By Brother Jude Person, O.S.B.
Special to The Catholic Key
Back in the summer of 1914, the parishioners of the Immaculate Conception parish at Conception Abbey gathered for the double purpose of taking a parish photo and enjoying a day of celebration for the parish community. The gathering included young and old alike, bringing all together for a day of shared friendship, food and festivity, with games and activities for everyone adding to the festive spirit. It was simply a time for them to partake of the joy that enlivens a Catholic parish community; the photo left a visual record of the event for subsequent generations.
A hundred years passed, and many in the neighborhood in and around the Tri-C Area—Conception, Conception Junction and Clyde, Missouri—began to talk about mounting a centennial celebration to commemorate that great day in 1914. As planning gave way to reality, it was determined that the event would again be hosted by Conception Abbey, with many local groups coming together to take part in the celebration. Another parish group photo would be taken, bringing the Catholic community together once again to celebrate their faith, the centrality of family life, the riches enjoyed in this rural setting, and the growth of our parish community here in the environs of both convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at Clyde and the monastic community at Conception Abbey.
A parade opened the celebration, featuring numerous local organizations and much evidence of our vibrant rural life, with tractors, horses, 4-H Clubs, and an Honor Guard from the Knights of Columbus. Abbot Gregory of Conception Abbey and Sister Rita Clare Dohn, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, served as the Grand Marshals of the event. Expressions of both the Catholic faith and patriotic regard for our nation helped to fill out the celebration, bringing together between 500 and 600 people in all. Event sponsors included the Benedictine monks of Conception Abbey, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the American Legion Post 464, the local Knights of Columbus, the Community Betterment Club, St. Columba Parish Council, the Tri-C Partners 4 Progress, the Tri-C Fire Department and Rescue Unit and the Jefferson Education Foundation.
After the parade a photo was taken, gathering some six hundred people who either have roots in the Conception parish or are still active members of the current Saint Columba parish at Conception Junction. It brought people together from as far away as Albuquerque and Milwaukee. It was a special blessing to recognize members of the local community who had entered religious life and were present for the event: Father Tom Wiederholt, Father Joel Derks, O.S.B., Sister Eileen Schieber, C.Pp.S., Sister Mary Hubert McQuinn, C.Pp.S., Sister Mary Beth Kemper, C.Pp.S., and Sister Mary Jo Schieber, F.S.M. The afternoon was filled with food, fun, games, laughter, and much joyful conversation. It was a celebration of the Catholic faith which unites these people and brings them together to affirm and uphold the values of love of God and neighbor, of a living and vibrant faith community, of strong families, and of the truly good life of rural northwest Missouri.
Ed Growney, a native of the area and former member of the City Council of Kansas City was in attendance with his brother Tom, now a resident of Albuquerque. The Growneys were among the first families to establish the local Conception colony after the territory of northwest Missouri was incorporated into the state as the Platte Purchase. Ed remarked to the assembled crowd: “I know from personal experience that the Conception community is a great group of people, and that this would be a wonderful celebration. I knew I had to be here, to reacquaint myself with all you wonderful people, here at this celebration in the shadow of the Abbey’s twin towers. All in all it was a great day: wonderful weather, great people, and hospitality like only the Benedictines of Conception Abbey can offer. It was ‘pure Americana’ and ‘living Catholic.’”
Abbot Gregory offered the following words of prayer on the occasion: “Almighty and eternal God, who have blessed this community with such faithful men, women and children, we turn to you with grateful hearts for the many ways you have shown your providential care for us. We ask your blessing on this day. May we who share it be blessed with the joys of happy memories and appreciation for the deep and wonderful bonds of friendship. May our hearts be grateful for all the ways you have shown us your love and care. Help us to welcome the future with hope and peace, with strength and courage, as we keep alive the faith that unites us and the joy of our families and friends. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” You can be sure that the responding “Amen” from the assembled crowd was both loud and heartfelt!