About Our Parish

 SAINT MARY OF MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH HISTORY

FIVE YEARS BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR ENGULFED AMERICA, AN IMMIGRANT FROM BAVARIA, THEN SHEPHERD OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA, CREATED IN THE VAST WILDERNESS OF NORTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA A NEW PARISH TO TEND TO THE SPIRITUAL NEEDS OF A GROWING CATHOLIC POPULATION. THE YEAR WAS 1856. TODAY THAT BISHOP IS REVERED AS SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN AND THAT PARISH IS SAINT MARY OF MOUNT CARMEL, THE OLDEST CATHOLIC CHURCH IN DUNMORE.

IN REALITY THE PARISH TRACES ITS ROOTS TO 1852, THE YEAR IT HAD BEEN GRANTED MISSION STATUS AND WAS SERVED BY VISITING PRIESTS WHO TRAVELED HERE REGULARLY TO CELEBRATE MASS IN PRIVATE HOMES. NOT UNTIL 1855 WERE THE PARISHIONERS ABLE TO POOL THEIR MONEY TO BUY LAND FROM PIONEER RESIDENT AND BUSINESSMAN CHARLES POTTER ON WHICH TO BUILD A MODEST WOODEN CHURCH SEATING 350. SOMETIME LATER, AFTER MR. POTTER’S DEATH, THE PARISH PURCHASED ADJOINING LANDS FROM HIS WIDOW FOR THE CREATION OF A CEMETERY.

TWO YEARS LATER, ON JULY 26, 1857, BISHOP NEUMANN MADE HIS FIRST OF EIGHT VISITS HERE, AND IT WAS HE WHO FORMALLY DEDICATED THE NEW EDIFICE AS THE CHURCH OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, THE APOSTLES, A DESIGNATION THAT LASTED UNTIL 1874 WITH THE LAYING OF A CORNERSTONE FOR A NEW AND LARGER CHURCH, A STATELY BRICK ONE WITH A STEEPLE REACHING TO THE HEAVENS, EVEN NOW A CENTURY AND A HALF LATER, A PLACE WHERE AN EVER-GROWING CONGREGATION COULD WORSHIP GOD. THOUGH MUCH OF THE BUILDING WAS STILL TO BE COMPLETED, THE CORNERSTONE CONTAINED SEVERAL ITEMS INCLUDING A METAL PLATE BEARING THE ENGRAVED LEGEND, "B.V.M DE MONT. CARMELO, 1874,"– THE FIRST USAGE OF THE NEW CHURCH’S NEW NAME, SAINT MARY OF MOUNT CARMEL. THAT PRECIOUS ARTIFACT HAS BEEN BEAUTIFULLY RESTORED AND CAN BE SEEN TODAY INSIDE A GLASS ENCLOSURE IN THE VESTIBULE, ON THE WALL ADJACENT TO THE FRONT DOOR.

THE FIRST PASTOR TO TAKE THE HELM WAS FATHER EDMUND W. FITZMAURICE WHO SERVED FROM 1856 UNTIL 1870. IT FELL UPON THE SHOULDERS OF THE THIRD PASTOR, FATHER GERALD MC MURRAY, TO OVERSEE THE COMING YEARS OF CHANGE AFTER FATHER FITZMAURICE WAS TRANSFERRED TO HAZLETON AND HIS SUCCESSOR, FATHER MICHAEL J. O’BRIEN WHO SERVED ONLY ONE YEAR BEFORE BEING STRICKEN WITH SMALLPOX WHILE ADMINISTERING LAST RITES TO A DYING VICTIM AND PERISHED TWO DAYS LATER.

FATHER MC MURRAY’S TERM LASTED FROM 1872 UNTIL 1896, YEARS THAT BROUGHT GREAT CHANGES, MOST NOTABLY A NEW CHURCH WITH A NEW NAME AND A POPULATION EXPLOSION NOT ONLY FOR DUNMORE BUT SAINT MARY OF MOUNT CARMEL AS WELL. THOUGH MOST PEOPLE STILL CALLED THE CHURCH SAINT SIMON’S. THE NEW DESIGNATION GRADUALLY CAUGHT ON, BUT MOSTLY AS SIMPLY SAINT MARY’S.

