Celebrating a saint and a century

MOTT -- For St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, this time of year has always been a time to celebrate. Each year, the congregation observes the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, but with this annual event, another will take place - the church's cent...

MOTT -- For St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, this time of year has always been a time to celebrate.

Each year, the congregation observes the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, but with this annual event, another will take place - the church's centennial. The congregation is celebrating 100 years on Sunday.

"The younger generation has always done something special with the feast day," church member Marge Fries said. "They go through who he is and what he has done."

St. Vincent de Paul was known as a generous saint who accepted others openly and took care of the less fortunate, she added.

"We try to make that our motto," Fries said. "We always want to welcome everyone to Christ and every year we contribute to different organizations."


This year, the church is collecting food for the St. Bernard's Mission in Fort Yates, she added.

Centennial committee members Marge Fries and Geno Sloan have met with at least 20 others on the committee for the past six months to plan the event this Sunday. The committee managed to uncover history about not only the church, but its school and choir.

"For the celebration we will have older vestments around the gathering space," Sloan said. "Old music books will be available and we'll have 48 out of the 50 graduating classes from the school."

The Rev. Kenneth Wald, former assistant pastor from the 1970s and 1980s, is attending the centennial celebration and Bishop Paul Zipfel is presiding at the liturgy at 10 a.m.

Prior to the service is a continental breakfast from 7-9 a.m. with lunch to follow at noon at the Hettinger County Fairgrounds.

After lunch, 14 former choir members are to perform different songs and there is an ice cream social and raffle. The public can pre-register for Sunday the night before, Fries said.

"We haven't encountered any big challenges really," Fries said about centennial planning. "It's just a time consuming process and we've met regularly to get things done. We spent a lot of our time on the history of the church and the all school reunion."

The St. Vincent de Paul's school was the dream of past minister the Rev. Herman Mandry in the 1940s. It opened in 1949 and remained open for 50 years.


The school housed grades one through eight and graduated 49 classes, which then went into local high schools. The school eventually closed due to declining enrollment.

The school building still resides across the street from the church and is a warehouse today.

"The roof was made flat on purpose to build another floor for additional grades and classrooms, but that did not happen," Fries said.

While digging into the church's history, the committee discovered one of the original nuns who taught at the school when it first opened is still alive and only retired from teaching four years ago.

Sister Elizabeth Novy is in her 90s and lives in Bismarck. She is attending the celebration.

"She was known as Sister Neone when she was here," Fries said. "She wrote an autobiography about her life. In it, she gave details about the school and what it was like when it first opened."

When the school first opened it had 165 students and when it closed it graduated four. The church congregation has fluctuated throughout the years and the building itself has gone through several changes.

Before the church was built and dedicated in 1907, the congregation met upstairs at the old Mott Supply hardware store, Fries said. The other church congregations in town also met there at different times.


The first building cost $1,560 to construct and 2 acres of land were donated for a cemetery by Mott developer William Brown.

The original building was wood and seated 150. There were 30 baptisms within the first year.

A new brick building with a steeple came in 1925 and the old building became a rectory. The brick building seated 300 people and stands today as the church worship center. A new rectory was built in 1980. In 2002, it was connected to the new gathering space built to make the entity one building.

The new gathering space is on the upper level, while the lower level includes a kitchen and classrooms.

"The congregation's size today is about 400 and we have two Mass services, but it's hard to say how many come each Sunday," Fries said. "We share our current pastor, the Rev. Charles Zins, with two other churches in Regent and New Leipzig."

The church has had a total of 17 pastors and 12 assistant pastors, she added.

Sloan said the church's cultural heritage is German and German-Russian. Until the 1930s, services were done in both languages.

"Like many places at the time, the 1930s were dry here too, but we grew to 600 families," Sloan said. "In the 1960s, the population started decreasing."


There are six churches in Mott, but St. Vincent is the only one celebrating a centennial at this time, Fries said.

Although St. Vincent's no longer has Sunday school or its Catholic school, it continues to teach the next generation by a Christian Catholic school instruction program called the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine through the Catholic Youth Organization. Students are released early on Wednesdays for the classes. There are 95 students in the program.

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