Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has historically been dominated by people of Italian descent.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is woven into the fabric of this Trumbull County community.
The church was founded in 1906 and now is putting together a yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary on Sept. 2, 2006. The church is the largest in the city with a membership of about 1,500 families.
"They want a church that can nurture their faith and build a community of believers," Father Larry Frient said.
Directing the planning for the celebration are Father Frient and parishioner James "Doc" Pipino.
Pipino said he is looking for members to come together in celebrating the anniversary. The celebration, he explained, is meant to be spiritual and social in nature with the theme of celebrating the parish's past, present and future.
For example, an 11:30 a.m. Mass will be celebrated Sept. 11, followed by an ice cream social.
Pipino said other events will be a Mass before a dinner dance, a senior citizen day and the church festival in mid-July 2006 with a procession throughout the city's East Side.
"The events will be sprinkled throughout the year," Pipino said.
He explained there have been meetings involving the chairmen of various committees such as publicity, history and church directory in addition to the church's standing committee. The directory committee is putting together a new directory of parishioners to include family photographs.
"People are enthused about working together to make it meaningful," the priest said of the yearlong celebration.
Father Frient is the latest of a series of priests that have led the church that has historically been dominated by people of Italian descent. Its members are now a cross section of ethnic backgrounds.
The priest came here in May 2003 after serving as pastor of both Our Lady of Victory Church in Andover and St. Patrick Church in Kinsman.
"There was a need for a pastor here and somebody had to answer the call," he said. "I believe it was a good change."
The church had been served by the Diocese of Cleveland then by the Precious Blood Father, an order of Italian priests.
In 1999, the order had to leave because there were not enough of them to staff the church. When the order left, the parish began being served by the Diocese of Youngstown.
Father Frient said the number of parishioners in the parish is down, not unlike other churches.
"We're burying more than were baptizing," he said.
The parish school also has been losing enrollment. It has 100 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade pupils.
"We hope people will react in positive ways to hopefully be here another 100 years. That depends on how people respond," Pipino said.