Assumption Church in Pembina celebrates 200 years

by Kristina Lahr | New Earth

Bishops, priests, and altar servers gather for a photo after Mass. (Kristina Lahr | New Earth)

On Sept. 9, bishops, priests, and lay people gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Assumption Church in Pembina. Since Assumption Church is the first Catholic mission in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, bishops from neighboring dioceses including Archbishop Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop LeGatt of St. Boniface in Manitoba, Bishop Hoeppner of Crookston, Bishop Kagan of Bismarck, and Bishop Sirba of Duluth joined the celebration. The day included Mass, live music, and a meal.

Faithful of the parish and surrounding area celebrate Mass outside the church building. (Kristina Lahr | New Earth)

“Today is an opportunity for us to congratulate Bishop Folda and the people of this parish and diocese,” said Archbishop Hebda. “It’s also a time for us to be enriched by the experience that a parish can survive 200 years. I know we’re experiencing some difficult days in the life of the church, but a parish like this, with this kind of longevity, reminds us that we can get through all kinds of difficulties and challenges and that the Lord will lead us through.”

In his homily, Bishop Folda reminded the faithful that Christ’s presence in those early missionaries and settlers shaped the region to what it is today.

“Behind every story and every chapter is the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Just as Jesus traveled throughout Galilee and the pagan districts of Tyre and Sidon, preaching and healing, so too he came to this spot on the Red River of the North to bring the grace, mercy, and healing of God to his beloved children. Through the ministry of priests like Father Dumoulin and Father Belcourt, and through the living faith of the people who settled here or moved on from here, our Lord came and established a little piece of his Kingdom on earth, right here at a bend in this river. As the prophet Isaiah says, ‘Fear not, here is your God… he comes to save you.’”

Father Joseph Okogba, pastor of Assumption Church, congratulates the parish after Mass. (Kristina Lahr | New Earth)

Assumption Church was established on Sept. 18, 1818 when missionaries were sent by Bishop O.J. Plessis of Quebec to attend to the spiritual needs of the Selkirk settlers, fur traders, buffalo hunters, Metis, and Native Americans. The Catholic mission endured many trials in those years including floods, economic hardship, and even cannon fire. While we may face different challenges than our ancestors, we too, must face the spiritual challenges of our day.

“Father Dumoulin and those early settlers lived in a wilderness, and so do we, but it’s a spiritual wilderness, where God has been forgotten or maybe just set aside by many,” said Bishop Folda. “Our Lord is still here, still dwelling among his people, and he sends us out as his new apostles, his new missionaries.”