Visionary Women - founders of OLPH

Recently in the Aurora Advocate newspaper, this article ran outlining the history of Our Lady of Perpetual Help...:


Visionary women founded Aurora's Our Lady Catholic church

six decades ago

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published: April 15, 2015 1:00AM

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church's existence was made possible by its founding members, a group of visionary, energetic women who dared to dream about having their own building rather than traveling to other cities to worship.

Now, thanks to these women, the church is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The church was formed in 1955 and became a parish in 1960, according to the late Helen Truce Baran, who wrote in 1991 about the formation of the church in a personal journal.

The group of women, now all deceased, includes Baran, Mary Nelis, Joyce Dyttmer, Betty Killmeyer Watson, Eva Gogates, Lucile Hagenbuch, Maggie Shaw Wickes and Maggie's mother, Stella Shaw.

Baran's writings were provided to the Advocate by Karen Bosley, Baran's daughter who was born and raised in Aurora and is a 1976 Aurora High School graduate. Her father, Allen Truce, and all five of her siblings also are AHS grads.

Baran wrote that in 1955, her family, which had moved to Aurora three years earlier, had left St. Jude's Parish in Warrensville Heights and was attending St. Rita's Parish in Solon.

The group of women, who gathered regularly to tear up old, clean white sheets and roll them into strips to be used for cancer patients, talked about the long drive to attend church in Solon, when roads were not as well developed as they are today.

A few of them visited the Rev. John P. Lavelle, who was pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Mantua, to ask him if there was some way Mass could be brought to Aurora.

"I DROVE all the way to Mantua," Baran wrote. "That was like driving to who knows where, on little back country roads. We found that it was not only possible, but very probable that Mass would be said in Aurora."

Jim Quinn, then owner of the Aurora Inn, donated a room there where Mass would be heard. On March 13, 1955, "our … church opened in Aurora," she wrote.

A portable alter was made, and confessions were heard at the bar of the inn where a folding screen was set up to separate the priest from the parishioners.

A 13-acre piece of land with a house and barn became available, and Bishop Emmett M. Walsh came to Aurora to view the property on June 6, 1955.

"When we heard the bishop was coming, and that he more than likely would be driven around town, everyone made sure that their yard, house and garden was in tip-top shape," Baran wrote.

"The property was purchased [by the Youngstown diocese] one month later, and I don't know if Bishop Walsh was [more] impressed with the property or the neatness of our homes and yards."

On Aug. 21, 1955, the first Mass was heard on the new property in the living room of an old farm house. "We could not see the priest, but instead looked at an old stove, refrigerator and sink," she wrote.

"On Dec. 25, 1955, we had midnight Mass in our church," she wrote. "This was accomplished with much hard work, many laughs and many sore aching muscles [while doing cleaning work]."

JOYCE Dyttmer, who was "very artistic, decided we needed a backdrop for the alter, which she designed and painted on the wall."

Baran added, "The old house shined that night -- Midnight Mass in our church."

The Rev. Lavelle traveled back and forth from Mantua to Aurora, and they continued to have Mass in the farm house.

"St. Rita's was growing and planned to build a new church [in Solon]," she wrote. "We were certainly not too proud to take their old church and move it here for us to use -- a real church."

The old St. Rita's building was moved from Solon to Aurora on a truck.

"So in the first week of December in 1957, we all turned out to welcome the arrival of the old St. Rita Church," she wrote. "An organ was donated by the Schryer family. There was a choir loft, and we had a choir we were proud of."

On June 24, 1960, "we became a parish -- no longer a mission of St. Joseph's in Mantua," she wrote. "It was just five years from the time we made the inquiry to have Mass said here in Aurora. It was a long time for some of us, a short time to others."

The current Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church was completed in 1974, and the old church that had been moved from Solon became a hall. It was named after the Rev. Homer G. Oliver, the church's first pastor after it became a parish in 1960.

Although the hall was torn down a few years ago, the memories of a gallant group of women who founded the church live on.