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Church celebrates 125 years as independent parish

DANNEMORA St. Josephs Church has been a part of the community for more than a century, which is a milestone parishioners and church leaders hope to build on for years to come. The congregation of St. Josephs Church came together last Sunday to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the church becoming an independent parish in 1883. The churchs pastor, the Rev. Donald F. Kramberg, said he was proud of the congregation for working on the event which included a Eucharistic liturgy, barbecue and family-oriented activities for more than a year. While Kramberg has been pastor of St. Josephs for only the past four years, he said he has been impressed with the support the community has for the church. Today, there are 537 families, composed of approximately 1,200 people, who attend the church, which speaks volumes, he said. [The church] has grown and developed in many different stages over the years, said Kramberg. Folks are very active in the many different ministries they are involved with, serving people in need in particular. The ministries the church oversees, which include Bible study, marriage preparation and enrichment, and youth ministry, among others, have all seen strong support since their respective inceptions, said Kramberg. On a weekend, we typically have between 400 and 500 people at church, said Kramberg. Of those, about 300 actually are involved in some ministry. If you think about it, we have more than half of our parishioners who are doing something in addition to just coming to church, which is very nice. Kerrie and Tom Thibeault of Dannemora are two of the churchs newest parishioners, having become more actively involved in the past two years. Kerri Thibeault converted to Catholicism through the churchs Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults program prior to the couple marrying last year. She said it was the warmth of the people at St. Josephs, including Kramberg, which made her decision very simple. The parishioners are very welcoming and theres diversity among them theres older, theres younger and Father Don is very easy to talk to, said Kerrie Thibeault. He really cares about people at the church and you can really see that. It really made me want to be a part of this parish. Once Kerrie Thibeault went through her initiation, she and her husband who had already been a member of the congregation became more involved in the church. The Thibeaults became members of the evangelization committee, whose focus is to sustain membership of the church and invite new members to continue their faith at the local parish. Through their efforts, Tom Thibeault has gone on to become a Eucharistic minister and Kerri Thibeault has become a church lector. Mae Lavarnway, also of Dannemora, has been a member of the church for 55 years, having first joined with her now late husband, Raymond, in 1953. St. Josephs has played an integral part in her familys life it is where she and her husband were married, her children were baptized, received first communion and confirmed, and were later all married. And, Ive got six grandchildren who were baptized here, she said. Lavarnway said she has always tried to do as much as possible to help the church and continues to do so to this day, all because of the feeling she gets from being around her fellow parishioners. Ive tried to help out as much as I can with the meals and dinners. I dont think Ive done as much as some of the others, but Ive done what I can, she said. There are a lot of nice people in our church. Weve got a wonderful priest and hes very outgoing and helped get a lot of people back into the church. The parishioners commitment to faith and their church is something that not only impressed Kramberg, but those even higher in the order as well. The Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, was an honored guest at the event where he was able to meet with parishioners following his participation in the afternoons sermon. The bishop said he was appreciative of not only the number of clergy who have come from the Dannemora parish but in the overall faith church members have exuded over the years. I thought it was a wonderful celebration of the faith of the people of St. Josephs parish, said Cunningham. I was delighted to see the large number of people and priests present celebrating this milestone. It shows the depth and strength of the faith present in the people of Dannemora. In addition to the afternoon liturgy, children who attend the parish celebrated the occasion by releasing 125 balloons into the sky. Each balloon contained an inspirational message inside, written by the children. The committee had the idea the children could write messages on slips of paper and include the name and address of the church, explained Kramberg. We hope that the folks who find them mail them back so we can see how far the balloons traveled and whose lives theyve touched. It was a wonderful splash of color and a good reminder that things move on into the future, said Kramberg. As for the churchs future, Kramberg said he would like to see continued growth in the congregation and the church itself over the next 125 years. The pastor said he expects to see modest changes in the church grounds over the years and anticipates increased cooperation between parishes of the area to accommodate the continuing shortage of clergy. Where it goes, I guess the Lord will have to show us, he said.

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