St. Mary of the Assumption in Lancaster now a minor basilica

Pope Francis named St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Lancaster on Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus’ first minor basilica.

The designation is given to churches outside Rome by the pope because of their architectural beauty, historical significance, liturgical fame, or a combination, depending on the Diocese of Columbus. All the major basilicas are in Rome.

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Bishop of Columbus Earl K. Fernandes received the July 7 letter announcing the designation of Rome and announced it to church members at a mass he was previously scheduled to celebrate on Sunday evening.

“A minor basilica shares a special relationship with the See in Rome and with the Holy Father,” the diocese said in a statement. “This distinguishes the Church of St. Mary from other churches. While the main church of Columbus is Saint Joseph Cathedral, the basilica ranks after the cathedral as a church of great distinction.”

There are six other minor basilicas in Ohio, including: Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey; Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption in Marietta; Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Youngstown; Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson; and Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains in Cincinnati.

On Sunday, the Catholic Bishop of Columbus, Earl K. Fernandes, announced that Pope Francis had named the Catholic Church of St. Mary of the Assumption a minor basilica.  This file photo shows the church in 2019.

For Sainte-Marie de l’Assomption, the process of obtaining designation began in 2019 when former Bishop of Columbus Robert Brennan encouraged Reverend Craig Eilerman, the pastor of the church, to complete the official questionnaire to apply for the designation.

“I am delighted that our church has been granted the title of minor basilica,” Eilerman said in a statement. “It is an affirmation of the strong Catholic faith that has existed for over 200 years in Lancaster and the exceptional beauty of St. Peter’s Church of the Assumption.

One of 105 churches in the diocese, St. Mary of the Assumption is historically significant to the diocese and Ohio, Fernandes said in an emailed statement.

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In 2019 the building was restored, Fernandes said, but the church was founded in 1817 in the home of a local man. It received its name in 1818 or 1819, and its current building has been used for worship for over 150 years.

“This is a very proud moment for the Diocese of Columbus,” Fernandes said. “It is a reminder of the great faith of the people of Lancaster and the beauty of the church and its liturgy.”

The basilica can become a place for diocesan celebrations and special liturgies on special days associated with the pope.

On August 14, 2022, the Catholic Bishop of Columbus, Earl K. Fernandes, announced that Pope Francis had named the Catholic Church of St. Mary of the Assumption a minor basilica.  This file photo shows the church on August 15, 2019, when worshipers celebrated the reopening of the church sanctuary.  The sanctuary underwent a seven-month, $1.5 million renovation.  The mass also marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of the parish's bicentenary.

“Maybe we hear a lot about what’s wrong with the church today, but here we celebrate what went right in Lancaster,” Fernandes said in a statement. “For more than 200 years the mission of the church has been accomplished and people have rendered praise, thanks and glory to God for his many blessings.”

The parish will henceforth bear the name of Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption.

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