May 3, 2011
by Faith Flaherty
My grandparents came from the “old country.” That’s how they referred to Lithuania. They left behind their family, country, friends, village, home, and everything else familiar--but not their faith. In this “new country,” they gravitated to their own kind. This Lithuanian community clustered around their parish church. Their parish priest became their interpreter, confidant, advisor…their Father. The Church building became a safe place of refuge. That Church spire, or cross, or bell, was visible proof that they were “OK.” This was home here in America. They gave a portion of their wages to build their Church. And they were proud of it. Yes, proud of their parish Church. There, their favorite saints were displayed, familiar hymns, stained glass, and of course, the exact same Mass that was celebrated in the “old country,” and everywhere else in the world where Catholicism exists. This was the type of parish, and world, I grew up in.
Looking at, and reading Framing Faith brought back so many memories and emotions. Even though Framing Faith is about ten churches that are closing in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and my remembrances are from Massachusetts, I can empathize. When I think of all the sacraments, prayers, funerals, as well as missions, processions, and…..life, I am thankful that the Lakawanna Historical Society, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, Ivana Pavelka, Sarah Piccini, and all the students, and others, understood. Churches are more than history, architecture, and places of worship. They are stories of human lives. This book, Framing Faith attempts to convey that story. They did quite a commendable work.
St. Mary of the Assumption, River Street, Scranton ----- Irish then German
St. John the Evangelist, Pittston Avenue, Scranton ----- Irish
Holy Family, N. Washington Ave. & E. Gibson Street, Scranton ----- Slovak, Multi-National
St. Joseph, North Main Avenue, Scranton ----- Lithuanian
Immaculate Conception, Church Street, Taylor ----- German/Irish
St. John The Baptist, North Main Avenue, Taylor ----- Slovak
St. Mary of Czestochowa, Greenwood Avenue, Scranton ----- Polish
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hudson Street, Mayfield ----- Polish, Multi-National
St. Michael, Vine Street, Old Forge ----- Polish
St. Anthony of Padua, Wood Street, Scranton ----- Italian
I imagine the closing of these churches brought about a mixture of emotions. The parishioners somehow dealt with “letting go.” However, “sacrifice” is part of Catholicism. Many of them were brought up with “offering it up.” Not that that helps, but they knew the concept. These people, whose grandparents were so hard working, were also practical, by nature. They could see the obvious: declining parishioners, shortage of priests, and needs not being met.
These closed churches have Framing Faith as a memorial. That’s a blessing! Framing Faith by Sarah Piccini is a pictorial history of these 10 parishes. http://framingfaith.blogspot.com/search/label/About%20the%20Book It is a fine tribute to the hardworking parishioners. Ivana Pavelka is the photographer. The pictures are spectacular. This is a PICTORIAL history and the pictures are works of art.
I enjoyed the book because it brought back memories of my own grandparents. I would think that the people in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania would love and keep this book as a keepsake from history. It’s a history of life in these ethnic parishes in the twentieth century---their history---our history---universal Catholic history.
On the right is a picture of a Lithuanian Wayside Cross. This is from St. Joseph’s Church in Scranton, PA., but it is a typical Lithuanian Cross. You may say, where’s the cross? But the cross starts with a post that may be marking direction, where someone died, a battle, a memorial to an event, etc. On that post will be a cross covered with a small roof for protection. There will be other ornamental statues or symbolic decorations. You may consider the entire post a shrine, but this is typical of what is known as a Lithuanian Wayside Cross. You can see the cross is under the small roof on the top. Under the larger roof is a saint, probably Saint Joseph since this is the name of the church. This Lithuanian Wayside Cross is my favorite picture in Framing Faith.