THE ENSUING YEARS SAW SAINT MARY’S CONTINUE TO GROW AND PROSPER UNDER THE WATCHFUL CARE OF THE FOUR PASTORS WHO FOLLOWED FATHER MC MURRAY, INCLUDING ONE, FATHER ANDREW J. BRENNAN, A NATIVE OF CARDONDALE, WHO SERVED FROM 1924 UNTIL 1927 WHEN THE VATICAN CHOSE HIM TO BECOME BISHOP OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.

WITH THE ARRIVAL OF BISHOP BRENNAN’S SUCCESSOR, FATHER MICHAEL LOFTUS, SAINT MARY’S EMBARKED ON A NEW ENTERPRISE, ENTRY INTO THE FIELD OF EDUCATION. IT WAS DURING THOSE DARK DAYS OF THE DEPRESSION THAT FATHER LOFTUS AND THE DIOCESE OF SCRANTON PUT ALL OF THEIR FAITH AND TRUST IN GOD AND STARTED BUILDING A SCHOOL AND CONVENT AT THE COST OF $150,000.00. NOT ONLY DID THE FINANCIALLY STRICKEN FAITHFUL DIG DEEP TO COME UP WITH THE MONEY, BUT MANY OF THEM EVEN HELPED IN THE ACTUAL CONSTRUCTION. FATHER LOFTUS MADE IT A POLICY TO HIRE AS MANY IDLED DUNMOREANS FOR THE WORK. THE SCHOOL AND CONVENT WERE DEDICATED MAY 3, 1936.

THE REMAINDER OF THE THIRTIES, ALL OF THE FORTIES AND MOST OF THE FIFTIES CONTINUED TO BE TIMES OF GROWTH AND

SUCCESS. THEN, ON THE EVENING OF FEBRUARY 21, 1959, AT ABOUT SEVEN O’CLOCK, NEIGHBORS WERE MYSTIFIED BY THE UNEXPECTED TOLLING OF SAINT MARY’S BELLS. NORMALLY SUCH AN OCCURRENCE SIGNALS THE DEATH OF A CHURCH NOTABLE OR SOME OTHER LIFE-CHANGING EVENT, USUALLY TRAGIC. INDEED THE REASON THE BELLS TOLLED DID PROVE TRAGIC-AN ELECTRICAL SHORT-CIRCUIT THAT IGNITED A FIRE. THE ENSUING BLASE DESTROYED A LARGE PORTION OF THE INTERIOR, THE ALTAR AREA BEING THE WORST HIT. AT THE HEIGHT OF THE INFERNO, A 27 YEAR OLD ASSISTANT PASTOR, FATHER WILLIAM WARD, NOW MONSIGNOR, DONNED AN OXYGEN MASK AND ENTERED THE SMOKE-FILLED BUILDING, ESCORTED BY SEVERAL DUNMORE FIREMEN AND A FAITHFUL PARISHIONER, TO RESCUE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT AND ALL OF THE VALUABLE ALTAR VESSELS. NOT LONG AFTER THE RESCUERS EMERGED SAFELY, FLAMES DEVOURED THE FLOOR AROUND THE ALTAR.

IRONICALLY, AT THE TIME OF THE FIRE, A NEW RECTORY WAS BEING BUILT TO REPLACE THE BADLY DETERIORATING ORIGINAL ONE. DESPITE THE DEVASTATING $100,000.00 WORTH OF DAMAGE TO THE CHURCH, A NEWLY REMODELED ONE ROSE FROM THE ASHES AND WORK ON THE NEW RECTORY ALSO WAS COMPLETED BY THEN PASTOR, MONSIGNOR THOMAS J. MC HUGH. ALTHOUGH MONSIGNOR MC HUGH WAS ALIVE WHEN BISHOP JEROME D. HANNAN DEDICATED THE NEWLY REFURBISHED CHURCH ON DECEMBER 13, 1959, HE DIED TEN MONTHS LATER BEFORE THE NEW RECTORY WAS COMPLETED.

WITH THE APPROACH OF SAINT MARY’S CENTENNIAL YEAR, IN 1974, THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PRESENT CHURCH AND NAME CHANGE, THE TWELVETH PASTOR, MONSIGNOR JOSEPH G QUINN, LAUNCHED A FUNDRAISING EFFORT TO FINANCE CHURCH REMODELING AND SCHOOL MODERNIZATION TO COMMEMORATE THE CELEBRATION. UNFORTUNATELY HE WAS STRICKEN ILL AND DIED JANUARY 5, 1974, LEAVING IT TO THE NEXT PASTOR, MONSIGNOR CHARLES W. HEID, TO COMPLETE THE WORK, THE BIGGEST TASK IN THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH UNTIL THE 1990’S.

