By LINDA M. LINONIS
Rosie Marich described St. Brendan Church as “an anchor on the West Side.” And as the parish celebrates its 90th year, it charts its course based on faith.
The Rev. Bill Loveless, who goes by Father Bill, pastor; Paul Robinson, chairman of parish council; Geri Jacquet, director of faith formation and music; and Marich, parish council member, recently talked about the past, present and future of the church.
Marich said because the church patron, St. Brendan the Voyager, was a sailor, nautical terms sometimes float into church information. St. Brendan’s Feast Day was celebrated Thursday. The church is marking its anniversary this weekend with a dinner and Mass followed by a reception.
St. Brendan was formed by members of St. Columba and St. Patrick churches in 1923 and is a mother church to St. Christine, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, Our Lady of the Lakes and St. Mary in the Diocese of Youngstown.
Jacquet said St. Brendan’s heritage was Irish but is a mix of ethnicities today.
A prominent bas-relief (sculpture attached to a flat surface) of St. Brendan highlights a back wall of the church, which underwent a nine-year renovation culminating in 2009 under the pastorate of the Rev. James M. Daprile. Previously, the Irish heritage was reflected only in the name of the Celtic saint. Renovations included protection for the art-glass windows, roof repair, creation of an arch at the back of the sanctuary, new mahogany entrance doors and painting the interior in seven shades of green accented by other shades. Stations of the Cross, in relief artwork, are done in multiple greens and dark pink. A new altar and backdrop were dedicated by Bishop George V. Murry on March 29, 2009.
“Family life is important to us ... balancing faith formation with social events,” Marich said. Faith formation covers the religious education of the parish from children in Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes and vacation Bible school, teens in the youth ministry and adult education. Jacquet leads four Bible studies; one is in Spanish.
Organizations with various duties keep the parish on course. Members of the Altar and Rosary Society attend to sacramental needs and altar cloths; Justice and Charity committee coordinates visits to parishioners at Omni Manor and other homebound members to pray and give the Eucharist; simple acts of kindness movement suggests contributions to the food pantry that provides emergency provisions; and a church library offers DVDs and CDs of a spiritual and family-friendly nature.
Last year, members of the youth ministry journeyed to Kentucky on a mission trip during which they built two houses.
All hands that can help do so at bingo that takes place at 5 p.m. Saturdays. Parishioners and customers alike say “aye” to the popular fish frys during Lent. Volunteers keep the fundraisers cruising along and help keep the church afloat financially.
Music is an integral part of the church with adult and children’s choirs, who sing on solemnities, Christmas, Easter and major Feast Days. In the renovation, choir seating was moved to the altar area.
A Spanish Mass, to attend to the growing Latino presence in the parish, was begun about eight years ago. A Mass in Spanish is at noon Sundays with music ministry led by Efrain Ruano, a church member.
St. Brendan’s also has a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose Feast Day is Dec. 12. She is patroness of all the American continents. Last year, St. Brendan’s and Christ the Good Shepherd parish in Campbell had a joint celebration with Mass, solemn procession and mariachi music. Roses, an integral part of the legend, were featured.
Father Bill said the story is that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, as an Indian princess and asked that a shrine in her honor be built. This was in December of 1531. Diego told the the story to the bishop, who asked for a sign. When Diego visited the bishop again, roses fell out of his tilma, or cloak, and there was an image of the Virgin Mary.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe is a symbol of welcome in Latino culture,” Father Bill said, adding the shrine at the church is part of outreach to that community.
He said the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a “great symbol of evangelization.”
St. Brendan has celebrated its anniversary all year long. Robinson said breakfasts, parish picnic and special T-shirts were nods to the anniversary.
Jacquet described the church as “welcoming and friendly” while Robinson said “love and friendship” come to mind.
“We are like worker bees ... if something needs to be done, it gets done,” Marich said. She said the church has “tremendous bakers.”
Their specialties, including muffins, breads, cakes and cookies, will be featured at the reception Sunday after the Mass celebrating the anniversary.
At Masses, Father Bill welcomes visitors and asks if any birthdays and anniversaries are being celebrated then the congregation applauds.
“It’s way of making people feel welcome,” Marich said, adding it buoys camaraderie among the membership. She also noted members tend to linger after Masses, socializing with one another. “It’s very family- oriented,” she said.
St. Brendan’s, a site of “vibrant liturgies,” has remained a single-unit in the diocese downsizing.
The parish hopes for “fair winds” in its future.