St. Clement celebrates 150 years of faith Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Dec. 03, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

LANCASTER — Lancaster, the county seat of Grant County and a city of about 4,000, has had a strong faith tradition since its founding.

Bishop Robert C. Morlino celebrates the 150th Anniversary Mass at St. Clement Parish in Lancaster on November 22. Fr. Bill Seipp (holding the chalice), current pastor and a priest son of the parish, concelebrated along with other priest sons of the parish, other priests who have served the parish, and neighboring pastors. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) Click here to see more photos.

LANCASTER — Lancaster, the county seat of Grant County and a city of about 4,000, has had a strong faith tradition since its founding.

This year, as it marked 150 years since its first Mass on Christmas in 1859, St. Clement Parish has been celebrating that tradition of faith.

On November 22, Christ the King Sunday and the day before the feast of St. Clement, the parish held a Mass as the culmination of the yearlong series of events. The Mass, which also included the Sacrament of Confirmation for 13 high school students, was celebrated by Bishop Robert C. Morlino; Fr. William Seipp, pastor of the parish, and other priest sons of the parish, former pastors, and neighboring pastors concelebrated.

Unified community

The parish, located in the rolling hills of the southwestern part of the state, is primarily a rural community, with approximately 710 families, Father Seipp said in an interview with the Catholic Herald earlier this year. It has had a strong foundation of producing vocations and has played an important role in the Lancaster community.

“It’s an ecumenical community,” he said. “It has a strong relationship with other churches.”

Lancaster has nearly a dozen Christian churches in the area, and they work together in many areas to serve the needs of the community.

“I think it’s about working together as Christians on various projects, rather than ‘we and they,’” said Bill Manthe, the pastoral associate at the parish. “It’s about respecting one another and our beliefs and what we accept.”

That sense of unity dates back into Lancaster’s early history. When St. Clement Church was rebuilt in 1886, the pastor at the time, Fr. Louis Barth, worked to develop unity in the parish between the German and Irish members. And while there was still tension even a quarter decade later, the Lancaster community, of all nationalities, worked together to build a parish.

From the way in which parishioners saved the financially struggling parish by purchasing the deed in 1863 to how parishioners are involved in suporting the parish and school, the Catholic faith is clearly very important to many.

The closing song says it all, Father Seipp said in remarks at the end of the Mass November 22, in which he thanked all of the priests and Sisters who came to be at the Anniversary Mass. “Faith of our Fathers: faith of our fathers, faith of our mothers, faith of our brothers and sisters, that touches all our lives,” he said.

Testifying to the Truth

In his homily, Bishop Morlino talked to the Confirmation students about Christ’s response in the Sunday Gospel to Pontius Pilate’s question about truth and its impact on their lives as they are sealed in the sacrament of Confirmation.

“For 150 years here in Lancaster, your forefathers and foremothers and the honorable priests who have served here over the years, they have testified to the truth,” he said. “Imagine the power of that faith — and that’s your starting line. That’s where you start on your race to holiness.”

Those “mountains of goodness” have provided the advantage in the race to holiness, he said. But it’s not easy to testify to the truth.

The truth, just as Pontius Pilate asked the question “what is truth,” is a slippery thing in politics, in the media, and in society. “The truth gets spun every which way so that, in order to get to the truth, we’ve gotta penetrate those layers of spin — and we get tired of it,” the bishop said to the Confirmation students. “Look at the spin in your world about how a good time means a couple of six-packs of Spotted Cow. That’s where ‘happiness’ is.”

There are so many things that are made to look like paths to happiness: alcohol, drugs, sex outside of marriage. “That’s all spin — and there can be so many layers of spin that you can’t pull those layers apart and get to the truth,” he said. “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. He makes you strong in this sacrament so that you can get at the truth and testify to the truth. And if you testify to the Ttruth, the culture will beat you up.”

Society will say to you, “what is truth,” the bishop said, “But you’ve gotta be better than that — not because you’re so great and strong, but because the Holy Spirit makes you so great and strong.”

Finding true love, peace, justice

Pope John Paul II was once asked what the most important word in the Bible was. He responded that, rather than what everyone might expect it to be, love, it was truth.

“Because what do you want in life? We want love, and we want justice, and we want peace,” Bishop Morlino said. “But who wants any love that is not true love?”

There are a lot of counterfeit loves out there, but the only love worth giving and receiving is true love; the only peace, true peace; the only justice, true justice, he said.

“So drink in the energy today, the beautiful grace that comes from the Holy Spirit, and break through all those layers of spin . . . and testify to the truth,” the bishop said. “That’s where you’ll find true love, true peace, true justice, and the true joy that God made each one of you to have and to live.

Read more about St. Clement Parish, Lancaster, in this week's print edition of the Catholic Herald.

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