Defiance, Ohio at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers is a historic town, a canal town and at one time an early foothold in 21 Country for white settlement. It was born when General Anthony Wayne built Fort Defiance in 1794 as a base for his campaign against Native Americans. When the Miami and Erie Canal arrived in the 1840's German laborers who helped build it settled in Defiance, built homes, schools and churches.
“People are just looking for hope and comfort,” says Father Eric Mueller of St. John Church. “Looking for a purpose and a meaning in their lives.”
Since 1844 Catholics have gathered for worship in Defiance and for 125 years they have come here, to St. John the Evangelist Church on Jackson Avenue. The sanctuary is gorgeous with an immense vaulted ceiling and magnificent stained glass windows. For most of its history St. John's has served a working class congregation, factory workers..laborers. Their children attended St. John School, were confirmed, married and celebrated after death in this sanctuary. Today, because of the corona virus pandemic the sanctuary is empty, Mass is conducted online in an effort to serve an unsettled, often frightened flock.
“That's on everyone's mind and heart,” says Mueller. “There's people that are definitely feeling lonely there's people of course who have economic concerns. Of course there's concerns about the elderly there's concerns about isolation.”
St. John's online mass is a hi-tech connection with its congregation, not as satisfying as Mass in the magnificent sanctuary but still a conduit for a message they long to hear. The pandemic will pass, life beyond isolation will return and these pews will again fill with those who come here for what they can't find elsewhere. And St. John the Evangelist Church will continue its time honored mission of guiding the faithful through life.
“It's a prayer for church and for the world,” says Mueller. “Because we need hope and we need light and this is where it can be found.”
Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.