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St. Rose de Lima Parish to celebrate 100 years

Date: 6/9/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE -- The opening of a time capsule that was set aside ten years ago is just one of the special events planned for the centennial of the St. Rose de Lima parish.

The time capsule, which is a replica of the Aldenville church, was opened at a special Mass on Sunday, Linda DiSanti said. Not only were the young people who placed items into the capsule be there to retrieve them, but a special history of the church and how it came to by Chicopee historian Stephen Jendrysik was placed back into the model. Citations from Mayor Michael Bissonnette, State Rep. Joseph Wagner and State Sen. Michael Knapik were also added to the new time capsule collection.

DiSanti is heading up the committee that is in charge of the various activities celebrating the church's 100th anniversary that will culminate with a centennial mass and dinner on Oct. 12.

In Jendrysik's history, he noted the church was a direct result of the growing presence of French-Canadian immigrants to Chicopee and the development of the Aldenville neighborhood. In the 1880s, Edward Monroe Alden bought a 600-acre tract with the intent of establishing a neighborhood bearing his name.

He advertised his real estate in both English and French, which attracted the attention of the French-Canadian immigrants drawn to the city's many factory jobs. The French Canadians had begun "a steady stream of immigration" in the 1870s, according to Jendrysik.

The first French Catholic mission was founded in 1876 with Assumption Church earning parish status in 1885. St. Joachim's and the Church of the Nativity followed it.

Alden donated a 34,000 square foot parcel to the Catholic Church for use as a chapel, which was built in 1898. With a growing population, the decision as made to form a new parish and on December 8, 1909, Father Joseph A. Fredette became the founding pastor of Saint Rose de Lima.

The original wooden structure served the community until 1951 when it was demolished to make room fro the present church that was dedicated in 1954.

Since January, DiSanti noted the parish has tried to present a special event every month for the centennial. A patriotic mass will be celebrated on July 12 followed by a reception and lunch. DiSanti said a number of veterans groups have been invited as well as ROTC units, elected officials and representatives from Westover Air Reserve Base and Barnes Air National Guard Base. There will be special musical performances that day as well.

Bishop Timothy McDonnell and former Bishop Joseph McGuire, Bishop Emeritus, as well as Monsignor Leo LeClerc, the former pastor of St. Rose, are expected to attend the centennial Mass in October, DiSanti said.

A member of the parish for the last 30 years, DiSanti said that while the church's history is deeply rooted in its French Canadian heritage, the parish is quite diverse today. With expected closings of other parishes in Chicopee, DiSanti said the church is expected to grow.

Noting that she is Polish and her husband Italian, she said her family was " so totally welcomed at home [at the church]. It is truly a church for everybody."