The Church of the Incarnation celebrates its 50th anniversary

Incarnation Church was dedicated on Christmas Day 1968. The church, located at 2229 Lower Hunters Trace, was designed so parishioners would be seated closer to the altar. (Special photo for The Record)

By Ruby Thomas, Editor-in-Chief
Incarnation Church – the parish in Pleasure Ridge Park designed to seat worshipers closer to the altar – will celebrate its 50th anniversary on January 15 with a mass and reception.

The about 1,300-member church administered by the Conventual Franciscans was built to accommodate the overflow of parishioners from nearby St. Paul and St. Lawrence churches in 1968, Carol Luckett said. Luckett has been a member of Incarnation for over 20 years and leads the anniversary celebration plans.

The interior of the church was designed and built with the pews surrounding three sides of the altar, forming almost a semicircle. This design, Luckett noted, was the brainchild of Father William M. Diersen, the church’s first pastor.

He felt the design would allow parishioners, even from the back pews, to be closer to the altar. He calculated, Luckett said, that this design would reduce the distance between the last pew and the altar by 50%.

“Father Diersen had a vision. He called the parishioners ‘my people’,” Luckett said. “He was community-minded and family-oriented.”

The church building, which sits on 12 acres of land at 2229 Lower Hunters Trace, was dedicated on Christmas Day 1968. But Father Diersen began celebrating Sunday Mass at Wade Shacklette Elementary School in Pleasure Ridge Park in January 1967.

With the approval of Archbishop Thomas J. McDonough, Father Diersen also celebrated daily evening Masses that year at a rental house where he resided. When the church presbytery was completed in March 1968, Father Diersen moved there and began to celebrate mass in the basement of this building.

Conventual Franciscan Father Christian Moore, pastor of the Incarnation, said there was “a sense of family” at the church. Father Moore says that at the beginning of the parish, Father Diersen organized cursillos, which helped the parishioners to get to know each other. Father Moore said it created a sense of family that still remains in the parish.

The Franciscans, who came to the parish in November 2000, “appreciate all the good work that the other pastors have done,” Father Moore said.

He noted that the Incarnation is a very active parish and has a large joint youth group with St. Paul. Members of this youth group, Luckett said, will travel to Washington DC in late January to attend the March for Life.

Incarnation has a “strong training program,” according to information on the parish’s website. It has a joint faith formation program with Mary Queen of Peace, St. Paul and St. Lawrence churches known as the Dixie Catholic Faith Formation Program (DiCaFF). The church also offers the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and a seniors group.

Luckett and Father Moore said Incarnation is also known for its sports program. Years ago, Luckett said, Incarnation was known — even to those who didn’t go to church — for its soccer field. Today there is a volleyball and softball program and Special Olympics in coordination with Harbor House during the summer.

Martha J. Finley