Capturing time in a capsule

St. Mary-Oak Ridge ends 75th-anniversary year with a historical nod to parish’s next generation        

By Dan McWilliams

Parishioners of St. Mary in Oak Ridge in 2043 will learn what life was like in 2018 when they open up a time capsule left by students and members of the parish Dec. 12.

A time capsule ceremony concluded 75th-anniversary events for St. Mary Parish.

A concrete and brick structure made by longtime parish volunteer Lawrence O’Roark will hold the capsule. Parish pastor Father Brent Shelton said that enclosure’s existence will prevent a reoccurrence of what happened with the 50th-anniversary time capsule.

“Actually they had one for the 50th anniversary, but we don’t really know where it is,” he said. “It’s here somewhere, so at some point in the future someone I’m confident will find it. But this one will be marked in the concrete to open in 2043, the 100th anniversary.”

Students and parishioners each took part in the time capsule project.

“I am very excited about it,” said Sister Marie Blanchette, OP, principal of St. Mary School. “St. Mary’s has a unique history, as does the city of Oak Ridge, and it was so much fun to read the letters that the students wrote to the future generations of St. Mary’s, letters to the parishioners of 2043 telling them what life is like now and what they think life will be like in 25 years. I would love to be here when the time capsule is opened in 2043.”

Every homeroom wrote one letter, Sister Marie Blanchette said.

“All of the students signed their classroom letter,” she said. “Our 5-year-olds who wrote a letter, when they come back in 25 years, they’re going to be surprised to find their name on one of the letters. That’ll be an exciting thing to see.

St. Mary students pass the time capsule among themselves so all could touch it before it is sealed.

“Some of them talked about the things that they have today. We think that St. Mary’s in the future is going to have a lot more students, a lot more parishioners. We think tuition is going to be cheaper—I hope that’s true. They asked if they knew some of the things that the kids know now, some of the games that they play now; they wanted to know if the people of 2043 still had those same things.”

Organizations within the parish also took part in the time capsule project.

“We got the different groups in the parish to write letters, so the Knights of Columbus, the CCW, St. Vincent de Paul Society—all these different groups contributed letters also,” Father Shelton said.

“They focused on two things basically: they wanted to describe what life is like today and also to talk to the people in the future and tell them what they think things will be like and offer them some words of encouragement.”

The capsule ceremony ended the months-long celebration of St. Mary’s 75th anniversary.

“We’ve had events each month since Pentecost, so this concludes our celebrations for our 75th,” Father Shelton said.

The St. Mary pastor addressed an audience at the time capsule ceremony that included the entire school body and a number of parishioners.

“I want you all to make a promise that you will meet back here in this spot in 25 years,” he said. “The time capsule will be sealed over there where the original flagpole was, beneath concrete. By then you’ll have an app on your phone that will open up a concrete [structure].”

Before it was sealed in concrete, the time capsule was passed among students and adults so that everyone could touch it one last time before it disappeared for 25 years.

“Just think: a lot of you will be married and will have children when you come here to open up the time capsule in 25 years,” Father Shelton told the students.

Charter parishioner and former St. Mary School parent and basketball coach Pearlie Rivas said the time capsule was a good idea.

“I think it’s going to be good for the kids,” she said. “I was raised in Oak Ridge, so I look back at the early days of Oak Ridge, and now these kids are going to be able to look back to the anniversaries of St. Mary’s and the time capsule. It’ll be exciting for them.”

Mrs. Rivas has seen her children and grandchildren pass through St. Mary, she said.

“I came to Oak Ridge in ’43 with my family, so I was just a young kid,” she said. “I’ve watched St. Mary’s grow a whole lot, with the school and the kids.”

She said the time capsule was a “very nice” way to celebrate the 75th anniversary.

“I don’t know who thought of it, but I think it’s a great idea.”

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