1915 TIME CAPSULE ADDS EXCITEMENT TO SESQUICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
Mary Solberg and Sheila Grove
ERIE — Hundreds of people gathered at St. Andrew Church last weekend to submerge themselves in the 150-year history of the west Erie parish.
The focal point of the sesquicentennial celebrations was the opening of a time capsule that had been discovered recently in the cornerstone of the sandstone church, built 106 years ago to replace the original structure.
The capsule, made of copper and welded tight, withstood the test of time and weather. All of its contents — including the local newspaper headlining the sinking of the Lusitania, a glass bottle containing a handwritten letter from an unknown person from the parish, a Buffalo nickel and other coins, and an assortment of papers and booklets — were dry to the bone.
“It was fun to see everything,” said Jerry Martin, a longtime parishioner who led the sesquicentennial celebration. “You can see that at one point the church leaked because there is a water line on the outside of the box, but it was so well made it didn’t leak.”
Many former and current parishioners of St. Andrew, along with clergy and religious who ministered there over the years, gathered for a Mass and dinner at the parish on July 30. Church tours were offered to visitors, and everyone had a chance to look at a display of items cataloguing the history of the parish.
At the dinner, three women were recognized for their service and support of the parish over the years: Dolores Campbell, mother of Fathers James and Joseph Campbell; Betty Barron, great-aunt of Father Bill Barron; and Sister Ricarda Vincent, SSJ, a native daughter of St. Andrew Parish.
Carol Hoffman, pastoral associate, stood in for Sister Ricarda as the three women carefully opened the time capsule and lifted items out of it one by one.
Barbara Campbell Terrizzi, daughter of Dolores Campbell and a former parishioner, attended the event with her children.
“It was amazing to see everything in the time capsule,” Terrizzi said, as her children poked their faces into the box to get a close-up look.
On Sunday, parishioners gathered for Mass followed by a picnic, held inside because of a torrential downpour. The rain didn’t dampen spirits as the group enjoyed a meal and entertainment from clowns and a magician.
Parish memorabilia that included pews from the original parish church and from early in the current church’s history as well as photos, light fixtures, and letters of commendation and historical record were on display.
A highlight was a table of the items that replaced the contents that were removed from the time capsule Friday evening. The capsule now includes letters from current parishioners, coins, photos and proclamations. It also contains copies of Faith magazine, a diocesan publication, highlighting this time of pandemic and the time capsule story. Of course, a brightly colored facemask was added. Those who view the contents in the future may note the eerie coincidence of pandemic following its first placement and just preceding its second.
By mid-afternoon, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun shone as a large group gathered for the replacing of the time capsule.
Father Mark O’Hern, pastor, offered a blessing. "May the contents of this time capsule, contemporary examples of our own lives of faith, inspire future generations to follow Christ... Praise the Lord that this house continues to stand," he prayed. The group responded, "Alleluia, Alleluia!"
Removing the capsule from the cornerstone had proven to be a challenge for Martin. Replacing it required some ingenuity as well, provided by Martin and Joe Weindorf, as the box was exactly the size of the opening and required perfect positioning and a little finesse.
Adelaide Stark, a rising junior at Villa Maria Academy and fifth generation parishioner assisted by her grandfather, Norman H. Stark, had the honor of inserting the capsule, representing the generations of parishioners who have called St. Andrew Parish home for 150 years.