OLV begins extended centennial celebration
Msgr. David LiPuma, pastor of OLV National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna, along with Bishop Michael W. Fisher and Deacon Timothy Chriswell, along with students of OLV Elementary School, prepare to bless the cornerstone of OLV Balisca as the parish celebrates 100 years since its founding. Photo by Nicole Dzimira
“All Are Welcome!” That is the rallying cry as OLV National Shrine and Basilica begins the five-year celebration of its centennial. A series of events including Masses, barbecues and concerts will mark the special occasion.
On Saturday, Aug. 14, OLV kicked off the celebration with Bishop Michael W. Fisher blessing the cornerstone of the white marble jewel of Lackawanna. The event saw packed pews as pastor Msgr. David LiPuma thanked former pastor Msgr. Paul J.E. Burkard, parochial vicars Father Romulus Rosolowski and Father Justin Steeg, former principal Sister Ellen O’Keefe, SSJ, Msgr. Francis Weldgen, friend and advisor to Camp Turner, and the generous donors and benefactors for their continued support. “We’re so grateful for you being here,” Msgr. LiPuma said.
Calling the basilica an “incredible testament and achievement to the legacy of Venerable Father Nelson Baker, and faith of the people of this whole community,” Bishop Fisher spoke on the work that still continues in Father Baker’s name, such as OLV Human Services which provides care for developmentally disabled adults and troubled youth.
“Father Baker’s enormous devotion to Christ, and his commitment to his priesthood provided a vision, a vision that continues to this day. And a vision to the orphans, the unwed mothers, underprivileged children, adults and parishioners he was called to serve. This work continues to this day in Father Baker’s ministry created incredible foundation of charitable, pastoral and apostolic ministry for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”
After finishing high school, Bishop Fisher worked in construction, mainly pouring cement for foundations.
“I learned the importance of getting the foundation right. If a good and strong foundation was in place all that developed went well,” he said.
After Mass, the congregation gathered outside for the reblessing of the cornerstone. Students from OLV Elementary School built a time capsule that was placed inside the cornerstone. It included Sister Ellen’s 50th anniversary program, prayer cards, a copy of the centennial magazine, a Welcome to OLV brochure, the “Father of Fathers” biography of Father Baker, an OLV Charities roster, and a copy of the bishop’s blessing.
“Gracious God, we thank you for the generosity and care of parishioners, donors and benefactors who have brought us to this day. As we look back, let us also look forward as we prepare to seal away our memorabilia, let this moment remain in our hearts and minds as a reminder that it is upon us to carry forward the legacy and faith of our Father Baker; that we strive to live our lives as he did with compassion for the poor, justice for the oppressed, hope for the troubled, and courage to those in doubt; that we act in love and respect toward all our fellow human beings such we are able to pass on to our future generations a strong loving and joyful community, a community of faith that stands the test of time,” Bishop Fisher said.
Melissa Markiewicz began to cry during the Mass. OLV has been the family parish for four generations.
“I grew up here, made all my sacraments in the church,” she said. “My father was a parishioner and recently passed. He grew up going here with his father. So, it was very moving. Sister Ellen was my principal when I went to school here. I was a graduate of the class of 1980, and my daughter just graduated from the class of 2021.”
Her husband, David, got a little teary as well when reflecting on what the parish means to the family.
“When we were sitting there, I was thinking about how she went here, and I was getting a little emotional, and how she pulled me into the family. Both my kids were baptized here. She taught religion here. We met a lot of great people as well. Both my son and daughter graduated. It’s been our family. We got married here. So, it’s been important,” he said.
“It’s like the coolest church around,” said Jacob Virchau. “I saw inside that Father Baker wanted to rival the European churches. The interior is some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The looks match how important it is for everybody here. I feel like this (centennial Mass) is one of the big moments you have to show up for. Something about this really matters.”
The following day the parish celebrated Father Baker Day Mass, an annual tradition that saw the annual Pennies to Heaven collection and chicken barbecue.