TEMPERANCE - The roots of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Lewis Avenue go back to 1957 when it began as a mission church under the wing of Whiteford Township's St. Anthony's Church to serve the religious needs of the area's growing Catholic families.
The parish, which now serves nearly 1,200 families and 4,200 members, decided that April 13 will be observed as its official anniversary because on that day 50 years ago it was declared a church and parish by the Detroit Archdiocese.
A special anniversary Mass that was celebrated by Archbishop Allen Vigneron was held on the eve of the anniversary in the church.
After the service, church members who joined in 1957 were honored during a reception in the church hall.
"For the celebration we invited charter members to come and be recognized with a token remembrance," said Bonnie Berry, a parishioner who was about 6 years old when her family helped form the fledgling congregation.
In its earliest days, church-goers packed the Temperance Rotary Club, where services were held. The first Mass in the building was Oct. 13, 1957.
Mrs. Berry said more than 250 people showed up and many were turned away because the hall only had room for 150. A second Mass was soon added to the Sunday schedule.
"I remember the Boy Scout banners and flags that hung all around the room because the Rotary hall was used for their meetings," she said.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was founded as a missionary church in Sept. 22, 1957, when the archdiocesan chancellor, Msgr. Bernard Kearns, and the Rev. Hugo Noetzel, who was pastor of St. Anthony Church, determined the need for a parish in Temperance.
"The church started out as a mission church and was brought under the protection and guidance of St. Anthony Church, which served as a mother organization for the new church," Mrs. Berry said.
Parishioners from St. Anthony and St. Joseph Church in Erie attended the Masses in the Rotary building that Father Noetzel secured for the congregation to have services. The late Rev. William Hunt was the church's first pastor. Weddings, funerals, baptisms, and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes, often called CCD, were held at St. Anthony Church.
Mr. Berry recalled that ushers arrived early on Sundays to set up folding chairs and prepare a table for the altar and they stayed late to take the down.
The congregation decided on the name of the church in November, 1957, and purchased land to build the church on March 2, 1958. Construction began in August, 1959, and the first service was Midnight Mass on Dec. 24, 1959.
Mrs. Berry said construction wasn't quite complete and the building lacked heat for the first Mass there.
"That is what everybody talks about the most. They barely got in there by the end of the year," she said.
A two-story school building was added in 1967. The grade school closed at the end of the 1973 school year.
To commemorate the parish's golden anniversary, a special monstrance, which displays the Eucharist for adoration will be brought to the church in June. The monstrance was one of six blessed by the late Pope Paul John Paul II. It be at the church from noon June 13 until noon June 15.
A parish-wide family picnic and pig roast will be July 18 at the parish and a new parish pictorial directory and history will be published later in the year.