Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott celebrates 75th anniversary
ABBOTT — For the parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott, it was a celebration more than 75 years in the making, despite the few delays along the way.
On Sunday, August 13, parishioners held a 75th anniversary celebration at the church with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson and the church's pastor, Father Thomas Jones.
Several notable guests joined in the celebration.
"Everything was great, and we were just very blessed to have the Bishop and Father Joe Keating, who was a former pastor [of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish]. We had Msgr. Henry Petter,” who grew up in the parish and became a priest for the Diocese of Dallas, Deacon Terry Timmons said. Deacon Denver Crawley from Penelope, who also is assigned to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, was in attendance, as well.
The church was founded in 1946 and Father Charles W. Smid was appointed its first pastor. The church owned no property and had no accommodation for Fr. Smid.
Fr. Smid visited 175 families, and a committee was elected to assist him to raise funds to buy land and plan the first building, according to the parish's official history.
A committee was elected to help Fr. Smid raise money to buy land and plan the first building. The committee included Eddie Hlavaty, John Pustejovsky, Ed Petter, Harry Urbis, and Joseph R. Marek. The first Mass was held in the Abbott school gymnasium and that first Mass, in Latin, was held March 3, 1946.
The groundbreaking for the church occurred on June 29, 1946, and construction began July 8. The building was finished just in time for Christmas Midnight Mass in 1946. The total cost for the church was $40,472.74.
The church's actual 75th anniversary was in December 2021, but planning was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Later, the parish was between priests. and parishioners were in the middle of a capital campaign to replace the worn and rutted parking lot, which further postponed the celebration.
Much of the last year saw visiting priests conduct Mass at the parish, but earlier this summer, with Fr. Jones in place and the parking lot completed, parishioners could plan their anniversary celebration.
In his remarks, Bishop Olson thanked parishioners for their “joyful perseverance” in waiting for Fr. Jones’ permanent appointment as parish priest in June.
Dcn. Timmons described the parish of roughly 150 families as important to the community.
"They're very faithful, very holy people," Dcn. Timmons said. "They are drawn to the church because it and the school are the two centers of the community, because there's hardly any other business that draws the families. You know that the church is important to the people here."
Mayor Anthony Pustejovsky attended the event and proclaimed August 13 to be “Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Day” in Abbott.
Dcn. Timmons, who gave the homily at the Mass, said that Abbott is a mix between a farming community and a bedroom community. Abbott is roughly 65 miles southeast of Fort Worth.
“We have a number of our parishioners who are farmers, together with those who are employed outside of the city,” Dcn. Timmons said.
Some residents go to Hillsboro, West, Waco, or even Fort Worth for their jobs, he said.
Dcn. Timmons said the planning for the celebration has been going on for several years.
“They started and then had to kind of pause everything during the COVID years. We've been waiting for the appropriate time to have this kind of celebration. And here we are, so it's been months, I guess you might even say years, in the planning,” Dcn. Timmons said.
Parishioner Linda Bole said that once Fr. Jones was in place in June as the new priest, the ball got rolling for a celebration.
"It was more like a runaway train," she said. "We met with the parish council, and they voted to do it on this weekend."
Bole said the parishioners had just a few weeks to put everything in place for the event.
"I had made a few calls about a caterer and that kind of thing, but that was as far as I could go that far ahead of time because we didn't know the date,” Bole said.
Because it's a small parish, Bole said they didn't advertise the event because of limited space.
"We basically said it was for parishioners, and we went with that," she said.
A church dinner followed the 4 p.m. Mass, Bole said. The menu was pure Central Texas.
"The parish council felt like the parish wanted a traditional Czech dinner. So that will be fried chicken, sausage, parsley potatoes, green beans. And then Czech desserts and sauerkraut," Bole said.
Parishioners were asked to bring desserts such as kolaches and strudels and any other dessert that was traditional in their families. And there were desserts a plenty, Dcn. Timmons said.
“Everybody does their best to try to put their best foot forward and we just had more than what we need. It seems like when we call for desserts, it's always like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes,” Dcn. Timmons said.
To Dcn. Timmons, the most memorable thing about the celebration was “just the joy of being able to celebrate as a community with the Eucharist in a place that is very meaningful for so many people and has brought so much joy and comfort for generations. It was just the fact that you were sitting in 75 years of history, and so many people that you knew, who used to sit there, that are no longer there.”