By Nora Kerr
Memories of SRB Past, Thoughts of the Present, and Looking Toward the Future
This is the second installment of our SRB Spotlight on “The 5 O’Clockers,” highlighting several of our longtime parishioners who also happen to frequent the 5pm Saturday evening mass. This is how they found St. Robert Bellarmine and what has kept them coming back year after year.
Julie Gaskin’s family moved into the area in 1939 and she attended St. Robert Bellarmine for 1st through 8th grade. She remembers many school masses and the annual school Christmas pageant.
“We had a lot of respect for the nuns. I got a great education here,” said Julie.
Joyce Kosinski is another SRB “lifer.”
“I’ve been here 67 years—all my life. I’m not ashamed to say it.”
Joyce started kindergarten in 1954 and remembers a busy and lively school.
“There were 800 students at the school at that time,” recalls Joyce. “There were two classes in each grade and each classroom had 50-60 kids in it,” recalls Joyce. “I graduated in 1967 one of 107 kids.”
When her family first came here, they had their choice of parishes. They lived equal distances from three different parishes, but the school and special people of St. Roberts won them over. Fr. Gillespie was pastor at the time, followed by Fr. Dowling.
Joyce has given back much to the parish who gave her a wonderful spiritual and educational foundation.
“In 1977, I was roped into becoming a lector,” she said with a smile. “I thought I was helping out in a special Thanksgiving mass and next thing I know, I’m on the schedule as part of the liturgy team.”
This liturgy team played a key role after St. Roberts (with a new church just built in 1969) burned to the ground on Mother’s Day, 1988.
“To be there the morning of the fire and see it smoldering—I was overcome with emotion. But like the phoenix, we rose from the ashes,” said Joyce.
The current church that stands today was rebuilt in 1989 and dedicated September 9, 1990.
“To be a part of the dedication was very emotional.”
Joyce and her husband Kenneth Kosinski have since moved to nearby Niles just three blocks from another church, but more often than not, return here to celebrate mass each weekend.
“I prefer coming here. I feel a sense of ownership with this parish.”
Part of what keeps her coming back is our current pastor, Fr. Neil Fackler.
“When Fr. Neil is on a roll, he can’t be stopped. He speaks from the heart. For me, the homily is very important. I don’t’ want someone to tell me what to believe, I want someone to tell me what they believe and why. Fr. Neil is very good at that—speaking to the assembly in a conversational way.”
St. Roberts is doubly blessed with talented and inspirational priests, including Fr. Neil and Fr. Scott Donahue, who brings tales of Mercy Home youth into his preaching.
But Ann Ouper credits Fr. Mike Goergen for bringing her to St. Roberts. She has been a parishioner for 20 years.
“We shopped around, but I was swayed by Fr. Mike and by St. Roberts’ beautiful and simple church,” said Ann.
Her children were all baptized here and attended religious education. Her husband James now serves as the parish’s Business Manager.
“I got lucky,” said James. “I married into this parish.”
James looks to the future and sees promise.
“I see an evolution coming with more involvement and dynamic stewardship.”
As examples, James points to the growing numbers of adults participating in the parish’s religious education program and successful capital campaigns including “Renew My Church.”
“I hope it will shake up a lot of people, and allow for transformation to happen.”