Historic church bells toll once again in Lawrence – The Boston Globe   Leave a comment

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Historic church bells toll once again in Lawrence – The Boston Globe.

via Historic church bells toll once again in Lawrence – The Boston Globe.

The massive carillon in the belfry of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, built 136 years ago to call parishioners to worship, had been still for a decade, the combination of accumulated pigeon droppings and lightning strikes.

Like many of his parishioners, Pastor Jorge Reyes yearned for the timbre of the 16 bronze bells, which were built by an apprentice of Paul Revere and for so long pealed for weddings and tolled for funerals, marking the church’s presence in the old mill city.

“It felt like something was missing,’’ Reyes said.

During the weekend, the pious music once again rang from the church’s Gothic-styled 225-foot-high tower on Hampshire Street and resounded throughout the community.

“It was beautiful,’’ said Reyes, who once rang the bells at the church he belonged to while growing up in Cuba. “Now, it feels complete — like a church is supposed to sound.’’

The new, high-tech system hooked up to the bells, which range in weight from more than 3,000 pounds to little more than 100 pounds, has given the church a broader repertoire. The bells now can play about 2,000 tunes, from traditional Catholic hymns such as “Ave Maria’’ and “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum’’ to more secular tunes, including “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ and “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,’’ from the 1945 film starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.

When the system is programmed in the coming days, the bells will play “The Angelus’’ at least three times a day, at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., as well as before all Masses and at funerals and weddings.

“The bells are a hidden treasure we have in Lawrence,’’ said Mark J. Alaimo, chairman of the church’s finance council, adding that there are only seven Catholic churches nationwide with more than 16 bells. “They are heartwarming to hear and also serve as a form of evangelization.’’

The bells were made by William Blake and Co. of Boston, whom church officials say apprenticed for Revere, and were restored in recent weeks, after parishioners and an outside group raised $20,000 to repair the damage. Chime Master Systems of Ohio installed the computerized control system.

Much of the electrical work was done by former parishioner Tom Canney and his son, Aaron, both of whom made more than 100 trips up and down the steep staircase from the choir loft to the belfry. They ran more than 100 feet of piping and wires through the old tower housing nearly 15,000 pounds worth of bells, each of which has a Latin inscription dedicated to saints including Mary, Patrick, and Peter.

“I haven’t heard those bells ring since I was a child,’’ Canney said. “So it was really great to hear when we finished.’’

At Mass on Sunday, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley rechristened the bells with a blessing. The ceremony helped pack the pews with an estimated 3,000 parishioners.

Among those in attendance was Mary Girouard, 80, a parishioner at St. Mary’s on and off since the 1970s. Many people were in tears as they heard the reverent music.

“It was just a thrill, like it was meant to be,’’ Girouard said. “It was a rejoicing peal.’’

Maria Santiago, 58, a parishioner for three decades, said her heart began to race when she heard the bells.

“It reminded me of when I was a little girl,’’ she said. “It was so nice; it was hard to keep your eyes dry.’’

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.

 

Posted October 19, 2010 by dmacc502 in construction, religion, U.S.

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