reaches its 125th year as a Redwood City parish on Saturday – and the congregation is still laying bricks.
The scores of bricks are neatly placed in rows near the front entrance to the church, which is part of a complex of school, rectory and parish center that takes up an entire block bounded by Fulton, Grand, Katherine and James. Many of the bricks are emblazoned with the names of families that have been members of the parish for generations.
The bricks, paid with individual donations, helped raise money for an impressive fence of concrete pillars and iron spikes that runs about half a block between the church and the parish center, replacing a perfunctory cyclone fence that had bordered the schoolyard.
“We will celebrate the 125th anniversary of our parish with the dedication of the brick courtyard and new fence on Saturday,” said Rev. Ulysses D’Aquilla. Also at Saturday’s event, Father D’Aquilla will be installed as pastor, a de facto role he has held for more than a year. A special guest at the event will be Bishop Randy Calvo, a former Mount Carmel pastor who is now the head of the Reno diocese.
In a sign of the times, both Calvo and D’Aquilla speak Spanish, as did Father John Bellaza, who was pastor just before D’Aquilla. Bellaza is also slated to attend the Saturday’s dedication.
The linguistic ability is a sign of changing demographics in the parish, which once was a bastion of Ellis Island Americans, particularly the Irish and Italians. Now every Sunday the 9 a.m. Mass is said in Spanish.
“The multicultural make-up of the parish was challenging; the parish responded in a welcoming manner,” said Bishop Calvo, who led Mount Carmel from 1997 to 2006.
Bellaza said Mount Carmel is “definitely an immigrant church,” but he added that “there are some people who forget this, or want to.”
Saturday’s festivities include a dinner at Cavanagh Hall, the gymnasium-sized auditorium in the school named for Father John P. Cavanagh, who was appointed pastor in 1927, starting a tenure that did not end until he died in the rectory in 1961. Cavanagh oversaw the building of both and church. The present school was built in 1932, preceding the church by 20 years. Until the church opened in 1952 Mass was held in the large hall named for Cavanagh.
Building the school before the church was not unusual for Mount Carmel. The school celebrated in 2010. The first school was known as St. Mary’s and was located east of El Camino. Redwood City was once considered mission territory and did not become a parish until 1867, although it already had a church building, a frame structure on El Camino and Brewster that stood until 1937 when it was razed so El Camino could be widened.
The official name of the parish is Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or OLMC for short. However, it has been called Mount Carmel for eons, particularly by real estate agents who boast that a home “is located in the Mount Carmel area.”
If location, location, location is important the parish has indeed been blessed, as one member of the congregation said, adding that if the parish received a royalty every time a real estate ad used the name Mount Carmel the parish “would have no money problems.”
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