pastor of the new St. Rose of Lima Parish. The parish’s first church had a seating capacity of 200 which, following a rapid influx of residents, was enlarged to 400 by 1910. According to early parishioners, the chapel was cut in two and then moved apart on timbers and rolls pulled by teams of oxen. A new section was added in the center doubling the church’s size. In 1911, St. Rose of Lima Parish oversaw the construction of a chapel in Riley Village to serve workers who had come to the area for work at the new groundwood mill. Set on a fieldstone foundation, a wooden chapel called Our Lady of the Assumption Mission was built to accommodate about 115 people. Bishop Louis S. Walsh blessed the chapel on July 2, 1916.
Despite the burdens of a widely spread out parish, financial instability, and the rigorous life of the times, the parish thrived. In the same year (1916), back at St. Rose of Lima Church, the building was enlarged again as new arrivals came to the area following the closure of the mill in Gilbertville. Two transepts increased capacity to 550. In the 1920s, a convent, and a large brick schoolhouse known as St. Rose Parochial School, were built with the Ursuline Sisters serving as teachers. In 1945, the Ursuline nuns left St. Rose and were replaced by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Growth continued in the parish into the 1940s when tragedy struck. The 57-year-old wooden church was destroyed by a fire on April 4, 1948. Mother St. Aurelie, superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and Sr. Marie Therese of Lewiston saved the Blessed Sacrament. Aided by 12 other nuns and nearby parishioners, all the movable items in the church were saved. In the weeks that followed, volunteers loaded debris into trucks from local farmers and contractors, as well as the International Paper Company, to be hauled away.
Sadness and shock quickly turned to resolve and reconstruction. The generosity and pride of the Catholic community in the area once again became evident as $200,000 were raised for a new church and furnishings.
“A simple review of the committee formed to build the new church after the fire reveals the names of French, Irish, Italian, and Czech parishioners, working together, despite their differences, for the glory of God,” said Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, O.S.B., at the parish’s 100th anniversary celebration in 1994. “As you know, that kind of cooperation and mutual respect was not always the rule in those days. But what you did demonstrated that a community founded on Christ and inspired by the Spirit can be united even though other communities let such tensions be the source of division and bitterness.”
The cooperation extended to the construction itself. Volunteers built forms for the foundation and floor of the main church, and much of the material for the forms and cement was donated by the International Paper Company. All the cement was mixed in several small mixers and hand laborers wheeled the cement to the forms with cement carts and wheelbarrows. The process saved the parish around $50,000.
In November of 1949, Bishop Daniel J. Feeney blessed the cornerstone of the new church, saying he was proud of the “new church of God” in the diocese. Just 20 months after the disastrous fire, the first Mass at the new St. Rose of Lima Church was celebrated on December 10, 1949, by Fr. J.N. Boucher, who had been pastor of St. Rose of Lima for 24 years.
By the 1970s, the parish families had grown from 30 to nearly 1300. The interior of the church was renovated to Vatican II specifications, including the dismantling of the main altar and its repositioning to face the assembly. The organ was moved from the choir loft to the front of the church, and new pews and carpeting were installed.
Today, under the leadership of its pastor, Fr. Paul Dumais, St. Rose of Lima Parish remains a tight-knit community that celebrates and appreciates its closeness, surroundings, and shared faith. The parish annually hosts the Catholic Rural Life Festival in September, highlighting the beauty and grace of rural life and bringing awareness to our call to be stewards of creation. The parish hosts or co-hosts programs that aim to find better ways to address hunger needs in the area, offers a wide range of resources to area seniors and families, and always finds ways to honor its roots like with the Acadian Mi-Carême celebration during Lent.
St. Rose of Lima also reaches out past its parish boundaries to benefit those in need around the world, including a “parish twinning” program that allows them to help St. Laurent Parish in the Diocese of Les Cayes, Haiti, with financial assistance and material support.
The world has changed since St. Rose of Lima Parish opened its doors in 1894, but the values and faith that define it once inside have not.
“Not only does God dwell among you in the building you have erected but, even more wonderfully, God has poured out his Spirit and made you his temple,” Bishop Gerry told the St. Rose of Lima parishioners in October of 1994. “God has certainly lived among and within this community of St. Rose.”
To learn more about the parish, the anniversary Mass, or the anniversary dinner, contact St. Rose of Lima Parish at (207) 897-2173.