St. Margaret Mary celebrates 75 years in Swannanoa Valley
SWANNANOA — In the fall of 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, the faithful gathered in Swannanoa Valley for the first Mass celebrated at St. Margaret Mary Church. Seventy-five years later, this small but dedicated church joyfully observed its anniversary with an outdoor Mass, picnic and raffle, lively Hispanic music, history exhibit and tours.
Father Matthew J. Leonard recalled the founders of the church during his homily and reflected on their spirit of sacrifice during that troubled era. What should have been a stumbling block to the church's founding, however, seemed instead to galvanize those early parishioners.
Pictured: Father Matthew Leonard, pastor, says the blessing during a recent celebration marking St. Margaret Mary Church of Swannanoa's 75th anniversary. (Photos provided by Beth Searles)
The need for the Church's presence in the Swannanoa Valley surged in the late 1920s as textile manufacturers and workers relocated from New England to this remote valley. Prior to 1936, Catholics of the area had to make a day's trip to St. Lawrence Basilica in Asheville, sometimes in difficult weather. Responding to the need were benefactor Kate Kelley through the Catholic Extension Society of Chicago, and Bishop William Hafey who purchased the land – but it was those early parishioners who cultivated the beginnings of St. Margaret Mary.
That same spirit inspires today's parish of about 322 members. Claudia Graham, task force manager for the celebration, refers to St. Margaret Mary Parish as the "quiet church" that's nonetheless generous in its charitable efforts, giving to organizations like Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries and helping hundreds of families annually through the parish's St. Vincent de Paul Society. The plight of the needy is just as real today, explains Graham, just as it was in the 1930s.
Reaching out to their Grovemont community, St. Margaret Mary Church offered tours. Visitors heard the story of the unusual Stations of the Cross, handmade of hammered copper by a serviceman, Mike Schnekser, who was a patient at Swannanoa Rehabilitation Center in the 1950s. Encouraged by his therapist, Renee Kantor, Schnekser finished the carefully detailed project in six months, with limited resources.
Stained glass windows in the church were similarly a labor of love in the late 1990s, when Father Andrew Latsko, Mary Wilke and Julie Howachyn spearheaded that project, and parishioners held numerous fund-raisers. Depicting the life of Christ through the mysteries of the rosary, the striking windows are the work of Fairview artist Rich Leech.
Three founding members are still living. Opal LemIeux, Muriel Stone and Marilyn Brown help to represent the faithful stewardship of 75 years of St. Margaret Mary Church, which has celebrated 760 baptisms, 481 first Communions, 244 marriage ceremonies, and more – the "quiet" work of the Catholic faithful in this picturesque valley.
— Beth Searles, correspondent
Patron saints of familiesThere's a saint for everyone, and families are no different. Here are a few noteworthy examples for your family to learn more about. There is the familiar and beloved St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi, who's on everyone's...
Reflections on St. PeterPeter the fishermanAfter Jesus, Peter is the figure best known and most frequently cited in the New Testament writings: he is mentioned 154 times with the nickname of Pétros, "rock," the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Jesus gave him directly;...
Pope Francis on the Year of FaithPope Francis spoke about the Year of Faith in his audience with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and other religions March 20: "I begin my apostolic ministry in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict...
As pope, Benedict worked to promote understanding of Vatican IIVATICAN CITY — On Feb. 14, in one of the last public appearances of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the clergy of Rome about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council, which he had attended as an expert consultant half a century...
People around world pledge to say rosary daily during Year of FaithEASTON, Mass. — The Family Rosary division of Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton has gathered more than 80,000 pledges from people around the globe who said they would pray the rosary daily during the 2012-13 Year of Faith. The pledges,...
A culture of lifeIn 2013 our country observes a shameful anniversary: marking 40 years of a "culture of death" that began when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down all state laws restricting abortion. Since the advent of "legalized" abortion,...
The Fathers of the Church
Lives of the Saints
St. Mark the Evangelist's feast day celebrated on April 25St. Mark is the patron of St. Mark Church in Huntersville, which was dedicated in 2009. (File, Catholic News Herald)St. Mark, the Evangelist, is the author of the second Gospel and the patron saint of notaries. He wrote the Gospel in Greek for the Gentile...
St. Damien of Molokai's life of sacrifice remembered May 10The Church will remember St. Damien of Molokai May 10. The Belgian priest sacrificed his life and health to become a spiritual father to the victims of leprosy quarantined on a Hawaiian island. Joseph de Veuser, who later took the name Damien in religious...
'Oracle of Palestine' St. Epiphanius of Salamis celebrated May 12On May 12 the Church honors St. Epiphanius of Salamis, an early monk, bishop and Church Father known for his extensive learning and defense of Catholic teachings in the fourth century. During a 2007 visit with the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Pope...
St. Katharine Drexel has local connectionOn March 3, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family's fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and Native American populations...
St. Bede known for scholarship and holiness, honored May 25The Church will celebrate the feast of St. Bede May 25. The English priest, monk and scholar is sometimes known as "the Venerable Bede" for his combination of personal holiness and intellectual brilliance. Bede was born during 673 near the...
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy