HICKSVILLE — A community celebration is planned at St. Michael Catholic Church here Aug. 21, when the parish celebrates many milestones in its history.
Bishop Daniel Thomas of the Diocese of Toledo will celebrate Mass at the church, located at 100 Antwerp Drive, Aug. 21 at 4 p.m. At that time, the parish will honor the 100th anniversary of the current church, the 140th anniversary of the first church, and the 175th anniversary of the first Mass in Hicksville.
Following Mass, a short program and a community potluck dinner will be held in the basement of the church. The Rev. Dan Borgelt, one of 39 priests who have served the Catholic faithful in Hicksville since 1846, is excited that the celebration will not just be a Catholic celebration, but a community celebration.
“Our hope is that not only our Catholic community comes to celebrate, but that the entire community comes to celebrate,” said Borgelt, who has led St. Michael in Hicksville, St. Mary in Edgerton and St. Joseph in Blakeslee, since 2015. “St. Michael parish is a part of the history of this area, and this church hasn’t only affected Catholics, it has affected the entire community.
“The plans are for Bishop Thomas to celebrate our 4 p.m. Mass, which is certainly an honor,” continued Borgelt. “We’ve tried to locate and invite former pastors and nuns who were involved in the parish, with some of them planning to come. Following Mass, we’ll move to the gymnasium for the reception, meal and celebration. We’ll have a few presenters share some history, and we’ll have pictures and videos set up so that people can see that as well.”
Borgelt explained a thorough history of the church was compiled by a committee spearheaded by Jim Battershell, a life-long member of the church, a former educator, and current columnist of the Hicksville News-Tribune. In looking at the history of the current church building, and its standing in the community, Borgelt pointed to a quote from then pastor the Rev. Joseph Ludwig, about the dedication of the church building on a hot August day in 1921, which reads:
“I want to express to the people of Hicksville sincere gratitude for the encouragement and help given by them. We keenly appreciate this attitude of friendliness and goodwill on the part of the non-Catholic population of Hicksville toward us. We wish to assure them that, as we have now enriched the city of Hicksville by the building of a beautiful and monumental edifice, so shall we for all the future be ready and willing to work with the rest of the citizens for the religions, moral and civic betterment of our beloved town. That is our pledge on the day of the dedication of the new St. Michael Church.”
Battershell, who has spent all 66 years of his life attending St. Michael, started compiling the history of the church nearly four years ago. He went through box after box after box that contained the history of the church. With the help of his son, Ryan, Jim took the articles, papers and photos, and is putting it all together into one manuscript that will be uploaded to the church website, saintmichaelhicksville.org.
In addition, committee members conducted video interviews of long-time church members to capture the human perspective of that history. Those videos will be edited into one video that will be shown at the celebration, before it is uploaded to the church website.
“I want people to know our history,” said Battershell. “I’d see those boxes and I would go and look at stuff in them and I’d see articles that were ripped, and I thought, we need to get this digitized and compiled into one manuscript. With the video, which includes about 10 senior parishioners, all that history will be in one place on our church website for everyone to see.”
According to the history compiled by Battershell and the committee, Catholic worship in the Hicksville area dates back to the 1840s, when “an exceedingly small group of Catholics (believed to be less than seven) went from Hicksville to Defiance asking the Rev. Louis Amadeus Rappe, for Catholic Masses and sacramental services. By 1846, Rappe began ministering to these few at the (Hicksville) home of Patrick Smith.”
Between 1846-79, Catholic worship in the area was sporadic, however, prominent figures in the history of this area led to the first church being built. In 1879, A.P. Edgerton, financially supported raising most of the early church in the community. With the help of the Hicks family (from which the town was named), a Catholic church was included. The first St. Michael Church, a wooden building, was constructed for $1,800 and completed in 1880.
That church served the faithful until the current church was completed in 1921. At that time, Ludwig rejected the original plans for the church which were drawn up in 1916, because he felt it was too small. With the help of local contractors, the current church building was erected.
Over the years, the people of St. Michael have remained faithful, watched the Catholic Church go through changes (such as Vatican II in the 1960s), and found prayer was needed as the aging church was in need of attention of the 1990s. In 1996, those prayers were answered when the Rev. Tom Oedy arrived.
In addition to his focus on spiritual growth, from 1996-2003, Oedy helped lead the church through major repairs and reconstruction. During that time, more than $1 million was raised to fix the problems, reconstruct the sanctuary and worship space, and to add a covered drive-up and elevator. Since that time, the footprint of the church has grown due to donated or purchased properties.
“There are so many good, solid people here who walk the walk, people like Ed Mendez and Janice Richardson ... I ask them for help and they take care it,” said Battershell. “Diane Collins, Bob Breidenbaugh, Jim Arend, Mike Kenner, Dave Kenner and Pat Timbrook were in charge of the interviews, my wife, Leesa, has spent so much time looking over everything ... there are so many people who have been so instrumental in making it all come together.”
When asked what it meant to be able to compile the manuscript of the history, Battershell became emotional.
“I feel so honored to have been able to do this,” said Battershell. “My mom took me to church when I was little, I was an altar boy when the Mass was in Latin, I was on parish council, I taught CCD (Christian formation for youth) and I did this (compiled the history) ... I just enjoy being at Mass and working on my personal relationship with Christ.
“This (the compiling of the history) is my gift to the church (which also includes a five-part series published in the News-Tribune about that history),” added Battershell. “When this goes on the website, people are going to be able to access the manuscript, the pictures and the interviews. In the future, people will be able to add to that history, and they won’t have to go through all those boxes ... I just really love our people, they are phenomenal.”
Borgelt also expressed his appreciation for everyone who has had a part in bringing it all together.
“I would like to express my thanks and sincere gratitude to the many people who have contributed, and will contribute to the celebration,” said Borgelt. “From compiling the history, doing the video interviews, making banners and T-shirts for the event, planning the Mass, doing set-up in the basement for the reception, the food ... there are so many people to thank who have contributed in one way or another. It’s truly going to be a great celebration.”
For more information, call 419-542-8202, or check out the St. Michael page on Facebook.