By Rosalie Tirella
Should this little Polish church on Ward Street, Our Lady of Czetchowa, run by the pastor who refuses to let the city install video cameras on church property to catch illegal dumpers, DUMPERS WHO DUMP BEDROOM SETS AND OFFICE FURNITURE AND MOUNTAINS OF GARBAGE, be re-christened:
OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL SLOB-INESS?
OUR LADY OF HOGS?
OUR LADY OF INNER-CITY BLUES?
Yesterday, while running errands, I saw this:
The church parking lot walkway was littered with paper. To the right, the box spring mattress had been removed but the other crap remained.
As a kid growing up in Green Island, on Lafayette Street, my family belonged to this parish and my sisters attended St. Mary’s elementary school and jr/sr high school. I trudged to weekly catechism class at St. Mary’s, taking this path through a clean parking lot on whose edge sat a beautiful, open shrine to the Virgin Mary where you could light a candle and kneel and pray (it’s got bars now so people can’t steal the statues and candles) and to fastidious nuns who taught me my Catholic do’s and don’t. The neighborhood was poor and tough then (filled with blue collar bars and a few flop houses), but we kids and my mom, walking to St. Mary’s church or its parish school – and we walked everywhere cuz we didn’t have a car – found the walk to St. M’s … pleasant.
Especially on Sundays! We were going to church! To Jesus and to all his saints! To our church with the organ player from Poland whom I loved so much! He was short, not at all good looking, but did everything with such flair. He wore his long coat draped over his shoulders like a cape and walked past us parishioners dramatically, so his coat billowed in the breeze – just like a maestro! Once in church with my family, sitting in our church pew, I’d love to sneak a peek to the back of the church, the balcony where he played. You weren’t supposed to turn around in church – you were supposed to sit perfectly still in the pew, facing forward, looking straight ahead to the altar where the priest lead mass. But I loved to take furtive glances at the maestro who played the church organ with such flair! drama! passion! His little torso bent over the keyboard, reaching to the left, then to the right, his hands flying across the keyboard, his face sometimes looking up, to heaven, totally blissed out, into his music … his gig for God! While playing, he still wore his coat on his shoulders – like a cape! – like the little maestro he was! Our little church on Ward Street swelled with his music! I felt the whole world could hear his organ playing and the congregation accompanying him with our voices old and young, male and female. Singing on Sunday! A blast!
My mom and my two sisters and I always dressed up for Sunday mass, this special event. In springtime, my mom wore her pretty powder pink gloves – the ones that went to her wrist – to church. Sometimes my sisters and I wore our communion dresses, even after a few years had passed since we had made our First Holy Communion at St. Mary’s! (We also wore the dresses for class picture day! They were so pretty!) Here’s mine, hanging on the wall of one of my spare bedrooms today: a love song to my late mom and the Green Island of my childhood:
WE NEVER SAW GARBAGE HEAPED ON ENDICOTT STREET OR IN THE CHURCH WALKWAY on the way to mass. NEVER DID OUR WALKS TO THE CHURCH or St. M’s school feel like strolls through a landfill. Never were we made to feel bad or sad about our little journey, like it must feel now for anyone who walks up Endicott Street.
Maybe everyone here has grown used to the ugliness – and many add to it on hourly basis.