History of Divine Mercy Catholic Parish
On July 1, 2008, the three Paulding County Catholic parishes of St. Mary’s in Antwerp, St. Joseph’s in Paulding, and St. John the Baptist’s in Payne were suppressed, and Divine Mercy Catholic Parish of Paulding County was established. Divine Mercy Parish consists of three campuses in Antwerp, Paulding, and Payne, with church locations at each campus. Prior to the formation of Divine Mercy Parish, the Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair, Bishop of Toledo, approved the official name—Divine Mercy—for the establishment of the new parish.
The Divine Mercy is a devotion to God’s endless merciful love for all people. The devotion is based on the writings of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who lived between 1905 and 1938 and who Pope John Paul II (now Pope St. John Paul II) canonized on April 30, 2000. The Lord Jesus appeared to St. Faustina in a number of revelations, choosing her as the apostle and secretary of His Mercy so that she could tell the world about His great message. St. Faustina recorded these revelations in a diary she titled “Divine Mercy in My Soul.” Among the elements of the devotion to The Divine Mercy are:
- The Feast of Mercy, celebrated on Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, which offers complete forgiveness of sins and punishment to those who go to Confession and receive Holy Communion;
- The Divine Mercy Image, with the signature, “Jesus, I trust in You,” originally painted by St. Faustina in 1931 according to the pattern she saw in a revelation from the Lord Jesus;
- The Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is a powerful prayer that the Lord revealed to St. Faustina and that can be said anytime, although the Lord specifically asked that it be recited as a novena, especially on the nine days before the Feast of Mercy;
- The Divine Mercy Novena for the daily intentions dictated by the Lord Jesus to St. Faustina; and
- The Hour of Great Mercy, each afternoon at the three o’clock hour, the hour that recalls the Lord’s death on the cross, and during which the Lord asked St. Faustina for special prayer and meditation on His Passion.
We are blessed to have at Divine Mercy Parish a second class relic of St. Faustina. The relic was obtained from the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Rome after permission was granted from their Mother house in Krakow, Poland. The 19th century gilded bronze reliquary, which houses the relic, was obtained from a company based in France. The inside casing for the relic was sent to Rome so that St. Faustina’s relic could be properly incased and returned to us for seating in the reliquary. The relic is located at the Divine Mercy Parish location in Paulding.
After receiving Bishop Blair’s approval of the official name, there was discussion on how to best bring about the formation of the Divine Mercy Parish. In the spirit of unity among Divine Mercy Parish’s predecessor parishes, and following the Pope’s call for unity among Christians, it was decided that a most appropriate image of The Divine Mercy of Our Lord would be an icon, following the Christian icon style of the East. Iconographer Oleh Skoropadsky was commissioned to create an image of The Divine Mercy that would embody the history and the vision for our newly formed parish. Mr. Skoropadsky, a Ukrainian by birth, traveled and studied iconography extensively in Eastern Europe.
Mr. Skoropadsky did his best to capture the feel and openness of Paulding County by painting, in the background of the image of Our Lord Jesus, the Maumee River, which flows through our county, along with the fields and sparse forest blocks in the flatlands. However, most important for the occasion of the combining of the parishes, Mr. Skoropadsky painted in the landscape images of the actual church buildings that are now united as one parish, Divine Mercy. Above the landscape is painted traditional gold embossing with vine branches so common in Eastern icons. The icon was painted in the city of Lviv, Ukraine in June of 2008 and took approximately four weeks to complete. The frame for the icon was chosen by Mr. Skoropadsky. Upon its arrival in Paulding County, the Divine Mercy icon was carried during the processional ceremonies and the blessing of the newly established parish. The original icon is displayed at the Divine Mercy Parish location in Paulding, and identical copies of the icon hang at the Divine Mercy Parish locations in Antwerp and Payne.
Three priests have served Divine Mercy since its formation. The Very Reverend G. Allan Fillman served as pastor of Divine Mercy Parish from its formation on July 1, 2008 until his death on March 7, 2014. The Reverend John F. Stites served as parochial administrator after Father Fillman’s passing until the Reverend Joseph Poggemeyer began his service as pastor of Divine Mercy Parish on July 1, 2014.
The history of the three predecessor parishes to Divine Mercy Parish can be found below.