GLENDALE — Faithfulness can be tough in the midst of trial, yet one parish stands as witness in both name and spirit that only the strong prevail.
St. Louis the King Parish, so named in honor of Arizona’s early French missionaries, celebrated its 50th anniversary May 12 with a special Mass, reception and tribute video. A multi-age, multicultural crowd attended both.
It marked the exact day that the parish at 43rd Avenue and Maryland was established. The bishop at the time saw a need to better serve a growing West Valley and established St. Jerome Parish at 35th and Peoria avenues the same day. Glendale is now home to six Catholic churches.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was on-hand for the 50th as were previous pastors and current parish leaders.
“An anniversary happens because we remain in God’s love,” Bishop Olmsted said in his homily, drawing on words from the Gospel.
That’s something the founding members of most parishes can testify to. A parish’s early days often involve setting up chairs at a nearby school for weekend liturgies until the faithful raise enough money for private worship space.
St. Louis the King parishioners accomplished that in 17 months and opened a school within three years. The bishop noted the countless Catholics who have worshipped there since: those who knew the Real Presence, students, teachers, parishioners who visited the sick, comforted the grieving or celebrated a marriage.
There’s still a celebration every day through the Eucharist — including a Spanish Mass since 2005 — but a golden anniversary overflows with joy, the bishop said.
“Everyone here can tell their own stories, I’m sure,” he said.
Deep friendships tend to form at the parish level, he said, because “we enter into laying down a life for one another.”
That’s how Vince Riccitelli, a member of the first parish council, remembers things. He said volunteers built the campus, including a cabinetmaker in the parish who built the altar. Others provided finishing work throughout and teenaged boys worked as janitors.
Besides elbow grease, parishioners have also remained faithful to financial support of the church. Fr. Michael Diskin, canonical pastor, announced prior to Mass that the parish was finally debt-free.
“It’s who we are. It’s very important to be involved in the Church,” said Gloria Collins, who joined St. Louis the King in 1965.
Collins has worn a variety of hats over the years, including school parent, grandparent and band aide. She also founded the parish Girl Scout troop, which went on to earn top honors. She currently serves on the financial board. She also does her best to reach out to newcomers.
“One man went to four different churches and no one had spoken to him,” Collins recalled.
The ongoing spirit of hospitality is a strength that Sr. Rachel Doerfler, CSA, also pointed out. She has served St. Louis the King for 21 years.
“I always say that we’re not rich, but we’re rich in hospitality and outreach to the poor and the kind of things the Gospel asks us to do,” she said.
Sr. Rachel will celebrate 70 years of religious life with a special Mass next month. Her community is one of five that have served the parish since it opened. Two are still active there today working in adult and children’s formation.
Fr. Diskin has served as canonical pastor for nearly six-and-a-half years. That means the parish is without a resident pastor.
“I’m extremely proud how the community itself has taken responsibility of leadership,” Fr. Diskin said.
He also pointed to the cultural diversity among its nearly 1,100 families as another strength. Catholics from six different ethnic backgrounds including African, Ukranian and Vietnamese, call St. Louis the King home.