St. Louis Bertrand celebrates 150 years

Dominican novices were among those who took part in a Mass Oct. 15 at St. Louis Bertrand Church to celebrate the parish’s 150th anniversary. The Mass and a dinner afterward wrapped up a year-long celebration.  (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
Dominican novices were among those who took part in a Mass Oct. 15 at St. Louis Bertrand Church to celebrate the parish’s 150th anniversary. The Mass and a dinner afterward wrapped up a year-long celebration. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz told parishioners of St. Louis Bertrand Church gathered to commemorate the parish’s 150th anniversary Oct. 15 that the “gift of service” characterizes their historic parish community.

The day’s celebration began with Mass celebrated by the archbishop and continued with a reception and dinner at the Downtown Marriott. The Mass and dinner wrapped up a year-long celebration that included an anniversary brunch, parish and neighborhood cookouts and monthly talks about the life of several Dominican friars who were canonized, including St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albert the Great.

St. Louis Bertrand was established in 1866 by members of the Dominican Order. Father Edward Gorman, the current pastor, is a member of the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph. This year also marks the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Dominican Order by Spanish priest St. Dominic de Guzmán.

The current church, which stands at 1104 South Sixth St. in Old Louisville, was dedicated in 1873. The Dominican friars also operated an elementary school, which closed in the 1960s when families started moving away from downtown and into the suburbs, according to a press release from the parish.

During his homily Archbishop Kurtz described the English Gothic church as “beautiful,” calling attention to the “magnificent holy altar” built in the 1800s and the stained-glass windows depicting the 15 mysteries of the holy rosary.

“So many beautiful ways that you are called, in stone and in glass, to draw closer to the Lord,” said Archbishop Kurtz.

The archbishop said the parish has many gifts for which to be thankful, but “the gift of service,” which he said has long characterized St. Louis Bertrand, stands out.

“That desire to seek to serve others is something that has been constant” in the parish’s history, he said.

This desire to serve was evident during the great flood of 1937, when the Dominican fathers and parishioners opened the church’s doors to 350 people who’d been left homeless by the disaster, said Archbishop Kurtz.

Flood victims were housed in the parochial school building and an infirmary was set up in one of the classrooms. The women of the church volunteered to prepare meals in the priory kitchen and some washed dishes, said the press release. Volunteers transported those meals to the school building on a walkway made out of wooden planks laid across old school desks to keep them out of flood water on the parish grounds.

St. Louis Bertrand’s doors are still open to those who are in need. Father Gorman said the parish offers emergency aid to those who need food or help paying power bills. These services, he said, are available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. And priests are available to hear confessions six days a week, as well.

This servant spirit, which lives in the church community, also characterized St. Louis Bertrand, the patron saint of the parish, said Archbishop Kurtz. St. Louis Bertrand was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1526 and entered the Dominican Order in 1544.

In 1562 he traveled to what is now Colombia in South America where he spent seven years preaching to the indigenous people and fighting for their rights, said the archbishop.

“He preached in a language that the indigenous people of that day understood. Because so many of them were poor and without a defender, he spoke up for them. He stuck with them. He became their spiritual father.”

Archbishop Kurtz referred to those who’d gathered as the “family of St. Louis Bertrand” and told them that the 150th anniversary celebration was a time to “renew” their “gift of faith” and to start preparing for the next 150 years.

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