This Sunday is the first Sunday of March, but many of us in Whiting will remember it as the last Sunday at three of our Catholic churches.
Of course, there are a number of logical reasons for the downsizing. For the last few years, a small handful of loyal priests have been traveling back and forth to celebrate Sunday Mass at each of these parishes. We all knew the writing was virtually written on the sacristy wall. Nonetheless, it's a very sad and emotional time.
For the foreseeable future, St. Adalbert Church, known as the Polish church, will have a Polish Mass each Sunday, while Sacred Heart Church will have a Spanish Mass on Sundays, and Immaculate Conception Church will remain open for a variety of services, but will not host any Sunday Masses. The only Sunday Masses in English in Whiting will be celebrated at St. John the Baptist Church.
This little city once supported not only five Catholic churches but four parochial schools as well. Churches were known by the proud ethnic group that started them. In Whiting, if you were Catholic, you went to the parochial school of your church.
But about 20 years ago, one by one, St. Adalbert, Immaculate Conception, and Sacred Heart closed their schools, leaving only St. John the Baptist School. Even with school closings, parishioners were still loyal to their church.
I went to school, was married and had our children baptized at Sacred Heart. Our children went to St. John the Baptist School and received an excellent education. I played piano at the Spanish Mass for eight years at SS. Peter and Paul Church until it closed. So, in a sense, I've felt a part of many of these parishes.
For the last five years, my husband and I have attended Mass at Immaculate Conception Church, known as a Slovak church. I have never felt so at home. We all have our "special pew." You see the same friendly people in the same spot every week and it's quite comforting.
For so many of the older people at Immaculate Conception, and I know it's the same at St. Adalbert's and Sacred Heart, their grandparents helped build the church. They and their children's children attended the parish school.
All of Whiting came to church picnics at the filtration plant. Young men were trained as altar boys by their particular order of nuns and even up to the last days, they sang in the church choirs.
A few weeks ago at Mass, they played a Slovak hymn. Not being Slovak, I couldn't sing along, but I looked around at those who were singing and it really choked me up. The song was probably one that some of these parishioners have known and sung for the last 70 years in the language that their parents and grandparents had spoken at home.
Yes, it will be a sad Sunday at the last amen as this chapter of ethnic history of three of our beautiful Whiting parishes comes to an end. But the love for them and the memories will live on.
Sundays will never be quite the same.