St. Peter Church is a spiritual beacon of faith

St. Peter Catholic Church was erected in the late 19th century. An exterior view of the church shows its Gothic structure.

By Bonnie Elberson

St. Peter Catholic Church, located on DeWald Street, Fort Wayne, was founded in the year 1871 and remains a spiritual beacon of faith on the city’s southeast side nearly a century and a half later.

The church was established for the benefit of German-speaking Catholics living south of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and was originally a 40-by-70-foot structure that also housed a school. It was built by the first pastor, Father John Wemhoff, on a piece of property running from Hanna to Warsaw streets and from Saint Martins to East DeWald streets. The area eventually became known as St. Peter’s Square.

Two decades later, as the parish expanded, then-pastor Father A. Messman oversaw the construction of the imposing Gothic structure that dominates that site today. A separate school building was completed in June of 1905, and students were taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame until its closure.

Father Tyrell Alles, pastor since August of 2015, noted that St. Peter was one of the first parishes established in the diocese and remains the home parish of many longtime Fort Wayne families. Today, he said, most of the parishioners are elderly and “people come for the set-up of the church, its beauty and the traditional liturgy.” But keeping the few younger parishioners in mind, he said he hopes to reach out to them as well.

Music director Allen Goebbert agreed that St. Peter is very traditional. “I love worshipping there,” he said. Though the choir is small, it’s a “mighty crew,” he said, whose members do a fantastic job with the much-loved traditional music. A talented brass ensemble joins the singers at Christmas to round out the musical offerings.

Today, St. Peter is an active, thriving faith group of 490 families, with a host of ministries serving its parishioners and the wider community. A social committee led by Elda and Stuart Oberley and Suzie and Charlie Bierbaum spearheads year-round activities enjoyed by the entire congregation. Tracing its roots to early settlers, the annual Germanfest, which takes place the first Sunday of June, is a popular parish event. “I have a lot of helpers I can call,” Elda Oberley said, and with 175 attending the celebration this year, much help was required.

An interior view of St. Peter in Fort Wayne showcases the main altar.

The committee also serves soup and coffee every Wednesday evening after the 5:30 p.m. Mass during Lent, when parishioner Meg Hanlon delivers a short talk about the pastor’s homily. “People really enjoy that,” Oberley noted. Then there’s turkey bingo in early November and a Christmas party for kids in December, complete with doughnuts, cupcakes, gift bags and a visit with Santa.

None of the committee’s events are designed to raise funds, she noted, but merely a chance for parishioners of all ages to gather and socialize. Oberley, a life long parishioner of St. Peter, described it as an older parish and “such a loving community. It’ll be my home church forever,” she said with conviction.

Another parish favorite is the tradition of coffee and doughnuts served the third Sunday of each month in the church hall. Everyone is welcome and people come from all over the city, Reggie Romary said. She and her husband Ed, along with Meg and John Hanlon, host the events.

Julie Workman, secretary of the Rosary Sodality, said that the 15-to-20-member group primarily heads up projects rather than social activities. Its most recent project focused on producing two brochures in commemoration of the Fatima apparitions. She described the first brochure as “a beautiful explanation” of the meaning of the rosary and instructions for praying it. The second is about the scapular and the children of Fatima. Professionally produced and printed, they have been made available to the public at a nominal cost. Another upcoming project will include religious-themed movies shown in the parish pavilion in an effort to spread the word of Fatima and to “see it come alive again,” Workman said. And on Sunday, Oct. 15, just after the anniversary of the final apparition, Father Alles will offer a special Mass and the group will host a chili supper.

Workman is also longtime president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, whose 20 active members perform important work at St. Peter Parish. Comprised mostly of older parishioners who are there like clockwork every Thursday, according to Workman, the society runs a busy food pantry that serves 70 to 100 individuals weekly. Father Alles believes the food pantry is a vital ministry and pointed out that. “Some of the poor who come here are also helped spiritually through the ladies of the Rosary Sodality,”

Father Alles said. “We have a loving, friendly community at St. Peter’s. I am happy to serve in this parish, which is my first experience as a pastor after so many years of teaching sacred Scripture in the seminary.”

With its many active ministries, St. Peter Parish is a vibrant faith community and a welcoming place of worship. It boasts a faith-filled outreach to the surrounding area, draws the faithful from throughout the city and remains a spiritual beacon after nearly 150 years.

St. Peter

518 E. Dewald St.
Fort Wayne, IN 46803

Mass Times:

Saturday: 4 p.m.

Sunday: 9:15 a.m. 

Holy Day: noon; Vigil: 5:30 p.m. 

Weekday: M, T, Th, F 9 a.m.; W 5:30 p.m.  

Reconciliation: Sat. 3 p.m.;
Sun. 8:30 a.m.

Eucharistic Adoration: First Friday after 9 a.m. Mass

Posted on July 12, 2017, to: