St. Olaf Parish: 70 years of Catholic community

Friday, Jul. 19, 2013
St. Olaf Parish: 70 years of Catholic community Photo 1 of 2
During his homily at Saint Olaf Parish's 70th anniversary celebration, Bishop John C. Wester said the church has special significance for him because it was the first, outside the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in which he celebrated Mass in the diocese after he was installed as Bishop of Salt Lake City. See more photos on the Intermountain Catholic facebook page.IC photo/Marie Mischel
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

BOUNTIFUL — From its beginnings as a mission, when Catholic welcomed others to their homes for the celebration of Mass; to the construction of the current church, when hundreds of volunteers turned out to finish the interior of the building; to today, when the list of those who donate their time runs for pages, Saint Olaf Parish has been a bastion of faith in Davis County for 70 years.

In his homily during the July 11 Mass that marked the anniversary, the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, said Saint Olaf Catholic Church "stands as a sign of good works that are inspired here and take place in the larger community. ... It is a sign that God is here; in the midst of our day-to-day lives, God is watching over us, God is with us; Emmanuel, who has pitched his tent among us. It is a reminder that there is more to life than what meets the eye."

The church also is "a tribute to countless parishioners ... who have loved this church, contributed to it, beautified it and cared for it day in and day out," Bishop Wester said. "We give thanks to all these people, to all those who work behind the scenes, unseen, unheard, whose efforts of love keep this such a beautiful edifice."

The Mass was concelebrated by Father Reynato Rodillas, St. Olaf pastor; Monsignor Rudolph Daz, who retired as pastor of the parish; the newly ordained Father Christopher Gray, who grew up in the parish; Congregation of the Holy Spirit Father William R. Headley, who was visiting the parish; Father John Norman, pastor of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, who lived in the parish as a youth; and Dominican Father Carl Schlichte, pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Newman Center.

St. Olaf Parish was established as a Paulist mission on May 26, 1943. Originally, the parish included all of Davis County. The Paulist priests who served the parish celebrated Mass wherever they could: in a mission trailer, the American Legion Hall in Bountiful, the Layton Town Hall and private homes.

Bishop Duane G. Hunt chose the parish’s name to recognize the Scandinavian influence in Utah; Saint Olaf was a Viking king and is the patron saint of Norway.

Bountiful’s first St. Olaf Catholic Church was a converted brick bungalow at 55 East 100 North; it could seat 45 people. It also served as a rectory.

In 1955, five acres of land with a brick house at 1785 Orchard Drive were purchased as a future church and school. The school, staffed by members of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, opened in 1960; Mass was offered in a portion of the building.

The new church, which includes a parish hall, was completed in 1980. Today, more than 500 families are registered in the parish.

During the reception that followed the anniversary Mass, Fr. Rodillas thanked "all those leaders, especially the fathers, the sisters, and the lay leaders who came before us in this community in establishing this church 70 years ago."

The reception included recognition of the many volunteers who now serve the parish in various roles such as youth leaders, altar servers, ministers, and members of the Knights of Columbus or Council of Women.

"A church is merely four walls – you, the people that fill it, are what makes it a community," said Alan Walker, president of the pastoral council, as he asked all the volunteers to stand.

Several of the volunteers were nominated for the Madeleine Medal of Appreciation for Faithful Service. This award, introduced last year in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, honors those who have exemplified faithful service to a parish or the community over many years.

Those nominated were Ralph and Kathy Carson, Joann Dean, Catherine Gourde, Ed and Marilyn Larrabee, Mike and Shirley Lemieux, Rosemary McGregor, John and Dianne Mueller, Tubber and Mary Okuda, Ed Ortega, Jim and Sylvia Redmond, William E. and Rosemary Evans Robertson, Werner and Romana Ruemmele, Bob and Bette Singler, Lance and Crystal Van Dongen, and Eleanor Willhard.

The Madeleine award was presented to William E. and Rosemary Evans Robertson.

"Bill and his late wife, Eileen, joined our parish in 1960 along with their eight children and immediately became the ‘go to’ people in the parish when anything needed to be done," Walker said.

Rosemary and her late husband, Roy, joined the parish in 1966 with their seven children. "The couples were best of friends, and together they worked to make our parish a better place. After the deaths of their spouses, Bill and Rosie married in 1989," Walker said.

Bill Robertson helped create the parish’s primary fund-raising event 25 years ago, chaired and created many other parish functions and organizations, and served as Grand Knight of the parish’s Knights of Columbus chapter and as president of the parish council.

Rosie Robertson is active in and a past president of the Altar Society (now the Council of Women), she also was active in the parish’s scouting programs and volunteered at the school.

"In addition, Bill and Rosie have made a career of being the ‘couple next door.’ Because their home is located right next to the rectory and, earlier, the convent, they have always made themselves available to offer assistance when necessary," Walker said.

The couple also is active in the Marriage Encounter Program, and attend Mass on a daily basis. "Even today they are always available to fix things, substitute for Adoration and do almost anything else that is needed to be done. Bill and Rosie have set a high standard in our parish for stewardship and unselfishly sharing their time and talents at every level of need in our community," Walker said.

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