Chiming Since 1951
St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Parish has been a constant and active member of the Vollintine- Evergreen Historic District since the earliest years of the District’s existence.
The Parish was founded and opened in 1930 with both a parish church and a parochial school that served the Catholic population of this and outlying areas for over 50 years. Even after the parochial school closed in 1985, our school and church facilities have continued to provide for the needs of the local and distant community in diverse ways. We minister to the spiritual and material needs, not only of the people in our neighborhood, but even to many in the tri-state area.
When the present church was built in 1951, it was built with the iconic bell-tower which, although it did not originally house bells (due to financial limitations at the time, it was equipped with speakers that played bell chimes and hymns from the organ console throughout the day.
Although there had been a hiatus with the sounds coming from the tower and the speakers were inoperative and unrepaired due to declining membership contributions and other more-pressing maintenance needs, the surge in membership and contributions in the last two years has allowed us to renew and restore many aspects of our religious expression from past.
The generosity of a parishioner and his family supplied the restored digital carillon in early December. We are grateful to the many parishioners who have stepped up in the last few years to rescue St. Theresa’s from years of deterioration and neglect.
Why Turn Them Back On Now?
One might wonder about the “need” to have the sound of bells resumed from our bell-tower.
“Aren’t they useless now?
Don’t people have time-keeping devices on them all the time?”
The ringing of bells, however, is not solely for, or even mainly for, the “telling of time”. As the formal “Blessing” of a bell reminds us, they are blessed, dedicated, and employed, primarily, “to the honor of God” and their sound is to “invite the faithful to the house of God”, “call them to faith”, and “strengthen their faith and piety”.
The ringing (or digital equivalent) of a church bell is then: 1) an expression of faith; 2) an invitation to prayer; 3) an instrument of evangelization; and 4) a ministry to surrounding believers. In fine, they are more than an oversized grandfather clock. Much more!
When are the bells at St. Theresa’s rung?
The bells are not rung before 8am and not after 9pm (with the exceptions of Christmas Eve Mass at Night and the Solemn Easter Vigil).
They ring before Masses and Liturgical/Devotional functions (which take place daily, and even more than once a day sometimes, in the Catholic tradition).
They ring the “Angelus” and a Marian Hymn at Noon and 6pm and play a Seasonal Liturgical Hymn at Iam and 3pm for the Canonical Hours of Terce and None.
Finally, heeding St. Paul’s exhortation to “pray always” (1Thess 5:17), they chime the “Ave Maria” on the hour with the number of hours following. This is an hourly prayer. The digital system also came programmed with a quarter hour chime (as many clocks do) which we have (since the carillon was restored) reduced to only a single chime on the half-hour.
Our Desire to Serve
Simply put: our ringing of bells is a proclamation of our faith and the exercise of our religious observance and duty, and the manifestation (one of many) of our presence in the midst of this local community.
It is not an introduction of a “new” thing as the bell-tower and the sounds emanating from it have been present here for over 70 years, although damage impaired them for some time.
As a community of faith, worship, and constant prayer, we pray, not only for all who consider themselves members of our parish (from near and far), but for all residents of our community. Although some members of our community have expressed negative feedback with regard to the bells, others have expressed deep gratitude for : them, and even blessed us financially as an expression of their gratitude.
Furthermore, we are not the only institution in the area to exercise the use of bells (real or digital) as others (Rhodes, Idlewild Presbyterian, and IC Cathedral, to name a few) also employ them throughout the day.
In the spirit of being a receptive neighbor, we have listened, considered, and accommodated to some of the negative feedback, but we are also aware of our identity and mission. We have been a place of charity, peace, prayer, evangelization, and communion here in the Vollintine-Evergreen District for over 90 years and have no intentions of withdrawing our presence-ministerial, visual, and audible. On the contrary, we are happy to see the resurgence of the area and are committed to contributing to and remaining a strong part of the community.
I love thy music, mellow bell,
I love thine iron chime, To life or death, to heaven or hell, Which calls the sons of Time.
Thy voice upon the deep The home–bound sea-boy hails, It charms his cares to sleep,
It cheers him as he sails.
To house of God and heavenly joys
Thy summons called our sires, And good men thought thy sacred voice
Disarmed the thunder‘s fires.
And soon thy music, sad death-bell,
Shall lift its notes once more, And mix my requiem with the wind
That sweeps my native shore.
Ralph Waldo Emerson