Incarnation Church celebrates 50 years

Incarnation Church was dedicated on Christmas Day 1968. The Church, located at 2229 Lower Hunters Trace, was designed so that parishioners are seated closer to the altar. (Photo Special to The Record)
Incarnation Church was dedicated on Christmas Day 1968. The Church, located at 2229 Lower Hunters Trace, was designed so that parishioners are seated closer to the altar. (Photo Special to The Record)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Incarnation Church — the Pleasure Ridge Park parish designed to seat worshippers closer to the altar — will celebrate its 50th anniversary Jan. 15 with a Mass and reception.

The church of about 1,300 members administered by the Conventual Franciscans was built to accommodate the overflow of parishioners from nearby St. Paul and St. Lawrence churches in 1968, said Carol Luckett. Luckett has been a member of Incarnation for more than 20 years and is leading the anniversary celebration plans.

The church’s interior was designed and built with the pews surrounding three sides of the altar, forming almost a semi-circle. This design, Luckett noted, was the idea of Father William M. Diersen, the church’s first pastor.

He felt the design would allow parishioners, even from the back pews, to be closer to the altar. He calculated, said Luckett, that this design would cut down the distance from the last pew to the altar by 50 percent.

“Father Diersen had a vision. He called parishioners ‘my people’,” said Luckett. “He was community minded and family oriented.”

The church building, which sits on 12 acres of land at 2229 Lower Hunters Trace, was dedicated on Christmas Day 1968. But Father Diersen started celebrating Sunday Mass at Wade Shacklette Elementary School in Pleasure Ridge Park in January of 1967.

With approval from Archbishop Thomas J. McDonough Father Diersen also celebrated daily evening Masses that year in a rental home where he resided. When the church rectory was completed in March 1968, Father Diersen relocated there and started celebrating Mass in the basement of that building.

Conventual Franciscan Father Christian Moore, pastor of Incarnation, said there’s “a sense of family” at the church. Father Moore said that in the early days of the parish, Father Diersen held cursillos, which helped parishioners get to know each other. Father Moore said this created a sense of family that remains in the parish still.

The Franciscans, who came to the parish in November 2000, “appreciate all the fine work other pastors have done,” said Father Moore.

He noted that Incarnation is a very active parish and has a large joint youth group with St. Paul. Members of that youth group, said Luckett, will travel to Washington D.C., in late January to attend the March for Life.

Incarnation has a “strong formation program,” according to information on the parish’s website. It has a joint faith-formation program with Mary Queen of Peace, St. Paul and St. Lawrence churches known as the Dixie Catholic Faith Formation Program (DiCaFF). The church also offers the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and a senior citizens group.

Both Luckett and Father Moore said that Incarnation is also known for its sports program. Years ago, Luckett said, Incarnation was known — even to those who didn’t attend the church — for its football field. Today, there’s a volleyball and softball program and Special Olympics games in coordination with Harbor House over the summer.

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