PARK CITY — Few things evoke the Christmas spirit more than the hanging of a much-loved ornament on the Christmas tree. For many members of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish and Park City visitors, that ornament is one (or several) issued by the parish over the last 20 years.
Since 1996, there have been nine ornaments. Recently, the parish, under the direction of Victor Method, issued a new ornament to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the church on White Pine Canyon Road.
Response has been overwhelming, Method said; after selling close to $6,500 in ornaments the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the parish has very few left.
The fact that the ornaments have been so well-received may be in part because of the fondness visitors have for their Park City experience which, for many, includes Mass at the church.
Others, having being married or baptized there, or having attended Mass there for years, have deeper ties to the building.
“Because Park City is a very transient community – people move in here from all over the country – St. Mary’s ends up becoming a place for people to meet friends and build relationships,” Parish Council President Andy Ciel said. “St Mary’s can be a very emotional part of their connection to Park City.”
The idea for the original ornament was Method’s. In 1996, the parish was looking for a way to raise funds for a new building when Method suggested brass Christmas ornaments might be popular. He found a drawing of the original 1884 chapel, ordered some brass ornaments based on it and started a campaign to sell them. To help in the effort, his father Victor A. Method had a 2- foot copy of the ornament made.
At a skier’s Mass just before Thanksgiving, the younger Method quipped that with the large size, the ornament would be perfect for the large Deer Valley homes. After the Mass, Ginger Medel bought two ornaments with a $50 bill and told Method to keep the change. At the time, Method did not know the Medels, but he soon learned to his horror that they lived in Deer Valley at the top of Bald Eagle Drive.
Fortunately, he discovered Ginger Medel and her husband had a sense of humor and had been greatly amused by his remark. They subsequently made a significant donation that paid for many of the items in the White Pine Canyon church. Since then, every year that an ornament has been issued, the Medels have bought two.
Ornaments were issued annually from 1996 to 2001, then again in 2004 and in 2007 for the building’s 10th anniversary.
Over the years, the various ornaments have depicted different elements of the church. This year’s ornament features the church’s west window, which was originally meant to be filled with stained glass. However, parishioners felt the view of the mountains through the window was already so beautiful, it would be a shame to cover it up, Ciel said.
The ornament has particular ties to the church’s past as it is designed by graphic artist Gracie Ciel, Andy Ciel’s daughter and granddaughter of Jim and Sallie Ivers, who donated the property on which the church is built.
The White Pine Canyon church is the second St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Park City. The original, in the downtown area, now is called the Old Town Chapel. After a fire destroyed its roof in the 1950s, Bishop Duane G. Hunt, seeing that so many of the mines had closed, felt they should close the parish and have everyone travel to Salt Lake City to attend Mass.
However, Jim Ivers, a third-generation Park City resident and parish member, convinced the bishop that the members of the parish would rally and rebuild the church, which they did. Later, when the parish outgrew the original building, Jim and Sallie Ivers donated five acres of the family farm as the site for the White Pine Canyon church.
“The Ivers really saved the church,” Method said.
The funds raised from this year’s ornament sales will be used toward a landscaping project on the west side of the church. The project will include a prayer garden, grotto and different spiritual elements, Andy Ciel said.
A limited number of sets of all nine of the St. Mary of the Assumption ornaments are available for a $160 donation, as are four-ornament sets of the 1996, 1997, 2007 and 2017 editions, for $70. For information, contact Vic Method, 801-543-5872 or firstname.lastname@example.org.