WHEN FATHER JOHN A. DORIS TOOK THE HELM IN 1995 THE WINDS OF GREAT CHANGE FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WERE  ALREADY BEING FELT. ALL OVER AMERICA CHURCHES WERE CONSOLIDATING, CHURCHES WERE CLOSING. THE NUMBER OF PRIESTS TO SERVE THE PEOPLE WAS IN DANGEROUS DECLINE. HERE IN DUNMORE, BOTH SAINT MARY’S AND NEIGHBORING SAINT CASIMIR’S HAD ALREADY COME UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF A SINGLE PASTOR, FATHER DORIS, AND ALL SAINTS WOULD SOON FOLLOW INFORMALLY WITH THE DEATH OF ITS PASTOR FATHER EDWARD LIPTOCK.

IN ADDITION TO BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR THREE PARISHES AND THEIR MEMBERS, FATHER DORIS, OUR SIXTEENTH AND CURRENT SHEPHERD, ALSO UNDERTOOK THE LARGEST RENOVATION IN THE HISTORY OF SAINT MARY’S, ONE COSTING $1,020,000.00, FUNDED MOSTLY BY THE GENEROUS DONATIONS OF PARISHIONERS AND INCLUDING EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR WORK. THE BRICK WALLS, THEN ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR YEARS OLD, WERE COMPLETELY REPOINTED. A NEW ROOF REPLACED THE OLD ONE. THE STEEPLE AND CROSSES WERE RESTORED. THE BELL TOWER WAS ILLUMINATED. MARBLE FLOORS WERE ADDED TO THE SANCTUARY AND CENTER AISLE. THE GOTHIC CEILING WAS ACCENTUATED; A NEW PIPE ORGAN WAS INSTALLED. A NEW ALTAR IN THE SANCTUARY AND A NEW BAPTISMAL FONT, BOTH IMPORTED FROM ITALY, WERE OTHER MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS.

IT WAS ALSO DURING THE TENURE OF FATHER DORIS THAT THE SALE OF ALL SAINTS RECTORY PRODUCED REVENUE TO REBUILD THE TRUSSES AT THE OLD ALL SAINTS HALL. A LITTLE LATER $320,000.00 OBTAINED THROUGH THE SALE OF ST. CASIMIR’S CHURCH COUPLED WITH $430,000.00 FROM THE CAPITAL FUND FINANCED COMPLETION OF THAT JOB TO MODERNIZE AND BEAUTIFY THE TIMEWORN HALL INTO THE NEW PARISH CENTER. THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY ALL SAINTS HALL HAD BEEN A POPULAR CHOICE FOR NOT ONLY PARISHIONERS BUT PEOPLE FROM THROUGHOUT THE AREA TO HOST EVERY SORT OF FUNCTION FROM WEDDINGS AND DANCES TO APRES FUNERAL RECEPTIONS AND VARIOUS MEETINGS. IN ITS RENAISSANCE IT HAS BECOME EVEN MORE POPULAR.

YET, FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PRYSICAL UNDERTAKING TO PREPARE FOR THE YEARS AHEAD WAS THE SPIRITUAL GROWTH DURING THE FIRST DECADE OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY WHEN PARISHIONERS OF ALL SAINTS AND SAINT CASIMIR’S JOINED INTO A COMMUNITY OF FAITH WITH THOSE OF SAINT MARY’S TO BECOME OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL PARISH.

IRONICALLY, ONE OF THE LAST PARISHES FR. DORIS SERVED BEFORE COMING HERE WAS SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE IN FREELAND, NAMED FOR THE SAINT WHO WALKED THESE GROUNDS DURING HIS EARTHLY LIFE AND HIS VISITATIONS TO THE PARISH HE FOUNDED, ONE THAT NOW EMBRACES SAINT MARY’S, ALL SAINTS AND SAINT CASIMIR’S. YOU CAN DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. BUT ONE THING IS CERTAIN: OUR REBORN PARISH COMMUNITY OF OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL-MUCH LIKE OUR ANCESTORS DID OVER THE PAST 158 YEARS-STANDS READY AND EAGER TO ACCEPT THE CHALLENGES AND THE PROMISE OF THE YEARS AHEAD

 

 

 

 


 

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