For the past 100 years, Assumption Catholic Parish and School has been a staple of the small yet faithful community in Welby.
A humble church that sprouted from the hard work of Italian immigrants in 1912 has marked a milestone anniversary thanks to the dedication of parishioners and the grace of God. In the 1920s, Father John Giambastiani launched a religious education program for the young parishioners, creating the foundation for what would be 100 years of education.
Assumption Parish and School, a landmark of Welby which has celebrated many sacraments and graduations, has been hosting events throughout the year to honor this momentous occasion. Many parishioners that have been a part of the parish through their family history and as attendees themselves reminisced and celebrated the parish and school at a gala held Oct. 23.
When Father Nick Larkin became pastor of the parish in 2019, he was impressed by the joy that permeated the halls of the school and parish. Seeing the devotion of the children, he felt that the physical and spiritual work that had been put in by many was bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.
“There is both gratitude for the labor and sacrifice that the Servite Fathers and Sisters had in opening our school and that of the Italian Immigrants that made it a reality.” Father Larkin said. “What they began has done more than I believe they could have ever hoped or imagined.”
There is a rich history that could have been lost to the remodeling of the school and parish that has been done throughout the years, but thankfully, it has been kept alive by all those families who have told their stories and whose families continue to attend. Since the establishment of the parish, the Servite Fathers took care of it and the Servite Sisters started religious education in 1920 with a class of 250 students.
There have been modifications to the landmark that started in the 1940s by adding a bell tower in the west and the entrance. There were many more additions throughout the years and the school historically served children from elementary to high school; however, Assumption High school closed in 1958. The care for education and the service to the parishioners was still there the addition of the gym, the school ceilings and windows as well as stained glass windows for the parish were added.
Dana Ellis, the principal of the school who has been at Assumption for over a year, says that she has also felt the greatness of the community that has welcomed her as a family. It has been apparent to her and many others who have spent time in the parish and the school the care and love that has been put in by their predecessors and the willingness to serve and be connected to Christ.
“Here we have a lot of amenities for a very old school, like an incredible gymnasium, a wonderful cafeteria with a whole kitchen area … all these things that the generations before us have worked hard to create.” Ellis said. “The parish was built by the Italian immigrants that were in this part of Welby back in the day, and that love and that passion is so clear everywhere you go. It’s amazing the number of kids we have in our school whose families go back to the first settlers who built and toiled. For that first day, I meet someone and talk to them and hear their stories of back when they were here with the Servite sisters who were running the school, and it’s incredible to me.”
Rosemary Marchese, a parishioner whose grandfather and grandmother have been parishioners of Assumption since the foundation of the church, feels a deep sense of belonging there. Marchese attended school at Assumption for eight years and remembers how the nuns served with such love and dedication to the students.
“The love and devotion of the teaching staff, and I would say most importantly the nuns, we take for granted what they did they did,” Marchese said. “I remember my dad said that when he went to school, there were still people in the community whose primary language was Italian and the nuns spoke Italian and so my dad would say, ‘Those nuns helped those people learn English to help those people become what they are today.’”
Marchese loved the tight-knit community she grew up in and the gift of a strong faith that she received from her parents. The foundation laid down by her predecessors has helped her pass on the faith to her children and grandchildren. Marchese, along with her grandmother and mother, have all been married at Assumption, and her son was as well. It has been a special experience to see how her life as a Catholic was impacted by past generations and how it’s impacting current and future generations as her grandkids have received their sacraments at the parish.
The Italian immigrants that arrived in the U.S. brought with them the best that they could offer, which was faith and devotion to God. Assumption celebrating 100 years shows that if you give God your best and your all, he will multiply it. In all the responses of those who have and still attend the parish is the impression of unity and love that has stayed in their heart. Father Larkin hopes for many more years to come for Assumption Parish and School to be a beacon of truth and light.
“I certainly pray and hope that our school will have another hundred years! I hope that our labor to evangelize and educate our youth will raise up an army of men and women who know the Lord’s love and are courageous to bear witness to His Holy Gospel in our world,” Father Larkin said. “I hope they have the strength to sacrifice and even perhaps suffer for Christ because they learned here that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and (that they) know how to resist the secular ideologies that seek to poison the mind and lead the will away from the Gospel.”