Members of St. Columbkill Parish in Boyertown have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding for the past year. The festivities started with a parish picnic in September 2021, culminating with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Alfred Schlert, followed by a dinner-dance.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Boyertown was a small community with several churches in town, but there was no Catholic church. The closest churches were St. Aloysius in Pottstown and Most Blessed Sacrament in Bally, both about six miles away.
The lack of automobiles meant that Boyertown Catholics would have to walk to church. In response, Cardinal Dennis Dougherty of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia established St. Columbkill Parish on June 9, 1921.
Forty years later, St. Columbkill was included in the Allentown Diocese when it was founded by Pope John XXIII.
The first pastor was Father Bernard Creemers, who was a native of Holland and a member of the Mill Hill Fathers stationed in the Philippines. He eventually made his way to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and was stationed at Holy Infancy in Bethlehem from fall 1918 to spring 1921, when he was named the founding pastor of the new Boyertown parish.
Father Creemers purchased a large home in Boyertown to serve as the church for the 12 parishioners and also as the rectory. In the early 1900s Catholics were looked upon with suspicion by many. Father Creemers made a concerted effort to have the Catholics accepted as equals and was often seen walking through town with the Lutheran pastor, an early ecumenical effort.
In the 100 years since its founding, the number of families has increased to slightly more than 2,000, and the church has moved to a new location. Two churches have been built, with the older one converted to a social hall after the consecration of the present church and the Bernard Creemers Parish Center was built.
After the 45-year tenure of Father Creemers, six pastors, five assistant pastors, 10 deacons and two sisters have served St. Columbkill. All brought unique talents to the parish that made it possible to reach out into the community and Diocese to assist and participate in many good works, especially care of the poor, for which the parish is known.
An ad-hoc committee, consisting of the pastor and six parishioners, was created at the beginning of 2021 to decide how this 100-year anniversary would be celebrated. The highlight occurred May 1 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Alfred Schlert and concelebrated by four of the priests who have been a part of St. Columbkill.
In the photo above: Celebrating the anniversary Mass are, from left, Father Keith Laskowski, Father Edward Essig, Bishop Alfred Schlert, Father Marty Kern, and Father Rich Clement. Assisting is Deacon Joe Petrauskas, kneeling.