History of Immaculate Conception Parish -- Part 2
An interesting article in the Diocesan Orbit of 1912 compares the original fourteen family parish with that of 1912, which comprises nearly 150 families and is a generally prosperous and happy condition, largely due to the ability and indefatigable labors of the present pastor. In addition to the customary church societies the Knights of St. George and a branch of the C.M.B.A. are operative in the parish.
By 1916 Father Deckenbrock’s health was noticeably failing and on March 24, 1916, the Reverend Patrick H. McNally was sent to relieve him in his parish duties. He remained with Father Deckenbrock until death terminated his pastorate on April 5, 1916, much to the grief of his congregation and the entire community of Clarion, who realized that his services to them had been incalculable. He had been a strict administrator, unyielding and uncompromising toward any irregularity, yet filled with that human kindness, as one friend expressed it, “that made him warm the Baptismal water for the Winter babies.”
Father McNally continued in charge until the Reverend George Winkler was appointed pastor about July 1, 1916. Father Winkler was in Clarion for almost 4 years before being replaced by the Reverend Bartholomew McAvenue on March 5, 1920. Father McAvenue was a military chaplain in WWI. Father McAvenue conducted the parish affairs until Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1922, when Reverend Alexis A. Fischer arrived in Clarion to take up his new pastorate. Father Fischer had been serving in Oil City at the newly organized Help of Christians Church.
During his first year in Clarion Father Fischer had the church newly frescoed and devoted much attention to the improvements in the parish cemetery. On September 4, 1926, he purchased five additional acres adjoining the old cemetery and erected a huge granite crucifix in the center of the grounds. Local newspapers commented at the time of Father’s silver jubilee on June 14, 1933, “The Church cemetery was put in excellent condition until it is a beautiful City of the Dead.” From the very beginning of his pastorate, Father Fischer has evidenced a great concern in the efficiency of the educational program in his school. His foremost desire was to bring to the people the benefit of a Catholic education. Father Fischer’s pastorate was marked by the erection of a new school complex, an addition to the high school and improvements to the cemetery. In 1941 Alfred Fischer joined his brother as an assistant in Clarion. On the evening of June 9, 1948, the Immaculate Conception High School graduated its first class of students from an accredited and fully approved four-year school. The Right Reverend Edward A. Fischer, brother of the pastor, formally addressed the graduates. In the Clarion Democrat, on February 22, 1950, appeared a picture and an article on the renovation of the interior of the church. The redecoration has transformed the former dull, gray, somber interior into a welcoming atmosphere of bright, pastel tones. The inner walls of church and sacristy have been repainted. All the altars and statues have also been redone. Those who were witnesses to the striking transformation effected declare it a fitting tribute to Father’s true evaluation of the House of God.
Declining health and a consuming desire to have his parishioners served to maximum efficiency forced Monsignor to resign in February of 1956, and with his brother Alfred, they retired to the San Rosario Sanatorium, conducted by the Sisters of Divine Providence.
It was written that in 1940 there were two Sunday masses that at no time were crowded and now in 1956 there are four masses that are nearly all full. For the necessary expansion of the school, there was a campaign to raise $200,000 towards the project. Each member was asked to give an average of $11.00 per month, for a total of three years. Harold A. Siegel and W.H. Flanagan were two of the executive chairmen of the project. At the time Clarion was a parish of less than 500 families and individuals.
The dream of a new church here no doubt preoccupied the mind of pastor Alexis Fischer in his 34 years in Clarion, but he was very occupied with a new school complex, a high school addition and cemetery improvements. Father Meisinger though set the course of the parish on the building of a new church when he engineered the purchase of the Siegel property, the present site of the new church. Mr. and Mrs. Harold Siegel sold the land to the parish for $25,000, a fraction of the real worth of the Main Street property and in itself a great contribution to the church.