St. Lucy's celebrates 80th anniversary, reopening

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When Mary Carano first arrived in Campbell from Italy in 1954, the then-2-year-old St. Lucy Church – the city’s enclave of Italian Catholics – across the street from her house was a tiny slice of her homeland.

“It was beautiful,” Carano said of the church. “It was like I had come home.”

Carano is still attending St. Lucy, and will be one of many longtime parishioners celebrating the Feast of St. Lucy and the church’s 80th anniversary tonight.

The anniversary and feast will include a celebration of the Holy Liturgy at the church, as well as a dinner next door at the Palermo Center.

Though the church’s building was constructed in 1952, the body of believers grew out of the previously existing Italian Catholic Society, and formally organized and had their first Mass under the name St. Lucy Church in 1937.

While the feast day and the anniversary are enough reason to celebrate, the congregants have another major reason to be thankful: After a five-year closure, Mass is once again being held in St. Lucy’s. The first Mass since the closure took place last weekend.

St. Lucy is one of the worship sites – along with St. John the Baptist, Santa Rosa de Lima and St. Joseph the Provider – that makes up Christ the Good Shepherd Parish.

Church leaders decided to merge the congregations after Campbell, much like the rest of the region, suffered massive population loss in the decades after the closure of the steel mills.

For a time, Masses were rotated among the church buildings, but eventually the rotations stopped and St. John and St. Lucy were left largely unused, though the buildings were maintained.

Monsignor Peter Polando has only been with the parish for three months, but said the decision to begin having Masses at St. John and St. Lucy again was a clear desire from his parishioners. “We had the buildings and were maintaining them, and the congregants wanted them opened, so I thought it would be better to open the buildings for a few hours a week for worship,” Monsignor Polando said. “Plus, each of our worship sites has its own culture associated with it, so opening up these sites allows us to celebrate the diversity and heritage we have here in Campbell.”

Monsignor Polando said more than 100 people attended Mass at the churches during their reopening weekend.

To prepare for the feast, several of the parishioners – Lina Ricciardi, Tony Rossodivita and Carmel Gerlick, all who have attended St. Lucy for more than 50 years – spent the days before the event decorating the church and recalling fond memories of their years in the congregation.

Ricciardi and Carano recalled cooking for the Election Day bake sale, where church members bake pizzas and make sauce and homemade pasta to sell to those voting at the Palermo Center.

Gerlick remembered the Feast of the Assumption parades where parishioners would march through Campbell with a statue of the Holy Mother before having dinner together.

For Rossodivita, he said being in the church was “like coming home again.”

While the parishioners are thankful to have their church back and Monsignor Polando was happy to reopen it, he was quick to point out that, in the Catholic faith, the church is not made up of buildings, but of people.

“Buildings are buildings. What’s important is that we as a body build our faith in Christ. We can worship anywhere, anytime,” Monsignor Polando said. “But we already have the buildings, so we’ll use them as long as we can.”

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