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St. Mary’s Church Cornerstone Centennial Anniversary

Submitted by Dennis Ryan

Saturday May 7, 2022, marks the one hundredth anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of St. Mary’s Catholic church.

At this time in history, it was seen as an epochal event in Milan and Sullivan County and will always be remembered as an event of prime historical importance because it chronicles the erection of an edifice which will be of service and interest to the public, which they will point to with pride as a monument of present day progress and achievement.

The first Catholic church built was a wooden structure completed in 1882. However, the growth of parishioners had out grown the building. In August of 1917 a meeting was held to consider the proposed plan of building a new church.

This was met by reluctance by several members because the parish was not financially able to bear the cost of a new church. It is estimated the cost exceeded $40,00.00.

The priest was Father John J. Jermaine who became the pastor on November 3, 1902. Keeping with the customs of the Catholic church, Father Jermaine was transferred to Monroe City in 1919. The people of St. Mary’s and Milan had a very deep appreciation for Father Jermaine. After several letters and visits to the Bishop by parishioners and townspeople he was reassigned to St. Mary’s. After his reassignment, the people of the parish decided it was time to fulfill his goal of erecting a new building.

On Sunday, May7, 1922, at 2:30 p.m. Father Jermaine laid the cornerstone. He was assisted by Rev. Hugo Hessinger, the architect of the building, Rev Francis P. Cummins, Rev Henry B. Tierney, the master of ceremonies, and Rev. James A. McFadden, before becoming Bishop.

Rev. McFadden preached the homily. He was the direct descendant of the Cavanaugh family, which is considered one of the pioneer Catholic families. Due to a prior commitment the Rt. Rev. M. F. Burke, Bishop of St. Joesph, was unable to attend.

The altar boys, now called minor ministers, were Charles McCarty, James Preston, Joseph Ryan, Alfred Poole, Joesph Railing, John Lavelle, and John Morehead.

Inside the cornerstone is a copper asbestos lined box, 8x8x12, with several artifacts from the time period. Included in the box are a short history of St. Mary’s, Milan and Sullivan County, copies of the Milan Standard and Milan Republican, a list of prominent elected officials including, national, state, and local, a list of the service men who served during World War I,

the business card or letterhead of every business firm and professional man in Milan, and the telephone directory.

Also included are souvenirs from the time period; an arrow head, a crucifix, religious medals, statuettes and coins of 1922.

The chief document, however, in the cornerstone is the parchment artistically inscribed with Chinese ink, in red and black, in Latin text, written by Rev. Hugo Hezinger recording the laying of the corner stone, the name of the officiating priest who laid the corner stone and the clergy who assisted on the occasion, the name of Pius the XI, the reigning pontiff and present ecclesiastical supervisors, the name of the church and its Patron Saint, namely Blessed Virgin Queen of All Saints and other important data having direct relation to the occasion.

Plans are being formed to recover the box, inspect the contents, add contents from this era and replace it in its original location.

One hundred years from now it can be reopened again.

One sad note of this great event was the death of Father Jermaine before the building was completed. When returning from a funeral mass in Novinger during a thunderstorm, he stepped on a down electrical line and was electrocuted.

He was replaced by Father Hezinger.