By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor Emeritus
For a century, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church has served as an anchor in the Germantown-Schnitzelburg neighborhoods. And on Nov. 15, the parish’s current congregation — together with others from the collaborative parishes of St. Therese and Our Mother of Sorrows — celebrated the official dedication of the church on East Burnett Avenue 100 years ago.
The neighborhood, Father David Harris noted, has changed dramatically over the past 10 decades and is in the midst of change once again. In fact, according to the Archdiocese of Louisville, it’s one of the fastest growing parishes in the archdiocese and currently has about 485 families.
“This community is going through a period of re-birth and renewal,” said Father Harris, the parish’s administrator.
“Some people are moving out; new people are moving in,” he said during his homily. “But as the parish has evolved over the years it has remained full of people who realize the needs of the neighborhood, just as the founders had in mind” 100 years ago.
That need, he said, is for “a Catholic presence in the community.”
“This parish community has, through the years, continued to serve the poor and repressed,” Father Harris said. “This is a parish that has always taught justice and reconciliation.”
Those who had served the parish in the past, Father Harris said, remain a part of the fabric of the community.
“Take a moment, pause to reflect about the people who have served this church before us,” he said. “If you think of them long enough, you’ll recall some of their faces; you’ll feel their presence.”
In the face of the evolving neighborhood, with new faces, new families moving in almost daily, the people of St. Elizabeth should “reach out and tell them what God is doing in this parish.”
“What we must do is lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have been a part of this parish,” he added. “We must pray that we will continue to be a part of the outreach to this bustling community.”
It was a comment greeted with great applause at the end of Father Harris’ homily.
Rick Rayome, who plays bass with musicians for the parish’s contemporary Masses, couldn’t agree more with Father Harris’ assessment of the parish’s future.
“We have to be part of the new evangelization,” he said, “and reach out to all the new people in the community. All we have to do, really, is say ‘I love my church.’ ”
Those visiting for the 100-year celebration came into a St. Elizabeth Church that looks far different today than it did just a few years ago.
All the Stations of the Cross have been painted, Father Harris noted, as has the sanctuary. A high-technology sound system, featuring 12-foot speakers incorporated into features at the front of the church, has dramatically improved the acoustics.
“It used to be that you could be standing next to someone trying to have a conversation, and you couldn’t hear each other,” Rayome said.
Those acoustics have been aided by sound absorbing panels that look like a part of the walls. Pastoral associate Janet Buntain agreed that the interior renovation work “has made a big difference.”
Father Robert Gray, who has served the parish since his retirement two decades ago, agrees that all of the improvements are impressive.
“Look at the statue of St. Elizabeth,” he said prior to the start of the 11 a.m. Mass. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Tyler Stevens and his young son, Liam, lived on Delor Avenue in Germantown before recently moving just a few blocks to Eastern Parkway. They attend the early Mass each Sunday at St. Elizabeth, and Stevens said both he and his toddler son love it.
“We walk to early Mass and he loves it here,” Stevens said. “Then after Mass we go down and play at (nearby) Emerson Park. It makes for a great Sunday.”