St. James the Less Church in Columbus, Ohio, has been celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The celebration concluded on March 11. Following are excerpts from a homily delivered by its pastor, Fr. Antonio Baus, C.PP.S., at the closing celebration.
By Fr. Antonio Baus, C.PP.S.
Among the celebrations of our 75th anniversary during 2022 were the parish picnic last July and the St. Gaspar International Food Festival in October. Now we are at our last celebration that highlights our St. James School.
Our parish and school were founded in 1947 to serve approximately 400 families. The first pastor was Fr. John Byrne, C.PP.S.
Fr. Byrne, entrusted with finding a suitable parish site, purchased 12 acres of land and a large 107-year-old farmhouse from the Rhyan family for $18,000. On April 6, 1947, the first Mass was held in the farmhouse.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held May 23, 1948, and construction of the church and school began two weeks later. Construction of the school was completed in the spring of 1949.
The cafeteria was one of the first rooms to become operational. In the area now used as the library, the cafeteria staff served food made entirely from scratch.
Parishioners attended their first Mass in the new church on October 30, 1949. During this Mass, the church and school were dedicated.
Saint James the Less School opened for classes on September 8, 1949, with 216 students. The teachers were Dominican Sisters from St. Mary of the Springs. With additions over the years, the school provided education for some 1.000 students, distributing them in two shifts during the day.
Allow me now to run the clock fast forward. With changing times and drifting population, plus many other schools now in the area, today we have an enrollment close to 500 students in grades K–8. Our school has enriched its diversity, with around 70 percent of its student body being of Hispanic descent.
I would like to make a connection with today’s Gospel (on the Third Sunday of Lent). We witnessed Jesus going into a somewhat forbidden area for the Jews, a Samaritan town. Jews did not relate with Samaritans and that is why the disciples and other people are taken by surprise by Jesus’ proximity to the Samaritan woman.
Jesus is going to the margins of society by allowing himself to have an open dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well. It was precisely through that dialogue that both Jesus and the woman were able see each other in a different way, allowing them to be open to the challenge of breaking prejudices and misconceptions.
Our school and parish today thrives with many new families that are coming with many dreams and expectations, some of them coming from difficult and challenging backgrounds, such being first- or second-generation immigrants, with all that entails, but also with the hope of giving their children a Catholic education.
It is our expectation too that this Catholic education will make the difference in the lives of our students and the families that are supporting them. As Jesus was open to have a dialogue with the Samaritan woman, so we are invited to be open and welcoming to dialogue with those who are different from us. Our jubilee anniversary motto was “diversity equals our strength.” This is our dream, our expectation, our goal.