Saint Francis of Assisi of Medford celebrates his 100th birthday

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She threw crazy weddings in her time as the wedding coordinator at St. Francis Church; dealing with brides suffering from stage fright, warring parents and in-laws, and even the occasional chicken egg caused by a climb up the stairs or an overly enthusiastic greeting.

Now Susan Campbell, who has lived her life in the church, will coordinate the gala dinner on October 16 at Anthony’s in Malden to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church.

“I didn’t attend any of the planning meetings this summer, they just said I was nominated,” Campbell said, quickly adding that she was happy to do so and welcomed the trust the father had Paul Sullivan has it in his capacity. to organize such an important event.

It will be a labor of love for Campbell; love for the warm and welcoming community that embraced her, as she has hundreds of other parishioners, all her life. The church saw her through the birth of her children, their education, the weddings and the funerals of her two husbands.

Susan Campbell, parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Medford

“The people were very warm and loving,” said Campbell, describing her first foray into the Mother’s Club, aka Women’s Club, when her daughter, Coleen, was entering first grade at St. Francis School. The school closed in 2010, but the Women’s Club is still going strong. The Mother’s Club met monthly at a time when many housewives were housed and going out was popular. “It was a big deal.

“You never know when you move to an area, what people will be like,” Campbell said, adding that she grew up in Medford but moved to North Dakota with her husband when they first married. A return to the city meant the search for a parish: Saint François.

Jerri DiClemente, the former director of the school cafeteria, also described the parish as “warm and welcoming”. She moved “all the way” to Medford from Cambridge when she married her husband Vinny 63 years ago. The couple joined St. Francis even though it was not their parish as she wanted her children to have a parish education and the only openings were in St. Francis.

Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley remembers the 100th anniversary mass he celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi Church on October 2.

Since then, she has helped coordinate the elaborate shows organized by the parish, holidays and the like, attended dances, she managed the cafeteria for 18 years after being “trapped” by a former priest and she led the guard. -eat with her husband. for decades.

“Our first dinner was the Bread of Life for Easter; for 250 people, ”said Jerri DiClemente. They were petrified that the meal would be a disaster, but the members of the Holy Name Society came to cut up the turkeys and the women all helped make the sides.

“Father O’Brien asked me to run the cafeteria for three months while he looked for someone to do it full time,” said Jerri DiClemente. “After three months, when I asked him who would replace me, he laughed. He admitted he hadn’t even looked for a replacement.

Father Sullivan, the current pastor of St. Francis attributes its success, its reputation as a warm and welcoming spiritual home, to its members.

“It is the parishioners who make the parish what it is,” said Father Sullivan, noting that the priest is just one person. It is the dedication and generosity of the members that define the character of the parish.

Jerri DiClemente with Vinny, her husband of 63 years.  The couple centered their life around the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Medford, which is now celebrating its centenary.

The women both said this when they first walked through the doors; they felt at home.

“I felt like I belonged there,” Jerri DiClemente said.

To celebrate his centenary, Cardinal Sean O’Malley delivered mass on Saturday October 2 in person, lifting nearly 200 parishioners out of COVID-19-induced isolation. Many others watched it live on community access television. The parish merged in 2020, as it turned 100, with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church to become Mary Queen of Peace Parish. There was some crossover in attendance.

“The parish continues, albeit in a different form,” said Father Sullivan. The Church has consolidated many functions, shared services, structures, even parishioners.

The entrance to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which is celebrating its centenary this month.

“In the past, people grew up in the church,” said Father Sullivan; young people played sports in parish leagues, participated in church-sponsored extracurricular and extracurricular activities, attended dances, picnics, parties and even summer camps through Catholic Church.

Father Sullivan said the societal difference is most visible at funerals; when former residents return to their roots to pay homage to the deceased. The conversation, he said, revolves around growing up in the ward, their memories, who they remember.

It becomes clear, as they remember, that the Church was an important institution in their lives, Father Sullivan noted.

Centennial Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Medford, Mary Queen of Peace Parish, was celebrated by Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley on October 2.

Campbell still heads the Marian Movement; a Monday prayer group each week. Some of its members have returned in person, others are still reciting the Rosary on a conference call. And the monthly parish dinners she hosts are expected to resume at the end of next month.

“It’s catered, and it’s wonderful; it brings people together, ”Campbell noted. She has served the parish as minister of the Eucharist for 12 years. She began bringing Communion home when she asked a parishioner where his wife was after a service. He said she had a problem with her back.

“When I asked what I could do, thinking I could do the grocery shopping, he asked me to bring Communion,” Campbell recalls, adding that the Father was very supportive of the Eucharistic ministry. “People need contact; it is so important.

Jerri DiClemente deplores the closure of the school; without it, there is less community activity, less reason to come together. But the closing of the Convent and the loss of the nuns of the teaching staff precipitated its disappearance.

Thanks to Catholic charities, many struggling groups found their way to Medford; the organization helped alcoholic priests, single mothers and hosted the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of 20,000 young boys from the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups displaced by the Second Sudanese Civil War which raged from 1987 to 2005. In 1999, Muslim refugees from Kosovo, fleeing persecution in Serbia, also passed through the parish of Medford.

Jerri DiClemente, parishioner of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi who ran the cafeteria of the St. Francis of Assisi school and the pantry, shows off one of her favorite photos from her time as manager of the cafeteria.  DiClemente, was first wearing her hearing aids when nursery school Emily asked her why she wears earmuffs in hot weather?

“We didn’t know they were coming,” Jerri DiClemente said of the refugees from Kosovo. “We ran out of food and had to order pizza.

She remembers many of the wonderful priests who served the parish; two in particular; both were kind and compassionate; one was very affectionate, the other very blond. However, not all priests, she noted, are fit to serve a parish.

The parish of Medford has not escaped the taint of sexual abuse, the scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church around the world. The Reverend Edward T. Kelly, pursued by one of his victims, had been posted to Medford from June 1985 to June 1993.

His last assignment was from 1996 to 2001 as deputy counselor at Our Lady Hall in Milton before being removed from his post and sent to the Chancellery of the Priests’ Recovery Program in Brighton. In 2005 he was awarded a life of prayer and penance and passed away in 2011.

Archdiocese of Boston

Regardless, Jerri DiClemente said his faith in the Church had not been shaken by the scandal.

Still active, Jerri DiClemente prepared 100 sandwiches, assembled by his grandchildren, for the special mass celebrated by Cardinal O’Malley earlier this month.

“The Church has been a very wonderful part of our lives,” said Jerri DiClemente, saying that she has always been home to her and her family. “This is my church and I love it.”


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