During Ashland’s jubilee year kickoff, a banner celebrating the parish’s 150th anniversary was unveiled. The parish will host special events throughout the year, culminating in Mass with Bishop James P. Powers in September 2023. (Submitted photo)

At weekend Masses on Sept. 10-11, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Community in Ashland kicked off its 150th jubilee year. A large banner was brought to the sanctuary in procession and unveiled before the congregation, officially inaugurating the yearlong celebration.

In his homily, Fr. Jerome D’Souza, parochial administrator, highlighted the importance of the jubilee year to share the past, to live the present, and to march towards the future with hope and renewed faith in Christ: “When we celebrate the 150 years of jubilee, we have a lot to remember and to digest relating to our history. That is why we are having the idea of a jubilee year – to reflect in a special way on our past, present, and future. It will help to bring us closer, united and sharing our oneness in Christ and Mary. Our Jubilee Prayer will remind us constantly of our vision and mission throughout the year and the hope to carry it out in the coming years.”

Next, he spoke about Ashland being one of the oldest sites of Catholicism in all the northern United States, dating from 1650, when Jesuit priests landed with French fur traders at Mission Springs on the shores of Chequamegon Bay, just west of Ashland. He said Mass was first celebrated at the Holy Ghost Church on Ashland’s Maslowski Beach also on the shores of the bay. He added that Jesuit priests worked tirelessly to spread Catholicism throughout the upper north region.

He also spoke about the faith community itself that goes back 150 years and beyond: “On June 21, 1873, Dr. Edwin Ellis donated three lots of land to the Catholic population of Ashland for the construction of a Catholic church, with Fr. Xavier Pfaller as the first pastor. Though the church building was begun in 1874, it was not completed until two or three years later due to financial stress.

“On Oct. 13, 1878, Bishop Michael Heiss entrusted what is now Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Community, Ashland, along with other surrounding parishes/missions, to the charge of the Franciscan Fathers of the Sacred Heart Province of St. Louis, Missouri. Over the years, Holy Family Parish, St. Joseph Catholic Hospital, two grade schools, the DePadua Catholic High School and St. Agnes Cemetery were all established to serve the community at large. Franciscan sisters joined the parish community, working in the hospital and the schools to better the lives of the local and surrounding communities. In 2019, we celebrated, in appreciation, the 141 years of the Franciscan Fathers’ presence in our parish community and handed over the Ashland cluster to the diocesan pastoral care. They will be ever remembered for their hard work of taking care of the souls for many years.”

Fr. Jerome also outlined some of the programs planned for the jubilee year: praying the Jubilee Prayer before every Mass; having first Friday adoration from 6 to 7 p.m., a Lenten Mission 2023, a jubilee concert open to the public, and special programs for the children, youths and school. Also in the plans is the burning of the $300,000 mortgage paper, which remains a part of the St. Joseph’s Loan Campaign, intended to replace the boilers for the church and school and renovate the school interiors.

Fr. Jerome said, “Our jubilee year commitment already has a pledge from some generous donors who will match every dollar you contribute towards the St. Joseph’s Loan Campaign in the jubilee year. We look forward to your helping hands to achieve this and to remain a loan-free community.

“OLL is ‘home’ for everyone who comes here. Christ is our center, with Mary our Mother, our Lady of the Lake – our patroness – guiding our faith community, our children, youth, families, visitors, and community activities like our Catholic school and outreach activities small or big.”

He concluded his homily, “Our strength comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and earth.”

It was a colorful opening of the jubilee year, which will conclude on Sept. 10, 2023, with a 10 a.m. Mass with Bishop James P. Powers.