On a windy Sunday Afternoon in June 2006, the Most Holy Rosary community gathered for a celebration of fifty years as a parish. Food, drink, entertainment, camaraderie and prayer reminded the members of this parish family of the rich heritage and history we have shared.
It was the first Sunday of December 1941 that six families gathered in the village of Maine at the home of Jesse Wade to celebrate Mass with Fr. John Phelan. While this day is remembered by most as Pearl Harbor Day, it was the beginning of local worship services for area Catholics. In 1942, the Ketchum Inn was purchased and renovated to be a church. This historic structure, built in 1837, was dedicated as a Mission of St. Catherine’s on October 4, the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. The building still serves the community as our parish hall.
In 1948, when St. Christopher’s became a parish, Most Holy Rosary became its mission until June 1, 1956. On that date, Most Holy Rosary was designated as a parish to be led by Fr. James Woulfe, who came to the parish from Syracuse and lived in rooms on the second floor of the church. Fr. Woulfe named these simple quarters “The Penthouse.” The rectory was constructed in 1958, which Fr. Woulfe declared to be “the best rectory in the Diocese of Syracuse.”
In 1962, Bishop Walter A. Foery gave permission for Most Holy Rosary to design and build a new church and construction began in September of 1967 with a structure designed by one of Fr. Woulfe’s former parishioners from Syracuse. The design gave all worshipers a feeling of closeness to the altar, as well as a soaring view of the sky, framing a simple wooden cross. Parishioners moved to their new home for the celebration of midnight Mass for Christmas of 1969. In order to accomplish this, most worshipers sat on folding chairs or pews that were not yet bolted to the floor. The organ was carried from the former church just before Mass. The celebration was enhanced by red candles placed on the ledges above the windows all around the church, a tradition that remains to the present.
The dedication of Most Holy Rosary Parish took place on January 31, 1970, with twenty-five priests attending and Bishop David Cunningham officiating. Further celebrations included a dinner dance at the Fountains Pavilion on February 1 and an open house for area residents and friends a week later.
The historic building that had been Ketchum Hall and the former home of Most Holy Rosary was converted by volunteer labor into a hall for parish functions and use in 1972. In addition, the Nanticoke Valley Grange building was purchased by the Rosary Boosters and donated to the parish to be used later as a parking area. Further growth took place in 1983 when the Cole’s home was purchased to become a religious education annex. In the following years, facilities were improved by an additional parking area, a new public address system and carillon, upgraded organ and air conditioning.
In 1994, MHR parish council 11621 of the Knights of Columbus was established. Their good deeds and services are offered to the parish, many supported by the pancake breakfasts, which are served on the first Sunday of the month – November through March, by this organization.
The year of the jubilee celebration (2006) also marked the 28th annual Oktoberfest. Members of the parish family work for weeks in advance to collect donations and plan for the activities, as well as spending days chopping, boiling, baking, organizing and assembling the many ethnic and specialty treats to be served. Various talents of the parish are invested in this popular event so that the income can support our facilities and general fund.
For fifty years, Most Holy Rosary has been a vibrant and active parish family. The willingness to serve and support is always apparent; the vision of faith in action is clear in this parish.
- 1941 – 1956: Father John Phelan
- (MHR became an independent parish in 1956)
- 1956 – 1983: Father James Woulfe
- 1983 – 1993: Father William Jones
- 1993 – 2003: Father Thomas Keating
- 2003 – 2005: Father Charles Opondo-Owora
- 2003 – 2007: Deacon Leslie Distin
- 2006 – Present: Father Clarence Cerwonka
- 2015 – Present: Deacon Gary DiLallo