Everything Venice


The story of St. Mark's Bells
(Taken from the program for the Mass of Remembrance on Sept. 16, 2012)

    The original St. Mark’s Church was located on Granville, between Second and Third Streets. It was completed in 1882. Among the items donated by the congregation were two bells - one in honor of St. Mark, the other in honor of St. Mary Magdalen.
    In 1892 a new building was erected at Broadway and Sixth Street (at right) that served as church and school. That year another parishioner donated a school bell. For many years the bells were suspended in a tall wooden bell tower at the back of the church/school grounds. Every day at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. they were rung by manually pulling on a heavy rope. Kids would line up in hopes of getting a chance to help ring the bells. The young person would hold tight to the rope. The regular ringer would pull down on the rope and then the young assistant would be pulled off the ground and then glide back down again as the bells rang.

    The building of the third, and current, St. Mark’s Church (at left) was begun in 1948 and was dedicated in 1949. The three bells were placed on top of that building. The bells were very heavy and over the years the weight of the bells began to crack the wall and roof of the church. Sad to say, we had to have them removed from the top of the church in order to repair the damage. To prevent further damage the bells were not returned to the roof.
    Don Scaturro Sr. came up with the idea to donate the bells to Calvary Cemetery. In 2006 a plan was presented to the Calvary Cemetery Board. After careful consideration the design was approved and consent given to the Bell Committee to proceed with the fundraising.
    Before we could begin Don became ill. Prior to his death on February 3, 2007, he had requested that donations go towards the Bell Project. Those donations totalled nearly $7,000.
    Through word of mouth, e-mails, the parish bulletin, letters to former students and parish families donations began to arrive, many from out of state. Several donations were also received as funeral memorials for members of our neighboring parishes. By Christmas 2007 we had reached our goal of $25,000.
    In 2008 the new bell tower in Calvary Cemetery was completed and dedicated. So the bells were moved and now rest near the many former friends and parishioners who rang them and heard them ring.
    If you have not seen the St Mark’s Bells, please stop by anytime at 2910 S. State Hwy 157 in Edwardsville. The tower is a short distance inside the cemetery entrance just past the chapel and office on the left.
    There is a brick walkway at the tower. Many of the bricks contain names of individuals, families, and organizations.
    There is still space available if you are interested in having one engraved.

    THE BELLS OF ST. MARK'S, from left, the bell in honor of St. Mark the Evangelist, the bell in honor of St. Mary Magdalen, both made in 1882 and hung in the first St. Mark's Church on Granville. The third bell was donated to the "new" St. Mark's School on Broadway in 1892 by a Mrs. W. Moellenbrock.

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A personal anecdote about the bells

    I was a student in the first first-grade class in the new St. Mark's School and graduated in 1966. All of the boys in the school, beginning with the Third Graders (I think) and having received First Communion, were servers or altar boys. All former servers at St. Mark's, since the current chuch was built, likely have a fond memory of the bells, in particular their use prior to funeral masses.
    I don't remember which grade I was in when I first had the honor of being the server who was picked to toll one of the bells for a funeral, but it was a big deal, in server terms.
    There were three primary assignments concerning the procedure. Approximately 10 minutes prior to the scheduled time the funeral mass was to begin, one server would stand in the school yard near the rear of the rectory with a clear sight down the alley towards Venice High School and also to the back door of the church (this job was not always the most pleasant, especially if it was raining or freezing cold). The second was the server who stood in the open doorway (through the 1960's the door was solid wood) at the rear entrance to the church and sacristy, keeping the first boy in sight. And the third, and most important, was the server who had the duty of pushing THE button to ring a single bell in a slow and consistent cadence. Sister Mary Bernard would remind us to say a Hail Mary between each push of the button to aid in keeping the toll solemn.
    THE button (at right) was located adjacent to the sacristy in the hallway that ran behind the altar to the dressing room for the servers.
    When the server in the school yard viewed the hearse passing the alley on Seventh Street, he would signal to the boy holding the rear church entrance door open and that server would then relay the "high sign" to the third server who began the bell toll.
    The bell would be rung until the procession of cars arrived at the side of the church on Lincoln Avenue and the casket had been carried to the front doors. That's when Father McCarthy and the three servers would walk down the center aisle to the front of the church.
    Almost as coveted as the bell ringer's job was to be the server who was in charge of the thurible, in which the incense was burned. Who can forget that aroma? But that's another story.
-Patrick Foley

The day the bells went silent
- July 21, 2004 -

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    Current view of St. Mark's Church without the bells and large silver cross.

    1928 Advertisement of the Stuckstede Bros. Bell Foundry that made all three of the bells that were on the church and are now displayed at Calvary Cemetery. The foundry was in business from 1855 to 1931.

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