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St. Mary’s of the Assumption prepares its 140th annual procession

Church’s history predates founding of Park City

St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church will host its 140th anniversary procession on Sunday through Park City. The procession will start with a Latin mass and end with a celebration involving food, games and fun, according to Rev. Charles Gray.
Park Record file photo

St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church is preparing for its 140th Sunday morning stroll through Park City, said Rev. Christopher Gray.

“We are just literally taking a walk, when it comes down to it,” Gray said. “It will be fun.”

The procession will start around 9:30 a.m. at the Old Town Chapel, 121 Park Ave., after the reverend gives a Latin mass at 8 a.m.



“The mass is essentially the exact same service that would have happened at the beginning of the history of the church in Park City,” he said. “It has that fun feeling of going from the old to the new. After that, we’ll get people situated and start the non-strenuous walk.”

The procession will cover the 3 miles between the Old Town Chapel and the new church, located at 1505 White Pine Canyon Road.



Processions, a typical part of Catholicism, symbolically turn what is spiritual into something physical, according to Gray.

“It’s not a parade, but a way to take the prayer that would be more sedentary and make it something that involves many people and bodies,” he said. “It’s like the St. Patrick’s prayer with Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ behind me, etc. It is all about movement, because Catholic spirituality is about movement toward God.”

St. Mary’s Catholic Church predates the founding of Park City by three years, Gray said.

“We’ve been here since 1881, the church was kind of an organizing factor of what the spirit of Park City is,” he said. “Park City was founded in 1884 by a group of migrant workers who weren’t making a lot of money. And a bunch of those miners were Catholic.”

The first Old Town chapel was built in 1882, and burned down in 1883. A new church was built the next year, and stood until the 1950s, where fire, once again, burned it to the ground.

“This was an interesting time, because Park City was in a deep depression,” Gray said. “The people, who found themselves out of work in the mines, rebuilt the church very quickly.”

A new larger church was built in 1997, on land donated to the church by Jim and Sally Ivers, on White Pine Canyon Road. Its dedication was Aug. 15 of that year, which is when Catholicism celebrates the Feast of the Assumption, the day Mary was taken into heaven.

“Not only is that Assumption Day, it’s also the anniversary of the new church,” Gray said. “But the procession isn’t a celebration of the dedication. It’s a celebration of everything.”

The St. Mary’s procession began years before Gray became the church’s pastor in 2018.

“The parish, especially those from the Hispanic community, chose to hold a celebration on the Sunday which is closest to Assumption Day,” he said. “As part of the celebration, parishioners would take St. Mary’s statue from the old church and move it to the new church.”

Gray will hold another mass, which will be given in English and Spanish, at the end of Sunday’s procession.

“Then we’ll have a party afterwards, which has always been the case,” he said. “We’ll have food, games and a lot of fun.”

Gray feels blessed to be at St. Mary’s for its 140th anniversary.

“Every day is a new day and it’s a new layer on the church’s history,” he said. “This is a fantastic community to be in, because its history is about resilience — fires, depression and, this past year, COVID.”

Throughout those years, St. Mary’s has served the community physically and monetarily through programs including a food bank and the Gabriel Project that helps pregnant and new mothers in need, Gray said.

The church also helped hundreds of local residents with more than $250,000 worth of rental and utility assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a very living and loving church, and it is so gratifying to be able to serve here,” Gray said.

For information about St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church’s 140th Anniversary procession, visit stmarysparkcity.com.


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