CHATTANOOGA — The shining beacon on a hill that is Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and School in Chattanooga celebrated its 75th anniversary Oct. 6 as parishioners, together with OLPH priests past and present, joined Bishop Richard F. Stika in commemorating the milestone.
Bishop Stika celebrated Mass at the church, with an overflow crowd in attendance, as OLPH School students and church members delivered the music. The church’s Hispanic and Korean communities also took part in the Mass.
Concelebrating at the Mass were Father Jim Vick, OLPH pastor; Father Michael Creson, OLPH associate pastor; Monsignor Xavier Mankel, Diocese of Knoxville vicar general and pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville; Father Alex Waraksa, associate pastor of St. Patrick Church in Morristown and former associate pastor at OLPH; Father Alberto Sescon, pastor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Cleveland; and Father Father Mathew Thelly, parochial vicar of St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga. Deacon Mark Gang Jr. assisted.
An anniversary celebration for the school and its faculty, staff and students was held Oct. 5.
Memories of the parish through the years were plentiful as Bishop Stika, during his homily, recounted how Bishop William L. Adrian of Nashville dispatched Father J. Harold Shea to select a site for a second parish in Chattanooga that would serve Catholics in the area along with Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in downtown Chattanooga.
Father Shea, in consultation with other members of the Chattanooga Catholic community, agreed that property on South Moore Road in East Ridge would be suitable because of its elevation and location in a growing suburb.
So, a 40-acre farm was purchased in 1937 and construction began soon after.
“Hasn’t this parish for 75 years now … burned brightly,” Bishop Stika said, noting that a church and school born in the Great Depression now is a thriving parish of maturity.
He thanked the parish founders and their families for their dedication to starting and continuing the church and school.
“Together, we build a Kingdom of God and a church that shines brightly on a hill,” Bishop Stika told the OLPH parishioners. “Remember the mission. The mission is not about us. We, my friends, sisters and brothers, are on a mission from God. … Remember those who took a risk and made a commitment and built this church.”
He credited the parish’s success to its namesake, the Blessed Mother, who always is Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Following Mass, he anniversary celebration continued with a dinner held in the OLPH School gym, which was attended by more than 400 people.