For the first time in its hundred-year history, bells are ringing in the towers above St. Mary of the Isle Roman Catholic Church.
In order to mark the centennial of the church — located at 315 E Walnut Street, a stereo system designed to simulate the ringing of bells was recently installed. Bells had been absent from the tower for the entirety of the parish’s history.
“As far as we know, we never had them,” Pastor Brian Barr said. “But I thought it would be a nice idea to bring them in for the centennial celebration.” He added that the ringing of bells is a part of most churches’ identities and hearing them throughout the day is a reminder to take stock of God’s presence.
“The origin of church bells is just the reminder — wherever you’re living, if you’re apart from where the church was — that it’s close to time for services,” Barr explained. St. Mary’s bells have been ringing to mark each hour throughout the day, but Barr said there are plans to scale that back. The bells will also be used to mark celebrations and special occasions such as weddings or funerals, he added.
The new sound system was funded through donations from members of the congregation. Parishioners that made a contribution could do so in memory of a loved one that has passed away so that the ringing of the bells would serve as a reminder to say a prayer for them.
“Overall it was very well received, both in terms of people donating for it and then the response since,” Barr said.
Local officials including County Legislator Denise Ford and City Manager Jack Schnirman celebrated the centennial on July 10 with a ceremony to mark the ringing of the new bells. The church’s actual anniversary was earlier this month on July 4, Barr said.
The centennial also coincided with the parish’s annual Summer Fair, which was held from July 9 through July 12. The event featured international food, rides, games and gambling. Barr said that the fair enjoyed great weather and a good turnout this year.
St. Mary’s also holds a weekly mass on the beach every Sunday night. The parish is a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center and was closed for close to a year following Hurricane Sandy when over a foot-and-a-half of water flooded the building.