Life in tune with the church bells

A parishioner reflects on faith and family as St. Raphael's begins a new chapter

When I was 2 years old, my parents made the great migration from the east side of Cleveland to the west side of Cleveland. They bought a home across the street from the church. My father’s explanation for his choice: “So ‘you people’ won’t be late for church.” All his life, he called my mom, my brothers and me “you people.” Were we some distant nomadic tribe that he just happened to stumble on his youth? I never knew.

Life began in our new residence, centered around our church. My dad became an usher; my mom became the director of all the church’s Sunday evening potluck theatre productions, and coach of the football cheerleading squad. Our summer vacations centered around the annual weeklong carnival, where each one of us volunteered.

My mother said the best thing about living across from the church were the bells. The church bells sounded at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. every day.  We timed our daily activities around those bells – breakfast, the Angelus at noon, and dinner. 

As an adult and no longer living at home, my dad called me every Saturday night when the newscaster said, “It’s 11 p.m. – do you know where your children are?” The phone would ring, and we chatted. He always closed with, “Don’t forget to go to church tomorrow.”

Fast forward to 1979. My mom came home from work and found my dad lying in the doorway. A fatal heart attack took his life. The 6 p.m. bells chimed in tune with the ambulance sirens. The next day was Saturday. My brothers, my mom, my daughter and I went to church. My dad was the head usher at the 4:30 Mass. We went to that Mass together – a family minus one.

A blessing soon followed, when my daughter announced she was going to have twin girls, and asked if I would consider moving to Bay Village. With my mother now deceased, I welcomed the opportunity to continue my relationship with my grandsons, Sean and Eric, and their soon-to-be twin sisters, Michelle and Nicole. I immediately signed up to be a member of St. Raphael’s Parish, even interrupting then Pastor Nelson Callahan while he ate his dinner. The warmth of the clergy, parishioners and staff quickly melted any sorrow I felt over leaving my first parish home.

I watched my grandchildren receive all their sacraments, served as sponsors for their Confirmation, and happily participated in their school and church activities. Now that the children are adults, we share the memories we made over the years, and still enjoy the presence of our church in our lives. St. Raphael is the healing and deliverance Archangel – and he sure did his best with me.

The Observer asked me to write about what the opening of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church means to me as a parishoner. It means a very, very beautiful place where “you people” can sing, worship, bring your joys and sorrows, and your new babies. A place where you will marry, tarry, and bury, and everything in between. The good people of St. Raphael’s, through God’s bountiful blessings, have provided us with the best. Cherish it.  And, don’t forget to go to church tomorrow.

Joan Kemper, with assistance of Michelle Chakirelis

Clerk of Council City of Bay Village, Ohio Secretary to Board of Zoning Appeals, Civil Service Commission, Planning Commission, and Architectural Board of Review

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Volume 7, Issue 16, Posted 9:45 AM, 08.18.2015