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The beautiful pastoral setting of St. Ignatius parish originally
began as a Jesuit mission, it was often called "The Old Jesuit
Mission of Buchanan Valley". The Jesuits named the new church
after their patron, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The cornerstone of the
little country church was laid on October 17, 1817. The land was
purchased in 1819 by Rev. S.J. Debarth on behalf of the Jesuit's.
The first bishop to visit the quaint little mountain church was
Bishop Frances Kentick who came to administer the Sacrament
of Confirmation to fifty-two persons. The Jesuits from Conewago
continued to come to their mission in the mountain until 1858 and from then it was cared for by secular priests. Change came again in May of 1893, when priests from Corpus Christi, Chambersburg, were given responsibility for the church.
Finally in 1911, St. Ignatius Loyola was established as a single parish and Fr. William A. Howard, was appointed the first resident pastor. That same year the second rectory burnt to the ground, and a new rectory was built which is the present day rectory.
In 1917 Rev. William W. Whalen came to the valley church. During his more than 20 years of service Fr. Whalen brought many new projects to St. Ignatius including a statue of Mary Jemison also known as the "White Squaw"
On April 15, 1758 the Jemison family was captured and taken from their home, not far from the church, by a group of four Frenchmen and six Shawnee Indians. All the captives, except for Mary and a neighbors son, were killed. She was adopted into the Seneca tribe. Mary died in 1833 at the age of 91 and her remains were moved to Letchworth State Park in New York where a statue of the mature Mary Jemison now stands. Fr. Whalen wrote a book called the "The Golden Squaw" and published it in 1928.
Since 1911 there have been fourteen resident priests. Our next longest term priest was Msgr. Louis J. Yeager who purchased more land for the church and initiated building a new dining pavilion for the picnic grove. It is quoted that Msgr. Yeager "wanted what he wanted, how he wanted it and when he wanted it."
Then came Fr. Carl Steffen who served twenty-seven years in our quaint little church. Fr. Carl came to the valley in 1978. He was instrumental in purchasing land around the church to prevent future development from outside the church. Fr. Carl was very encouraging to the men of the parish to attend the Annual Men's Retreat at Mt. St. Mary's University. In 1987 the cornerstone was laid for the newest building at St. Ignatius called the Loyola Center. It houses the parish offices, classrooms, conference room, bathrooms, large multipurpose room and kitchen.
The Marion Pavilion that overlooks the cemetery was built to honor our Blessed Mother, offer a place of prayer and reflection and can be used to celebrate outdoor Masses.
Upon Fr. Carl's retirement, Fr. Ken Smith was appointed pastor at St. Ignatius followed by Fr. Daniel O'Brien, Fr. Raymond LaVoie and, currently, Fr. Dominic DiBiccaro. Fr. Dominic celebrated the parishes 200th Anniversary in 2017. In celebration, several events took place including a showing of the feature film "Soldier, Sinner, Saint", the life story of St. Ignatius of Loyola. With great honor we celebrated our Anniversary Mass with the Most Rev. Ronald W. Gainer a celebrant and homilist with a beautiful reception following.
Like any family the last 200 years at St. Ignatius has seen many changes some with sadness and many with happiness. So while our little valley church continues to grow, God has graced this "old Jesuit Mission" with many wonderful blessings.
Still celebrating 200 years of Celebrating the Holy Eucharist!
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