BOTKINS — Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Botkins, will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding with a special Mass and lunch on Sunday, Oct. 25, at the church, located on North Main Street. All current and former parishioners are invited to attend.
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will preside at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday. The Rev. Patrick Sloneker, pastor, and the Rev. Daniel Hunt, associate pastor, will concelebrate. The service will be preceded by one-half hour of prelude music, presented by a special anniversary choir assembled for the occasion.
Specially invited guests for the day include current and former staff members, those who have experienced sacraments during the 2015 anniversary year — baptism, First Communion, confirmation and marriage — parishioners age 90 and above, and parishioners who have been married 60 years or more.
“A Future of Hope,” the closing hymn for the Mass, will provide a special anniversary moment, as it was written specifically for the occasion by nationally known contemporary Christian composer Curtis Stephan. The anniversary committee commissioned Stephan to create a hymn that would reflect the history of the parish, as well as the promise of the future. The words to the refrain are: “Your plans are for joy, your plans are for peace, your plans are for life in abundance for all who believe. As in ages past and in years to come, there’s a future of hope.”
Mass will be followed by lunch for all in the church basement. The anniversary committee is organizing exhibits of photographs and artifacts that represent the church’s history over the years. Oak trees will also be given away to those in attendance, to represent the strength, beauty, and endurance of the faith community at Immaculate Conception.
“We’re so excited about Sunday, which will serve as a great highlight to a year’s worth of anniversary activities,” said anniversary committee member Rachel Barber.
The 150th anniversary will actually conclude with a Nov. 29-Dec. 1 mission for the Petersburg Parishes presented by son of Immaculate Conception, the Rev. Jeff Cooper.
Founded in 1865, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Botkins, was the fourth and final parish to emerge from Sts. Peter and Paul and the settlement at Petersburg (1836). It followed St. Joseph at Wapakoneta (1839), St. John the Evangelist at Fryburg, and St. Lawrence at Rhine (1856).
The establishment of the parish in inextricably linked to the settlement at Botkins. Local farmer and landowner Richard Botkin arranged with the organizers of the coming Dayton and Michigan Railroad to give them a mile-long right of way through his property in exchange for a railroad station. Shortly before his death in 1858, Botkin requested that a town be formed; the village of Botkinsville (soon shortened to Botkins) was platted in July of that year.
With its promise of transportation opportunities for farmer and industrialist alike, the arrival of the Dayton & Michigan — the first railroad in the western part of Ohio — assured the new village of economic opportunity, drawing settlers here. The first Catholics are said to have arrived in the village itself in 1860, worshipping at Sts. Peter and Paul and the other area parishes.
With the entire nation focused on the sacrifices and sufferings of the Civil War, any other ambitions were set aside until 1865. The Rev. Joseph Goebbels, then pastor at St. John, Fryburg, helped organize the congregation at Botkins. Conflict immediately arose with parishioners at Petersburg over the location of the new, larger structure needed to serve the area’s Catholics. Archbishop Purcell determined that the church should be built in the village and not north of town, closer to Petersburg. (Sts. Peter and Paul parishioners would ignore the archbishop’s decision and build another church in 1869, which was demolished before 1900.)
The cornerstone for Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church was laid in June 1866, with the first Mass celebrated in the not-quite-completed building a year later. This church served until 1961, when it was replaced by the current structure (dedicated in August 1962).
The parish is now the faith home of some 425 families.