St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Hollidaysburg got its start during the Civil War.
While many structures from that time period no longer exist, the church stands as a testimony to the German immigrants who built it.
They transported wood from Carrolltown and built the brick parish without outside help, according to the church's history.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Among the members of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Hollidaysburg who are celebrating their 150th anniversary are (from left) Tom Baker, Pat Gildea, the Rev. Clement Gardner, pastor of the church, Marjorie Stiffler and Philip Baker.
The cornerstone was laid on Nov. 27, 1862, and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church's beginning, St. Michael's parishioners will hold monthly events throughout the year. The observance will culminate with a Mass Nov. 4 to be celebrated by Bishop Mark L. Bartchak.
The Rev. Clement Gardner, pastor of St. Michael Church, said about 525 families attend the church on Spruce Street.
Among the parishioners is Mary Jo Lanzel, who serves as director of volunteer ministries. She and her husband, Dave, have been attending Mass at the church since moving to the area 24 years ago.
If you go
What: Community Service of Thanksgiving
When: 7 p.m Sunday
Where: St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, Hollidaysburg. The service is part of the church's 150th anniversary celebration.
They raised their four children in the church and Lanzel said St. Michael has a family atmosphere.
"We had a sense of belonging and felt like we were part of a family right away," she said.
"It becomes part of you. It is like my second home," said Sandy Harteis, director of the children's choir and one of the organists.
"My Catholic upbringing is very important to me," she said, noting that she not only attends Mass at St. Michael but went to grade school on the grounds as well. Her children also went to grade school there.
The Hollidaysburg community is invited to join the parishioners in their celebration at 7 p.m. Sunday for a Community Service of Thanksgiving with prayer and music.
"The Hollidaysburg community is truly part of our history," Gardner said.
An outreach to the community kicked off the observance in January with the church taking part in the Hollidaysburg Free Soup program and holding a food drive. Donations from the soup program were given to Catholic Charities Inc. to help people with heating costs and nonperishable food items were given to the American Rescue Workers.
In February, Gardner gave a talk on the history of the Catholic church from the Civil War to the present.
Plans for upcoming months include a Mass for parishioners ages 65 and older in April, a celebration for families in May, an appreciation picnic for parishioners who serve in ministry in June and a Mass and picnic in July for the church.
In August, the celebration will be geared to children and in September, it will focus on teenagers. A concert with the church's combined choirs will be held in October.
The German immigrants who established St. Michael Church saw the importance of education and completed the school first, Gardner said.
Before St. Michael was built, a Benedictine priest from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe traveled to the area once a month to celebrate Mass.
Reflecting on church and American history during his lifetime, Gardner called the 1960s "a time of great transformation and change," he said.
Two significant events in that time period were the election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president and Vatican II.
After Vatican II, the people took on more active roles in their parishes and celebrated Mass in English instead of Latin.
Gardner said St. Michael is creating a timeline to pinpoint significant events in the life of the Catholic church as well as St. Michael's history.
Through the years, the church campus has retained a school, now Hollidaysburg Catholic School, with preschool through eighth-grade classes. A former convent on the church grounds houses preschool and kindergarten classes. Other students attend classes in a building erected in 1966 with an activities building added about six years ago.
The church was renovated and a new rectory was built in 1976-77. The steeple that had been removed in 1940 for concerns that it was too heavy was dupli