Choir members sing at the 50th anniversary Mass at St. John Vianney Parish in Prince Frederick on Aug. 2.
CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Choir members sing at the 50th anniversary Mass at St. John Vianney Parish in Prince Frederick on Aug. 2.

Welcoming people to the 50th anniversary Mass of St. John Vianney Parish in Prince Frederick on Aug. 2, Father Peter Daly noted, “This is a great occasion. Fifty years of prayer, faith and grace in this place.”

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the main celebrant at the anniversary Mass, noted in his homily how the church’s stained glass windows tell the story of the Catholic Church, from the time of Christ, through the centuries, to the emergence of Catholicism in Maryland and throughout the United States.

“You get some idea how connected this parish is to something much larger – the universal church,” he said.

The concelebrants at the Mass included Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara of Esteli, Nicaragua, and Father Rigoberto Erazo-Argueta, pastor of San Juan de Bautista in Limay, Nicaragua – the sister parish of St. John Vianney Parish. After Communion, they  accepted chalices from members of the Knights of Columbus, as a gift in honor of deceased knights from the parish.

Over the past eight years, members of St. John Vianney Parish have sponsored the construction of more than 220 houses for poor families and individuals in the Limay region of Nicaragua. Since the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, St. John Vianney parishioners have also supported Our Mother of Mercy, their sister parish in Pass Christian, Mississippi. The Frederick parishioners also have a sister parish in Mexico.

“We are united in one heart, and one faith, as we celebrate the Eucharist,” Bishop Mata Guevera said after Communion. 

St. John Vianney Parish also runs a food pantry that this summer is providing food, including farm grown fruits and vegetables, to 130 poor individuals and family members each week in the community.

Praising the parish’s legacy of prayer and social outreach, Cardinal Wuerl in his homily said, “We come together as we have for a half century, (knowing) out of God’s love, we can love and care for each other… This parish for 50 years has been a faithful reflection of what Jesus asks us to be.”

Also after Communion, Father Daly announced the names of parishioners receiving service awards for 2015. “Over 250 people give an hour or more of volunteer time each month. That’s a wonderful sign of their love,” he said. The parish’s effort to build homes for the poor in Nicaragua “is work of the Holy Spirit,” he added.

Father Daly, the pastor of St. John Vianney for the past 21 years, said, “No pastor ever had a greater parish. I’m grateful to all of you. Happy anniversary.” Parishioners gave him a standing ovation at the end of Mass.

After the Mass, hundreds of parishioners gathered for a picnic, and youth played soccer while small children cooled off in pools, jumped on a moon bounce and enjoyed a water slide.

Chuck Santerre and his wife Mary and their six children have been parishioners since 2004. On the first Sunday of each month, St. John Vianney Parish offers a country breakfast to about 300 parishioners and guests at the parish’s Family Life Center. “I’m the Sunday omelet maker. I’m one of four,” said Chuck Santerre. “It brings everybody together.”

Mary Santerre noted how their children participated in a variety of sports there, and after Confirmation, continued to help in that program. Along the way, they learned “that you always have a church to come home to,” she said.

The concelebrants at the Mass included Msgr. John Brady, the pastor at St. John Vianney from 1985-94, who drove up early that morning from the Goshen Scout camp in Virginia, where he has been a longtime chaplain. He said parishioners at the parish named for the patron saint of priests have shown great love and support for their priests over the years.

Jack Yatsko, a parishioner for 45 years who helped start the food pantry, said, “It’s like an extended family (here).”

Mike Lewnes, the parish secretary for the past 32 years, was among those who received lifetime parish service awards. Describing the special spirit of St. John Vianney Parish, she said, “You have all ages, but they all work together. If someone needs a helping hand, they’re there to help you, no matter who they are or what it is.”