"It's a Sad Day"

By by Derek Gentile
The Berkshire Eagle

July 7, 2008

PITTSFIELD Marie Walz was baptized in St. Mary's of the Morning Star Church on Tyler Street. In 1951, she and her husband, Francis Walz, were married at the church. Walz, who was coy about giving her age, has been a parishioner here all her life.

"It's a sad day," she said yesterday, her eyes brimming with tears. "We have a lot of memories here. We have a lot of friends here."

Marie Walz was not the only parishioner with a heavy heart yesterday. Several hundred churchgoers packed St. Mary's yesterday for the final Mass celebrated in that church.

In February, the Diocese of Springfield, of which St. Mary's was a member, announced that six of the city's 10 churches would be closed by July 6. St. Mary's was the last of the six, although a final Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, at Holy Family. The closing Mass for Holy Family was June 29.

Mount Carmel, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa's and All Souls Mission have all had their final Masses.

Parishioners file into the pews yesterday to hear the final Mass held at St. Mary's of the...

Still open, under the umbrella organization of the Catholic Community of Pittsfield, are St. Joseph's Church at 414 North St.; Sacred Heart at 191 Elm St.; St. Charles' Church at 89 Briggs Ave.; and St. Mark's Church at 400 West St.

"It's like leaving home," said Margaret Knight, 91, who has been attending Mass at St. Mary's since 1943, when the present church opened. St. Mary's has served the Morningside community since 1915, when it was launched in large part because of the influx of workers to the General Electric plant a few blocks away.

"I feel sad it's closing," Knight said. "I'm sure everyone in the remaining churches will work together. But I've met some wonderful people. This is very much a community."

Diane DiNicola has been a parishioner at St. Mary's for 45 years. She was the principal author of the church history, which will be available in two weeks. Many people signed up for the history, which is lavishly illustrated with photos by Ann Marie "Dori" Kotowitz and Greta Valuski. There will be another sign-up sheet at St. Joseph's for anyone else who wants the book, which will cost $15, said DiNicola.

If residents cannot find the sign-up sheet, DiNicola said they can call her at (413) 443-4294.

"I know everyone thinks their church is the most beautiful, but I think the architecture here is truly amazing," said DiNicola. She said she hopes that whoever buys the building will somehow keep the architecture intact.

The stained-glass windows, for example, were designed in the early 1940s by architect Wilbur H. Burnham Sr., of Boston. Burnham's work has been compared favorably to Tiffany's and Co. of New York City, said DiNicola.

"One of the things that's so sad about this is that it is such a beautiful building," said DiNicola, who was teary-eyed as she spoke.

During his final homily at St. Mary's, the Rev. Paul A. Bombardier asked parishioners not to mourn the closing of St. Mary's, "but to celebrate the 93 years St. Mary's of the Morning Star has enlightened the neighborhood."

Later, at the end of the Mass, Bombardier stepped to the podium one last time to thank the parishioners and especially the volunteers for their work.

"I thank God for all of you," he said, who has been reassigned. "I'll be in Shelburne Falls, but my prayers will be with you.

"To all the people who helped us, your efforts, though perhaps unlauded," Bombardier said, then paused as he tried to compose himself, "were never unnoticed."

The Mass ended with the assembly giving him a standing ovation.


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