Omaha’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish celebrates 100 years

Jenny and Matt Peters faced the fearsome realities of a child’s cancer diagnosis – twice, each time with a different child.

Through all of their challenges, the prayers, meals and other support from the people of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Omaha helped pull them through.

“We had to dig deep into our souls to find the grace and strength to go through that cancer journey,” Jenny said. 

Both children are cancer survivors, now ages 20 and 26.

“The amount of support, prayers and the outpouring of love from the parish was so impactful in our journey. Knowing we had the backing of the parishioners … we never felt alone,” she said.

That’s only one of the reasons the Peters love their parish. 

They and other parishioners are celebrating that legacy of caring and sense of community this year as the parish marks its 100th anniversary.

Anniversary events have already taken place, with a June 24 Mass for couples who were married at the church. And school alumni, retired Msgr. Thomas Furlong and retired Father William Fitzgerald, will return to celebrate Masses this month.

A Mass with Archbishop George J. Lucas is planned for 2 p.m. Nov. 18 with a dessert reception. A formal dinner will be held that evening at the Livestock Exchange Ballroom in Omaha.

“We’re one big parish family,” said Father John Pietramale, pastor. “We care for each other and are there for one another.”

As a young family, the Peters moved from Illinois to Omaha 25 years ago, and “fell in love with the neighborhood and the parish,” Jenny said.

The sense of community was a main reason they settled in the parish, she said. “There’s an old-fashioned, neighborhood feel to the parish, and the people were so welcoming and accepting.”

The Peters raised nine children in the parish, and all of them attended the parish elementary school, including their three youngest who are now in first, third and sixth grades.

And the parish has been an anchor of faith for the Peters family.

For example, Our Lady of Lourdes offers perpetual adoration. “Both my wife and I have been blessed to each take an hour of adoration,” Matt said. “It’s amazing to see the parish community support each other through adoration of the Eucharist.”

“You can really feel the presence of Jesus there in the church,” Jenny said, “especially during adoration.” 

Father Pietramale said sharing the faith and sacramental life with parishioners has enriched his priesthood during his seven years as pastor.

“To walk with the people and to see the generations of families whose children you’ve baptized – their parents were baptized here, received first Communion here.”

For Reba Benschoter, parish memories include family baptisms, marriages and anniversaries, children’s school programs and activities, and service to the church and school.

During their 62 years in the parish, she and her husband, Benny, have been involved in just about every activity, she said, including parish council, festivals, rummage sales, remodeling projects and capital campaigns.

“It’s been our spiritual home,” Reba said. “It’s also been a very warm, friendly, caring atmosphere.”

She also noted the numerous pastors she has seen come and go during her time in the parish. “They’ve been wonderful men who have kept building on the strengths of the parish to meet the growing needs of the people,” she said.

Over the years, she’s seen changes. In 2013, the school became part of the Catholic School Consortium, joining several other Omaha-area Catholic schools as a means of strengthening the schools by sharing resources. In 2014 the parish merged with nearby St. Adalbert Parish.

“This church ‘is’ my faith,” she said. “It’s the core of our family’s faith, where we receive the sacraments, where I go to pray, especially during weekly eucharistic adoration.”

“When I define my religion, I say, ‘I’m a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Parish.’”

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