Easter Vigil Mass started earlier at Saint Lawrence than elsewhere. Forty mile wind gusts opened and held a side door open, while the narthex doors breathed in and out like a slow accordion. The angelus bells, and chimes played, and train whistles blew during the homily. The pews were filled. One of the Benedictine Fathers from the abbey really did celebrate the mass. He played with the electric lights, handled candles, blessed the fire, the water and the people. Gary Hoover OSB addressed several people throughout, including the music director and co-parish secretary Lois Sever, who said later, "Have a charismatic priest and people will come."
The pews were well occupied in this jewel box of a parish. Father Gary invited people to share their memories of Easters past. The first fellow to speak, stood up and clearly with enthusiasm spoke, "I sang Eucharistic hymns at the Eucharistic Congress* [September 1935 Lakefront Stadium]. They were beautiful, I still sing them. I was at Thomas Aquinas, they're closed like we will be here. I'm Irish but I sang Slovenian. My mother-in-law was the organist [here]. Fr. Gary responded, "Go up to the choir, they can still use you." He bowed out, "I'm too old, my (singing) voice is gone."
One woman remembered baking potica. Another remembered tying Easter bonnets too tightly on her siblings. Another man remembered his "first employment". He and other boys would take charred wood from a Holy Saturday morning bowl of fire, and place it in coffee cans. They would swing the coffee cans, to keep the embers alive, and bring them to tetas (aunts) for exchange.
He was cradled in the parish. The current church building came into the world, the same year as he did. He is a stalwart at the parish and wishes to hold the bishop to his word. .....
Recently, Lennon spoke to his presbyterate (priests), that there was an ethnic parish where people drive an half hour to; they won't go another fifteen minutes to a parish of the same ethnicity. They will just go to their neighborhood parish, he maintained (or so he desires). Was he talking of Saint Lawrence or some other? Perhaps he underestimates the tenacity, the stubbornness of some Slavonic peoples.
Fr. Gary said for Christmas and Easter he sings the dismissal, but he warned--off key. True to his word, but not to the note. He did--Allelluia.Fr. Gary Hoover blesses holy water with the Easter candle, assisted by John Adamczak
* A half million catholics attended the Seventh Eucharistic Congress 23-27 September 1935. Nearly one hundred, twenty five thousand went to midnight Mass at the ballpark. This was organised by Bishop Schrembs and Monsignor Begin (uncle to Fathers Robert and Daniel Begin).