A relatively small number of Catholics settled in the Hebron area, which was not great enough to support the construction of a church. In 1866, Hebron became a mission out of Valparaiso, under the direction of Father Michael O’Reilly of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, and mass was celebrated at various Catholic family homes in the Hebron area. For nearly 48 years, mass was held exclusively at the Ryan family residence. In 1872, the mission was transferred to Crown Point in Lake County in since it was easier to travel to and from relative to Valparaiso.
Around 1925, members of the Hebron mission affiliated with St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Kouts and discontinued celebrating mass in the homes of local Catholic families. The church structure seen here was built 1879 by the United Presbyterian congregation at a cost of $2,500. Membership in the United Presbyterian Church decreased substantially during the early 1900s, which finally resulted in the discontinuation of services in 1935. In 1933, the Dutch Reform Church took over the church building, but discontinued use of the building in June of 1936. Later, St. Helen’s Catholic Church, used this building for its services. The St. Helen’s congregation later replaced this building with another structure.
70th Anniversary - 2016
St. Helen Catholic Church was dedicated on September 29, 1946 in the presence of the Most Reverend John F. Noll, Bishop of Fort Wayne. The original church building had been purchased from the Presbyterian Church for $5,000. There were 50-60 families in the parish at that time.
In October 1947, the Edward Berdine home, located next to the church, was purchased to be used as the parish rectory. Over the following years various additions including a sacristy, hall and kitchen were completed. Of special significance was the purchase of ten acres of land in November 1956 for $4,000. This 10 acre parcel now houses our current complex of buildings.
In October 1977, Reverend Matthew Kish was appointed pastor of St. Helen. Father Kish was instrumental in moving the building fund forward for a new hall to be built on the ten acres acquired several years earlier.
The hall was completed, and on October 29, 1978 the Dedication of St. Helen’s Church Hall was celebrated by Bishop Andrew Grutka. Saturday evening Mass was held in the old church and Sunday Masses were held in the hall. During this time members of the parish donated their time, talent and treasure in order to payoff and maintain the hall and raise money for a new rectory.
On April 7, 1987, Reverend Derrick Dudash was appointed pastor of St. Helen. The new rectory was completed and blessed. Shortly after his arrival, Father Dudash, after consulting with Bishop Norbert Gaughan, proposed to the parish council the possibility of selling the existing church building with the view of building a new church. The council approved the idea. A meeting was held with every registered parishioner invited. Those present voted in favor of the new church building.
In November 1987 the old church building was sold. In the spring of 1988, a Building Fund Drive was initiated. A consultant, hired at the direction of the bishop, believed it feasible to set a goal of $200,000 in pledges over a two month campaign. Many of those on the Building Fund Committee wondered why we needed to pay a consultant when they were the ones who were going to be asking for pledges from fellow parishioners. But the consultant kept us focused and on track. In the first week of the campaign, to everyone’s amazement, we received pledges of over $100,000. Before the end of the first month of the campaign, we had reached our initial goal of $200,000 in pledges. By the end of the campaign, of the 350 families in the parish, 147 made pledges totaling $324,000. This amount just exceeded 50% of the $645,000 budgeted for the new church. This was by far the largest project undertaken by the parish in its history. Countless parishioners were involved, again sharing time, talent and treasure.
Construction of the church was completed in June 1989. On July 9, 1989, Bishop Gaughan dedicated St. Helen’s new church. At the time of the dedication, the parish was to paraphrase, ‘up to its eyeballs in debt’. Since we tapped out our parishioners with the Building Fund Drive, we decided to let outsiders help us pay our debt. Fundraising reached new levels. A not all inclusive list included bingo on Sunday afternoons; pierogis sold at Christmas and every week during Lent; craft shows; fashion shows; rummage sales; Las Vegas nights; golf outings; dances; hall rental and catering. One of the most intense events was the annual Parish Festival. This event raised significant dollars but also involved so many parish members over the years. What a great chance for so many to again share their time and talents. The parish debt was paid and many improvements have since been made.
Earlier this year, Father Dudash retired after 29 years as our pastor. We are now blessed to be ministered to by Fathers Thomas E. Mischler and Frank D. Torres.
Today parish members continue to involve themselves not only in helping maintain our facilities but also lending a helping hand in parish life and to other causes outside our immediate parish.
We should be proud of what has been accomplished and strive to continue to lend our time, talent and treasure now and in the future.
Terry Eich – Pastoral Council President 2016